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Marvel Head Admits Doctor Strange's White-Washed Ancient One Was A Mistake


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Marvel head Kevin Feige admits Doctor Strange's instance of white-washing was a mistake. The 2016 film was directed by Scott Derrickson and introduced Benedict Cumberbatch to the MCU. As Stephen Strange, an arrogant surgeon humbled by a devastating accident, Cumberbatch has since gone on to appear in multiple MCU installments, and he already has two more on the way: This year's Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Doctor Strange was generally well-received when it first premiered, but it was marred by one large controversy. Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One, a character who is an Asian male in the comics. As it was only the latest instance in a series white-washing incidents within Hollywood at the time, it sparked intense public outcry. At the time, Derrickson and Feige defended the decision by explaining Swinton's casting was intended to avoid racist stereotypes that were often baked into older comics. This didn't do much to sway Doctor Strange's critics, but the movie continued as planned, and Swinton even reprised the role in Avengers: Endgame.

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RELATED: Doctor Strange: Why The MCU Changed The Ancient One's Race & Gender

Now, Feige is looking back on the entire Doctor Strange incident and has some regrets. In a cover story with Men's Health about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel's first Asian-led film, Feige admits there could have been a far better way to avoid poor stereotypes than to cast a white woman in a role that could've gone to an Asian performer. "We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge," Feige said. He continued:

‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not going to do the clicheŐĀ of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‚ÄėWell, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the clicheŐĀ and cast an Asian actor?‚Äô And the answer to that, of course, is yes.‚ÄĚ

Marvel has made more positive steps forward in terms of diversity since then, but Doctor Strange's case of white-washing remains a check against the studio. Since Hollywood first began, white-washing has been an embarrassing practice, and Doctor Strange sadly isn't the only recent movie to get called out for it. It's good to know Feige has since learned from this mistake, as it shows he'll do better in the future. Granted, it came years after Doctor Strange debuted, but increased awareness of past mistakes is always a good thing.

This year holds some of Marvel's most diverse blockbusters yet, with the aforementioned Shang-Chi (which has found better ways to circumvent racist stereotypes from the comics) and Eternals both scheduled for the fall. Even beyond 2021, the MCU is looking to feature heroes that go beyond typical white male heroes. The best way to show that the studio has learned from Doctor Strange, though, is to make sure it never white-washes a character again. Feige seems to have learned, but should there be another mi

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