George Takei wades into Marvel whitewashing controversy

Star Trek actor says: "Marvel must think we're all idiots"

George Takei has blasted Marvel Studios in a growing controversy over the casting of Tilda Swinton, a white actor, as a character in the upcoming Doctor Strange film who in the comics is Tibetan.

Takei, one of the stars of the original Star Trek, and one of the first ever Asian actors to appear in a positive role on American TV, is a major critic of Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ – using white actors in roles that should be filled by ethnic minorities.

Reacting to remarks made by one of the Doctor Strange writers, who suggested marvel cast Swinton as the Ancient One so as not to annoy the lucrative Chinese market, which is quite sensitive to the political status of Tibet, he said: “Marvel must think we’re all idiots.”

“Let me get this straight,” the actor, who is 79, wrote in a post on Facebook. “You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia? This back-pedalling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots.”

He continued: “It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point whether the character was white or Asian, as it was already in another country. So this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”

Takei was responding to comments made by C Robert Cargill, who said the Ancient One was “a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in [a] very weird political place”.

“He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political’.”

In a statement given to Mashable, Marvel has previous defended Swinton’s role, saying: “Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life.

“The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.”