Marvel’s biggest regrets in the MCU
When it came time for Marvel to make the first live-action feature film adaptation of Doctor Strange, there were several thorny elements of the classic version of the superhero that needed to be fixed. Importantly, 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 spread 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 designate 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. Making matters even more complicated, “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 outcry. Swinton’s cast became so infamous that even MCU boss Kevin Feige said, “We thought we were so smart and forward thinking. We’re not going to do the old man’s cliché, But it was a wake-up call to say, “Well, wait a minute, is there another way to figure it out? Another way both to not fall for the cliché and to cast an Asian actor? ‘And the answer to that, of course, is yes.’