Since Marvel announced that Tilda Swinton would play the role of Dr Strange’s spiritual master the Ancient One, there’s been a loud outcry about yet another instance of casting a white actress as an Asian character. Marvel has been trying to diffuse the controversy through various means, including today’s announcement that suddenly, uh, the Ancient One is, uh… Celtic.
Here’s what a Marvel spokesperson told Mashable on the matter earlier today:
Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.
Where to even begin? First, I guess, Marvel actually believes that we’ll believe that this movie character was ever meant to be of Celtic origin, despite no one on the cast or crew ever even hinting at it prior to today. I’m sure Marvel just forgot to mention this key fact all the other times people asked them about the lack of Asian actors in their live-action entertainment.
Second, the fact that Swinton is no longer ostensibly playing an Asian person is good (by which I mean it’s really the bare minimum of what Hollywood should be achieving) but her sudden Celticism doesn’t change the actual problem, which is that yet another Asian character has been given to a white person. Another role that could have — should have — gone at an Asian actor to help increase Marvel’s diversity was instead taken away, and the fact that Marvel somehow doesn’t even recognise this is the issue is both baffling and disheartening.
And third, just for kicks: Marvel already has one bone-white Caucasian who gets to become the ultimate master of mystical Asian arts over all its native practitioners. Maybe it didn’t need another.
So here we are, folks. Marvel is not only still trying desperately trying to pretend it doesn’t have a problem, and now it’s yet another company that think we’re so stupid as to believe anything it tells us. Great.