In a bit of news beamed straight to us from outer space, Tilda Motherf*cking Swinton is in talks with Marvel to appear in Dr. Strange as Dr. Stephen Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One. Dr. Strange is, of course, being played by Brambles Crumplesnort, King of the Reptiloids of Garlactaca-9. And Swinton, as we all know, is an alien queen come to enlighten us with her radiance. Perhaps the two of them appearing in a movie together is akin to an intergalactic peace treaty.
For real, though, it’s very exciting to hear that Swinton is interested in Dr. Strange. It says something about the project that she’d be willing to go through the Marvel wringer for it. I’ve heard Dr. Strange described as an “LSD nightmare”, and it, like Guardians of the Galaxy, represents the entry point to a new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Stephen Strange is all about magic and alternate dimensions, and other fantastical elements of which Marvel has barely scratched the surface. It’s going to look wildly different from, say, Captain America: Civil War. And with Cumberbatch and now Tilda Motherf*cking Swinton on board, it’s already drawing some serious talent, which is very promising.
But there’s a catch. The Ancient One in the comics is a very old man, a Tibetan mystic. It’s cool that Marvel is willing to gender-bend the character for Swinton, but at the same time, they’re whitewashing a character that would otherwise be Asian. Tilda Swinton is so magnificent that if she wanted to play every role in the movie she could well do it and it would be awesome—and she’s certainly weird and otherworldly enough to play a magical being that transcends time and space—but people are upset that a traditionally Asian character is being nixed.
It sucks that we as an audience are so starved for more diverse representation that Tilda Motherf*cking Swinton getting cast as a mystical overlord has to bum us out even a little bit. It sucks that the state of diversity in film is still too often either/or. Asian representation in film is virtually non-existent, and Dr. Strange is an opportunity to include some cool, powerful Asian characters. But making an important figure like the Ancient One into a woman shows a willingness to go outside the box that bodes well for future superhero projects. More characters should be reimagined this way (see also: Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm). It just sucks that it has to be one or the other.