Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor StrangeMarvel/Facebook

Last week, "Doctor Strange" screenwriter C Robert Cargill offered an explanation for why Marvel Studios cast British actress Tilda Swinton as an important Tibetan character — The Ancient One — from the original comic book series. "Star Trek" actor George Takei has recently called that explanation "cringeworthy."

Talking about the controversial casting choice, Cargill had said: "[The Ancient One] 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 bullsh*t 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'."

Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor StrangeStill from official trailer/Marvel/YouTube

Takei, famous for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original run of the television series "Star Trek," took to Facebook and posted his views on Cargill's explanation: "You cast a white actress so you wouldn't hurt sales...in Asia? This backpedaling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we're all idiots. [sic]"

He added: "Marvel already addressed the Tibetan question by setting the action and The Ancient One in Kathmandu, Nepal in the film. 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. [sic]"

The response assumes significance because it comes from an Asian-American actor who made quite an impact in Hollywood during an era where whitewashing — white Caucasian actors playing racially diverse roles — in films was all too common.

Ever since the "Doctor Strange" trailer released, netizens on social media have continued to criticise Marvel for the casting of Swinton in what they said should have been a prominent role for an Asian actor.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, "Doctor Strange" is slated to release on Nov. 4, 2016.

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