George Takei isn't having a single one of Marvel's excuses for Doctor Strange's casting of Tilda Swinton, a move many have criticized as yet another example of Hollywood whitewashing. Within days of each other in April, both a Doctor Strange co-writer and a Marvel spokesperson presented somewhat contradictory explanations for the Ancient One's noticeable whiteness. According to Takei, both statements are total nonsense.
In Doctor Strange writer C. Robert Cargill's explanation of the Ancient One's cinematic whiteness, the blame was essentially placed on China's box office dollars. "There is no other character in Marvel history that is such a cultural land mine, that is absolutely unwinnable," Cargill said in an interview with Double Toasted. Ironically, Cargill also likened the Ancient One conundrum to the classic (and also unwinnable) Star Trek training exercise, the Kobayashi Maru.
"So let me get this straight," the Star Trek legend wrote on Facebook on Saturday. "You cast a white actress so you wouldn't hurt sales…in Asia? This backpedaling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting." Takei continued his takedown in the comments, taking aim at both Marvel and the film and television industries at large. "They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces," Takei wrote. "Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are."
Takei also responded to multiple fan comments, including some who disagreed with his assessment. When presented with the idea of so-called "colorblind casting," a casting which ignores race or ethnicity outright, Takei explained that he's actually not against the idea. However, equality must first outweigh what he called the "systematic erasure" of Asian actors and actresses before such a method yields fair and balanced results.
"It is so prevalent that even when there is an Asian role that could be played by an Asian actor, it is given instead to a white actor," he wrote. "Do you not see the issue here? We are talking about systemic exclusion, lack of opportunity, and invisibility of a whole segment of our society."
As for those moaning about political correctness, Takei has a brief but revelatory message. "It is not about political correctness," he wrote in the comments of his original post. "It is about correcting systemic exclusion. Do you see the difference?"
In their official statement on the controversy to Mashable last week, Marvel stressed the purported fluidity of the Ancient One character, noting that this particular take is, in fact, Celtic. "We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast," a Marvel spokesperson said of their decision.
Will the controversy impact Doctor Strange's box office draw? We'll find out once it hits theaters on Nov. 4, 2016.