Doctor Strange: Whitewashing Casting Controversy

The world premiere of Doctor Strange was held at the famous TCL Chinese Theater on Thursday night. Fans braved the heat to get a glimpse of the Sorcerer Supreme, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Hollywood Boulevard was transformed into a grand magic sanctum as the cast and crew took the red carpet to celebrate the opening of 14th Marvel Universe movie.

They also addressed criticism from some fans over the casting of British actress Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, who in the comics is depicted as an Asian man.

Director Scott Derrickson whitewashed the controversy, explaining how selecting Swinton was a diversity choice itself.

“I think diversity is the responsibility of directors and producers,” Derrickson said. “In this case, the stereotype of [the Ancient One] had to be undone. I wanted it to be a woman, a middle-aged woman. Every iteration of that script played by an Asian woman felt like a ‘Dragon Lady,’” Derrickson explained, referencing another negative on-screen stereotype of an exotic and domineering Asian woman. “I’m very sensitive to the history of ‘Dragon Lady’ representation and Anna May Wong films. I moved away from that. Who’s the magical, mystical, woman with secrets that could work in this role? I thought Tilda Swinton.”

Writer Jon Spaihts also praised the casting choice. “Tilda is an instance of us taking a male role and putting a woman in it, which I think the film badly needed. The comic world of ‘Doctor Strange’ is very male. So we were looking for opportunities to have not only ethnic diversity, but to have gender diversity in the film.”

Swinton urged audiences to see “Doctor Strange” before criticizing it, while championing diversity. “They need to see the film to understand why Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige decided to reimagine the Ancient One as a woman. People shouting loud and proud about needing more diversity in Hollywood cinema have got us right behind them.”

Benedict Wong, who plays Master Wong, said the producers worked to dispel the Asian stereotypes around his character found in the source material. “The idea of a man servant and tea-making sidekick isn’t that appealing,” the British actor said. “Scott and Kevin said vehemently ‘we’re not doing this.’ And I said, ‘Fantastic because neither am I.’”

Other Marvel stars including Stan Lee (creator), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Elodie Yung (Elektra) and Gabriel Luna (Ghost Rider) made their way down the carpet before the screening.

Cumberbatch and Swinton received the loudest applause as the credits rolled, which was of followed by Marvel’s signature post-credits scene, featuring a certain Avenger and a post-post-credits scene.