First off let me apologize, as this is not actually a review.
One of the principles of my day job is Integrity without Compromise. So I am left with a quandary –
See a movie that I actually want to see but I know has a problem in it that I have boycotted movies in the past for.
– or –
Not see one of the most anticipated movies of the year and be unable to tell my readers about it.
I am sorry everyone, but I have to stick to my guns on this one. Due to the White-washing of a historically Asian character known as the Ancient One I cannot see Dr. Strange. Yes, Tilda Swinton is an amazing actor. There has been nothing she has done that I haven’t enjoyed her performance. The fault only lays on her for taking the role.
The real problem comes down to Marvel Studios and the writers rationale for doing so. Money. There’s absolutely no morality to the decision, point in fact it’s the opposite of it. I get big business I really do, but that doesn’t mean I have to let them slide on it.
This is where geopolitics comes into play. For those that don’t know China considers Tibet part of China. Tibet does not consider themselves part of China. If they cast a Tibetan actor, they cannot screen the movie in China, the second largest audience for movies in the world. They can’t make money in China if they cast someone who is actually Tibetan, but if you cast a Chinese actor for the Tibetan role it sends a different (and even worse) message.
So you are left with this decision that is like one of those button push “You get this, but this….”
- Cast a Tibetan as the role of the Ancient but now you can’t show your movie in China.
- Cast another ‘Asian’ as the role of the Acient but now you’ve invalidated an entire country it’s independence in a tacit manor which to the rest of the world looks as if you are endorsing China.
- Cast another ethnicity as the Ancient but be lambasted for not being true to the character.
- Cast a white actor in the role and be accused of white washing, but hey you get to release in China.
Marvel chose option 4.
I will not deny the complexity of this decision, it shouldn’t be denied and needs to be appreciated. They are a business and it wouldn’t be just this movie that could be at risk, as China could not allow other movies simply out of spite.
Are there other facets to how they did this to try to mitigate the white washing? Sure. They wrote the character as a title that could come from any culture; but at the same time they keep the original white-savior narrative of Dr. Strange. You know the story, the white guy learns from the wise old insert ethnic group and becomes the savior? The did try to mitigate it, but they didn’t go far enough or brave enough.
If you want to write that it’s not white washed try these tricks
1. He doesn’t go to Asia at all. Shamballah did not have to be terrestrial.
2. The Ancient isn’t white.
Why does it matter so much about a white actor in a role that could have gone to a person of colour?
Please please read this:
The short version is this:
“When there are so few raisins to start, any change made is really easy to spot, and makes a really significant difference.
This is why it is bad, even despicable, to take a character who was originally a character of color and make them white. But why it can be positive to take a character who was originally white and make them a character of color.
The white characters bowl is already so full that any change in number is almost meaningless (and is bound to be undone in mere minutes anyway, with the amount of new story creation going on), while the characters of color bowl changes hugely with each addition or subtraction, and any subtraction is a major loss. “
But, Jess, you’re white. Why does it matter to you?
Because I have a voice, social awareness and consciousness, and need to speak when I see something wrong.
Because it matters to him: George Takei
So let me get this straight. You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia? This backpedaling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots,” writes Takei. “Marvel already addressed the Tibetan question by setting the action and the Ancient One in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the film. It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point whether the character was white or Asian, as it was already in another country. So this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”
I do not under any circumstances get to tell him he is wrong or even attempt to invalidate his opinion.
I am absolutely certain Dr. Strange is a good movie, maybe even great. I won’t know, I cannot give the movie money – nor can I allow someone to pay for a ticket for me.
If you wish to see it, I really hope you enjoy it. Even with movies I hate, if someone loves it I am happy for them. Legitimately so. My opinion and recommendation is just that, mine. I write to share it.
I wrote to share this. I would ask you not to see Dr. Strange, but if you do – enjoy it.
Boycotting a bad movie like Exodus or Gods of Egypt is easy.
Boycotting a good movie is hard.
Suicide Squad made over $700 Million dollars Domestic+World Wide without release in China, and that movie is problematic and divisive as hell amongst fans. I think you could have survived Marvel.