At first the MCU was not known for being particularly diverse. There were not as many actors of color or women among the leading characters. This has been changing over time. We cannot say that now everything is perfect or anything, but they have taken steps in the right direction and it seems they will continue to do so.
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In this sense, we must remember that in May Kevin Feige made a revelation that not everyone expected; that put Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme – 89% to evade the racial stereotypes that the comic book version had, but that he regretted doing that because now he realizes that he could simply have cast an Asian actor and still avoid the racist platitudes:
We thought we were very smart and we were at the forefront. We weren’t going to do the old wrinkled Asian wise man cliche. It was a wake-up call to say ‘Okay wait a minute, is there another way to resolve this situation? Is there a way not to fall into clichés and choose an Asian actor? The answer to that, of course, is yes.
Now we know what he thought Tilda swinton that the head of Marvel Studios made that statement. The actress gave an interview for Variety. In it she found out for the first time what he said Kevin Feige And her reaction to that was to say, “I’m so thankful that you said that.” This is because, in her own words, she herself had doubts that they had put a Scottish actress to play that particular character:
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I remember having a question mark in my own mind at that time and being very attentive to the public response to a Scottish woman playing this character. I was aware that there was no complaint – it had a universal good reception – which changed at some point, for very good reasons for which I have an enormous amount of sympathy.
The actress later mentioned that she is fine with people demanding that the films be represented in the films. It should be said that indeed many fans and critics welcomed Swinton’s performance in said film. It was one of the positive points for many. That said, over time people became aware that it was problematic that the character had been whitewashed. What made things even more complicated is that Marvel gave a series of conflicting answers as to why they did that. Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill said they had made this decision because the character was originally Tibetan and that would prevent the film from being released in China. As you know, this is a very important market for Hollywood today. He then revealed that he actually had nothing to do with that decision.
Some time ago Scott Derrickson, the film’s director, had already said that casting Tilda Swinton was the lesser of two evils. They had originally thought of casting an elderly Asian actress for the role, but felt that could fall into another well-known stereotype:
It felt like we were stereotyping the Dragon Lady, the dominant mystical woman with a secret agenda. Asians have been whitewashed and stereotyped in American cinema for more than a century and people should be angry or nothing is going to change. What I did was the lesser of two evils, but that does not take away that it was a bad thing.
Everything seems to indicate that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is their way of showing that they can make a movie starring Asian actors without falling into the racist stereotypes that abounded in the comics.
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