Marvel’s biggest regrets in the MCU
When it came time for Marvel to make the first live-action movie adaptation of Doctor Strange, several thorny elements of the classic version of the superhero needed to be ironed out. Mainly, the story of “Doctor Strange” originally had a problematic approach to Eastern culture that included the initial incarnation of Wong (played by Benedict Wong in the film) as simply being a servant. This extended to the Elder, a mentor who – if poorly executed – might have been seen as a stereotype of a shriveled Asian master.
Marvel’s decision on how to approach the character of the Ancient One was to choose decidedly Caucasian performer Tilda Swinton as the Tibetan character from Marvel Comics. According to “Doctor Strange” director Scott Derrickson, the reason they went with a white woman instead of an Asian actress was to avoid the “Dragon Lady” stereotype. However, the casting decision inspired a wave of controversy and accusations of money laundering. To complicate matters further, “Doctor Strange” screenwriter C. Robert Cargill also revealed that another reason for the cast was not to offend the Chinese government, which has a very busy history with Tibet.
Naturally, this only inspired further uproar. Swinton’s cast became so infamous that even MCU boss Kevin Feige said publicly, “We thought we were so smart and forward thinking. We’re not going to do the shriveled old man cliché, man. wise Asian. But that was a wake-up call to say, “Well, wait a minute, is there another way to figure it out? Is there another way you don’t fall for the cliché and choose an Asian actor? “‘And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”