The topic of white-washing has been in the news a lot lately, following the first image of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell (which was denounced by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Ming-Na Wen) and the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. The latter of which has caused George Takei to take to Facebook to discuss the issue.
Takei was responding to this article, in which Marvel announce they cast Swinton in the role – traditionally a male Asian character – to appease the Asian market. The former Star Trek star responded, “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.”
“Marvel already addressed the Tibetan question by setting the action and The Ancient One in Kathmandu, Nepal in the film,” he continues in the comments section. “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.”
He added: “To those who say, ‘She an actress, this is fiction,’ remember that Hollywood has been casting white actors in Asian roles for decades now, and we can’t keep pretending there isn’t something deeper at work here. If it were true that actors of Asian descent were being offered choice roles in films, these arguments might prevail. But there has been a long standing practice of taking roles that were originally Asian and rewriting them for white actors to play, leaving Asians invisible on the screen and underemployed as actors. This is a very real problem, not an abstract one. It is not about political correctness, it is about correcting systemic exclusion. Do you see the difference?”
Takei has been outspoken on the subject of white-washing Asian roles, particularly in his petitioning against the American remake of Akira.
What do you make of Takei’s comments, let us know in the comments below.
“Doctor Strange follows the story of neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a horrific car accident, discovers the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions.”
Doctor Strange is set for release on October 28th in the UK and November 4th in the US, with Scott Derrickson (Sinister) with a cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) as Stephen Strange, Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer) as The Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Baron Mordo, Benedict Wong (The Martian) as Wong and Rachel McAdams (True Detective) and Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) in as-yet-unconfirmed roles.
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