Above is a picture of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in the Doctor Strange movie (left side) and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in a Shell (right).
The Ancient One in the 616 Marvel Universe (now Marvel’s Prime Universe), The Ancient One is an older Asian man from the Himalayas, which is in Tibet that has a liberation movement against China. Tilda Swinton is a British woman and the actor hired for the role. The justification given as to why this was done wasn’t done with the usual lie of her being best for the role. No, instead they came forward that it was so the movie had potential in being released to Chinese theaters. They argue that they feared Doctor Strange would not pass if they casted a person from Tibet but to make no political statement they also didn’t hire a Chinese actor.
Which begs the question why not just change the location on script and still keep it in Asia to minimize the outrage? There’s no answer to give to that one, but the director tried to hide this decision as a progressive move for Hollywood filmmaking by giving a role meant for a man to a woman. Amazing. They gave her all the Asian stereotypes and shaved her to give her a Buddhist monk look, essentially what they did was bring back yellow face after all they progress of 21 and Aloha that didn’t even try to hide their whiteness.
Emma Stone in Aloha as Captain Allison Ng. The romantic comedy-drama film became a box office bomb after much criticism for hiring a Caucasian for an Asian role.
Including fan petitions to Disney for their live action adaptation of Mulan that includes a campaign on Twitter called #MakeMulanRight. This is a justified fear from recent movies featuring a white savior archetype or trope in the shape of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai or more recently Matt Damon in The Great Wall.
Now there are reports that the studio did indeed consider making Scarlett Johanson look more Asian for her character, The Major in Ghost in a Shell. It took a visual effects test to realize that was a bad idea and they were slipping back into old habits. Too bad Cloud Atlas got away with it. Following recent discussion of Hollywood whitewashing, Michelle Villemaire, has re-imaged famous Asian characters originally cast with actors.
Of course, there are good Asian actors out there and several of those are already popular in television or for their supporting roles such as John Cho (best known as Sulu in the Star Trek reboot) and Constance Wu (from ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat).
[Video: Yellowface is a bad look by Vox]
“Altering a white actor’s features to appear more Asian reduces our race and our ethnicity down to mere physical appearance. And as we all know, our ethnicity, our races, and our culture are so much deeper than how we friggin’ look.” – Constance Wu
[Picture: Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving in yellowface for Cloud Atlas]