Before the first teaser trailer made its way online, Marvel's Doctor Strange was stirring quite the conversation in regards to the re-characterization of the Ancient One. In the comics, the Ancient One is a powerful Tibetan sorcerer who acts as Stephen Strange's mentor in the mystic arts. He is also a dude.
In Scott Derrickson's big screen adaptation, however, the Ancient One is played by Tilda Swinton -- a brilliantly avant-garde, white actress. After the teaser trailer for the film was released, fans were quick to criticize Swinton's casting and depiction of the Ancient One as yet another instance of Hollywood's cultural appropriation of Asian characters. After all, she is portraying a character originally conceived as being of Asian descent. In an industry where Scarlett Johansson is cast as a Japanese cyborg and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau portrays an Egyptian god, you can see why this is a troubling Hollywood trend.
(Just so we're clear: No one is upset that the Ancient One is now an all-powerful woman ... except for butthurt MRAs.)
However, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Oscar-winner explained how this interpretation of the character strays away from the Ancient One's original Tibetan roots.
"Well, it's not actually an Asian character -- that's what I need to tell you about it," she said. "I wasn't asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that."
She added: "You just have to wait and see, because it's not an Asian character."
While some will understandably take ire in the fact that the Ancient One was stripped of her Asian identity, it's important to remember that the character's original characterization was somewhat problematic for its stereotypical nature. Last year, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige told EW, "I think if you look at some of the early incarnations of the Ancient One in the comics, they are what we would consider today to be quite, sort of, stereotypical. They don't hold up to what would work today."
Therefore, the Ancient One has seemingly been reworked as an enlightened being who's not necessarily connected to conventional definitions of identity and human ethnicity.
Given her ethereal weirdness, Swinton is undoubtedly an amazing choice to play a mysterious mystic, but we wish Marvel would have found a way to rework the character without stripping the Ancient One of her important cultural identity.