Marvel Comics character “The Ancient One,” before his ascendency to a nonphysical realm, was an Asian brother from Tibet. His story arc told of a complex and interesting personal background which relied upon a universally relatable struggle: one’s desire to overcome evil in the context of one’s limited mortal body.
“The youth who would eventually be called the Ancient One was born in the 1430s, in the mystic city of Kamar-Taj, a village in the area now known as Tibet. Originally, the youth was a peaceful farmer, like his fellow villagers, but encountered an older villager named Kaluu. Kaluu shared with the youth his knowledge of magic, and they began exploring the secrets of sorcery together, even learning the secrets of immortality “…dark magic.” http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Yao_(Earth-616)
First Earth-Realm Sorcerer Supreme
“The youth decided to seek out an order ancient magic users known as the Ancient Ones in order to devote his entire life to their goal of combating evil sorcerers. The youth eventually became even more skilled than his colleagues, and grew in power so great that he was the first Earth mortal to meet with Eternity, the sentient embodiment of the universe, who presented him with the Amulet of Agamotto and charged him to become the Earth dimension’s first Sorcerer Supreme. The Ancient One remained in “this capacity for countless years, outliving almost all other members of his order..
The fact that the Ancient One, and I share identical physical features (excepting my still black hair) stirred up a feeling I had long since buried – that I might personally identify with a positively portrayed three dimensional Asian character. Slated for release in Nov. 2016, I would have to be patient..
The Ancient One
5′ 11″ tall
160 lbs (73 kg)
Bald with white beard
Formerly black hair.
Mordo and Doctor Stephen Stranger
Mordo and Strange are important sorcerers in the Marvel universes in their respective rights. The Ancient One taught them both in the time honored master-apprentice relationship.
“Mordo began his tutelage under the Ancient One as early as the 1930’s, already an adult; residing in the Ancient One’s lair brought him reduced aging. The Ancient One realized that Mordo’s lust for power made him dangerous but chose to teach him anyway…
Mordo was immediately resentful of Stephen Strange when he began studying under the Ancient One and magically restrained him from speaking when Strange accidentally walked in on Mordo’s plot. The plot failed, Strange became the Ancient One’s disciple, and Mordo eventually left.” http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Karl_Mordo_(Earth-616)
Ancient One Casting
I thought incorrectly that the issues of (1) whitewashing ( https://bigasianpackage.wordpress.com/links/whitewashing-yellowface-race-bending/ ) and (2) degrading or denying the masculinity of Asian men had come into the public awareness. ( https://bigasianpackage.wordpress.com/links/the-missing-mulan-kiss-reblog-hollywoods-real-problem-with-the-asian-male/ )
See, the filmmakers asked themselves, “who could play the role of a cosmically powerful, charismatic Asian man?” and they answered by casting – an androgynous white woman.
I love Donna Dicken’s article on it because she takes into consideration the seemingly benign reasoning given for the casting choice and systematically disassembles it.
To say the only way to remove the stereotype of “otherness” from the Ancient One is to make him white is just whitewashing under the guise of progressiveness, that actors of Asian descent are inherently “othered” regardless of Hobbies how a role is written.
Casting Swinton in the role also opens the floodgates of appropriation. Doctor Strange will stłill be traveling to Asia after his accident to gain his powers. But now instead of at least a tentative link to Tibetan culture — or more likely the fictional country Madame Gao of “Daredevil” hails from — you’ve got a white woman teaching a white man the secret mysteries of an Asian culture. That’s…not okay.
Her insight is worth gaining, and it’s the main inspiration behind this post here. The way I feel right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Swinton do a mocking ambiguously Asian accent in her role, but I guess I won’t find out.