In light of the recent and stupid comments by MARVEL and Tilda Swinton, in regards to casting of the new Dr. Strange Film – TFP is reissuing her post from last year, when casting was announced.
The Fairy Princess is in a bad damn mood. First, because she went to a routine trip to the dentist and was like “Hey, this tooth kinda hurts”, and twenty minutes later, she had no tooth – because it needed to be removed. Her Dentist was lovely and no reflection on his profession but she was thinking of two things while in the chair…
And The Wild West.And when she says the Wild West she was actually thinking “Thank goodness I don’t live in the Wild West where they would have tied a string to the tooth and the other end to a saddle of a horse and then slap the horse to giddyap and yank it out that way”
TFP is not a rational thinker in the Dentist chair. She is thankful for modern dentistry, and her Dentist is great. However the recovery of a tooth removal is painful and so she has been lying like a lump on the bed taking painkillers and when she came across THIS bit of brilliant Hollywood Casting and it cut through the meds, it pissed her off so badly she started typing in a haze.
It seems that in the new “Doctor Strange” film that Marvel is producing there is a character called “The Ancient One‘ who lives in a monastery in Tibet.
Technically, and according to the Marvel page on The Ancient One “The youth who would eventually be The Ancient One was born over five hundred years ago in Kamar-Taj, a villiage in a hidden land in the Himalaya Mountains in the area now known as Tibet.” Ah TIBET….mystical land nestled deep in Asia…
Ah, what’s that you say? You did not know, dear reader, that Tibet is in Asia?
Let’s get a map (TFP loves a good map)
See, there it is, plain as day – right next to China…oh heck, let us get another map to make that a bit clearer…
As one can see…Tibet is located just between China and India, with Nepal kinda wedged in there between.
(Sorry, TFP cannot think of Nepal without Eddie Murphy in Golden Child, apologies to Nepal)
Specifically the village he was born in lies nestled in the Himalaya Mountains. Now, among other things, the Himalaya Mountains are of huge religious import – and that’s important to remember because in TFP’s readings of Marvel Comics (oh yes she reads them on occasion) they like to try and tie in bits of ‘reality’ to make the story lines set on Earth work – not surprising, it helps the reader get into the world of the comic more, however in the Himalaya Mountains, you are not only setting a story there – it is an actual place that is sacred.
Yep, it’s sacred.
Why, you ask?
Oh because it is the birthplace of Buddism in Bhutan. Yep – at Paro Taktsang…., not just for that reason, there are lots of monasteries in the Himalayas and of course, in case it needs more cred (it doesn’t), this guy lives there:
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama lives in Tibet. Although he has had to flee to India, so he may not be in Tibet now, but he is supposed to be in Tibet…anyway it’s CHINA’s fault if he is not, but he is supposed to be there. BAD CHINA!
(Yes, TFP knows that is kimchi and kimchi is Korean. You can stop with trying to pull apart her logic now, read on.)
The Himalayas are a pretty cool place, and stories have been set there since Westerners have heard whispers of a far off place in the heavens where one could touch the clouds and never age. Perhaps it even inspired the advent of Plastic Surgery…who knows?
MARVEL is adept and trying to intertwine premise and concept with (in certain comics) actual places, one could see by their rendering of The Ancient One, and even by the photo above of one of the World’s most revered leaders of religion and peace, there’s a general ‘look’ to those who dwell in Tibet.
Let’s look at some photos:
It’s an Asian look, is it not? The People of Tibet? The People who would be born in the Himaylaya Mountain Region have a distinctly Asian appearance because…well...they are Asian, although they are their own thing, well, THIS article says it better than TFP:
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is now occupied by the People’s Republic of China. They number 5.4 million. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. The Khampas of Tibet are originally from Mongolia. Tibetans speak the Tibetan language, which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan languages and has many mutually unintelligible dialects. The traditional, or mythological, explanation of the Tibetan people’s origin is that they are the descendants of the monkey Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo. Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, though some observe the indigenous Bön and others are Muslims.
So their roots are in Asia – as they are situated between China and India, essentially, I mean, we SEE you Nepal
– but you are kinda in the same situation, an Asian indigenous peoples. Asian being at the root of all of it – East Asian, South Asian, Asian makes up what the peoples of those lands – China, India, Nepal, and Tibet, look like.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT CAUCASIANS OR ANY OTHER KINDS OF FOLKS CANNOT PRACTICE RELIGIONS THAT HAVE THEIR ORIGINS IN TIBET!
ANYONE CAN PRACTICE ANY RELIGION THAT APPEALS TO THEM.
RELIGION IS NOT ABOUT SKIN COLOR, DON’T GET IT TWISTED!
A RELIGION’S PLACE OF ORIGIN is different from the RELIGION, even Richard Gere would agree with that.
Debating over who owns Buddhism or any other religion is not what this is about – what this is about is what is going on with the Dr. Strange casting.
TFP wants to be clear – Tibet is a real and actual place, and the trouble with setting things in a real and actual place – even if you make up the village in which someone is supposed to have been born in – is that there is an obligation there to embrace the people that live there by representing them in as honest a way as Hollywood can.
That is an obligation that all creatives share – the ability to truly embrace the many influences we have and acknowledge where they came from and what they have shown us that have driven us to inspiration. Created a character based on the Tibetian way of life? That is beautiful – show us that beauty then. SHOW US why MARVEL Comics even allowed the inclusion of Tibet in the Dr. Strange canon of tales!
SHOW US TIBET!
Why would you create a character from Tibet and then do everything in your power to make it appear that Tibet has somehow been invaded hundreds of years ago (according to their myth) by Caucasians who have graciously deigned to grant the Tibetian people the aid of their strength and wisdom?
Now, when the casting of The Ancient One first came up, people in the business of show made guesses as to who was in the mix – that’s what it’s called – in the mix, like you can put a bunch of actors business cards in a bowl, swirl it up, blindly pull one out and cast a movie, you can’t do that…or maybe you CAN….(sometimes, that might be better – looking at you, ALOHA)
Some thought maybe Chow Young Fat, and TFP would agree that he is perhaps more what she was thinking when they announced The Ancient One was going to be in this film. He is Chinese, and according to the map, as we have all seen – China is right next to Tibet.
They share a region and a border, and they violate this and do all sorts of terrible things, but again, Mr. Fat could be from the region of Tibet. Because the people of Tibet, again, just so we are all clear, are Asian.
They are their ‘own thing‘ but, their thing is an Asian thing.
Everyone on the same page, yes?
The same page that is probably a scroll with calligraphy that is measured in worth by the beauty of the brushstrokes? The page that may or may not be several hundred years old and written by a monk high up in the Himalayas because THAT is where Tibetan monasteries kinda live?
Right, that page. That 1,000 year old page. Also in the mix for The Ancient One, were Morgan Freeman and Bill Nighy.
This was troubling to TFP because as she has said before, you cannot sub in one minority in place of another.
Representation is always an issue in feature films, which are, let’s face it, home of the aging but apparently always sexually attractive to women of all ages but his co-star is always 30 years young Caucasian Man.
“Diversity” aka “Normality” is not really what Hollywoodland is selling. Ever.
She understands that to some, Morgan Freeman and his incredible voice could be credible as a “mystic’ being with ancient knowledge, and of course Mr. Nighy has played supernatural mystical beings before so she understand the reasoning, and that would ALL be ‘for our consideration‘ except for the tricky fact that THE ANCIENT ONE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A NATIVE OF TIBET.
Tibet the real and actual place, remember? So in TFP‘s opinion, of those three, it ‘had‘ to go to Mr. Fat – because…well, not only is he a giant international film star with dozens of films and high visibility, he could easily be believed by the audience to be an Ancient being from a Tibetian Monastery who shares wisdom and other things with Dr. Strange. – Besides, everyone knows that Asian people age well, so if he’s 500 years give or take and only looks 50 or so?
Par for the course. (that was a joke)
MARVEL thought they would throw us all for a loop and change the role of The Ancient One to a female – totally fine. Ancient Asian Women are just as easily residing in a monastery in Tibet – why not? In fact, had the role been changed to a woman, but kept the basic premise of ‘native of Tibet‘ going, everyone would have cheered, TFP would have been first in line.
That was not to be, because everyone knows (ahem) that when you change a male role to a female role, the only thing one can possibly do is give the role meant for a Tibetian Mystic to a …..VEDDY VEDDY TALL BRITISH WOMAN!
TFP’s head swung around so fast, it knocked the anesthesia right out of her bloody jaw.
What’s that, you say? Tilda Swinton? Tilda, the Snow Queen Swinton?
Tilda the Irish, English, Scottish heritaged woman is now going to portray a female monk of Tibet who is 500 years old?
Does aging that long wash out your skin, cause extreme bone growth and drain the pigment from your eyes and hair? Are we now to believe that Tilda is the Tibetian version of a “White Walker” and can only be stopped from this absolute travesty of cinematic White Washing by something called Dragon Glass? Or by taking away her ‘back end’ recouping?
Does Tilda Swinton think she would make a fetching and convincing Tibetian Ancient One?
Now some may argue that it is positive to re-imagine a role with a female, that was originally written for a male – and that IS true. Not as simple though, because you are swapping one underrepresented group in a role that was written for them with a group that while underrepresented as a whole, has more than the first group. Oh let’s cut to the chase – there are more Caucasian Women on our big screens than Asian Men, ok?
TFP supposes that MARVEL is going to hit us all with some immediately created back story about Caucasian travelers in Tibet over 500 years ago, one of whom who happened to be pregnant and gave birth to a tall Caucasian daughter who they instantly turned over to the Monks because the Parents conveniently for the story die in an avalanche leaving the child to the mercy of the monks who raise her as their own….
But not acknowledging the real and actual place that is Tibet when you are casting, is horrific in terms of Asian or Asian American representation on the big screen. Asian and Asian Americans who, in point of fact, buy comic books because as we all know, APIs have the HIGHEST disposable income of any particular ‘group’ within the United States of America.
We have, here in America, Actresses that are fully capable of embracing this role and of course, Internationally, there are even more Asian Actresses that are fully capable of portraying a native of Tibet – some even have a fan base to rival Chow Young Fat!
Instead of appealing to an International Audience, which is financially viable, the good Execs at MARVEL have white washed this role because as everyone knows….Asian people cannot be super heroes because, well NO GOOD REASON, just that they wanted Tilda Swinton and thought no one would notice.
How could they get it so right with AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and so wrong with Dr. Strange? Isn’t it the same company?
Honestly, it was probably some executive that has noticed her past performances and thought, “She could totes be some mystic’ without recalling that the Mystic is a native of Tibet. (TFP definitely thinks ‘totes’ was in the thought and the casting memo)
TFP cries FOUL on MARVEL Comics, and honestly FOUL on Tilda Swinton, because you see, Ms. Swinton is an advocate of all sorts of causes, one being EDUCATION, and in supporting EDUCATION, one imagines that she herself sees the value in learning, and in the course of learning, one reads and is taught to read maps.
In reading maps, one begins conversations about the peoples who dwell on the places represented by those maps and it enhances the quality of one’s education to culturally broaden oneself, does it not? And by reading those maps herself, or even if she is only raising money to help others learn to do it, she very VEDDY easily could have learned WHERE Tibet is and WHAT it’s Indigenous peoples look like, and being a rather lefty moral person, upon learning that, she would refuse the role.
Only, she didn’t, did she?
It cannot just be APIs railing against the dying of the light of representation, at SOME point, Caucasian Actors and Actresses have to take responsibility for accepting these roles – PARTICULARLY those who are ALREADY film stars and can obtain work WITHOUT having to take away a role from an ethnic minority.
Ethnic Minorities are vastly, vastly underrepresented on our Hollywood film-scape, and ETHNIC WOMEN? Seriously, how many times does one have to point at zero to see that in major Hollywood Action and Comic Films, the number of Asian women represented is easily counted on one hand?
TFP awards 30 slaps of the wand to MARVEL Comics and an EQUAL number to Tilda Swinton (whose work she has always admired, but who now, she will find tainted) who should have known better.
IN FACT – and here is a secret Hollywood bomb, she now feels much more kindly to Meryl Streep who sat down exactly next to TFP in a deserted screening of MICHAEL CLAYTON on a Wednesday at The Grove, not a chair between them though the theater sat about 300, and laughed and laughed at Ms. Swinton’s performance with…wait for it…Jill Clayburgh. (and some man).
TFP didn’t like Meryl Streep for a long time because of that, but she has CHANGED HER MIND!
CARRY ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF MERYL STREEP AND KEEP FOUNDING THOSE WRITING PROGRAMS!
TILDA…TFP has no words left for you and MARVEL COMICS EXCEPT
KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE