This Marvel Movie's Whitewashing Controversy Is Blowing Up

Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images.
When it was announced that Tilda Swinton would play a powerful sorcerer called the Ancient One in Marvel's upcoming Doctor Strange, her casting was seen as an enlightened choice. The decision challenged gender roles by casting a woman to play a part that was originally written as a man. Even more exciting was the fact that no one quite knew whether the gender-bending actress would play the part as a woman, a man, or leave it more ambiguous.

But some have been questioning whether Swinton's casting is just another example of Hollywood whitewashing, since in the comic, Ancient One is of Tibetan descent.

When The Hollywood Reporter asked Swinton about the controversy at the New York screening of her latest film, A Bigger Splash, the actress tried to reassure fans that this was not a case of whitewashing Asian characters.

"Well, it's not actually an Asian character — that's what I need to tell you about it," Swinton told The Hollywood Reporter. "I wasn't asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that."

She then added, "You just have to wait and see, because it's not an Asian character."

While Swinton's comments may soothe concerns that she might've been trying to pass as Asian for the role using makeup or special effects, others may wonder why the movie would choose to re-characterize the Ancient One — especially given the lack of Asian characters in major Hollywood films.

Earlier this year, the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment assessed major studio releases from 2014 and found that only 26.7% featured people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The study also found that out of 109 movies, 55 had no Asian characters at all.

While fans will have to wait until Doctor Strange hits theaters November 4 to see what's become of the Ancient One on screen, the recently released trailer does offer a few hints. Yes, that is Swinton's voice narrating the trailer, British accent intact.

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