Tilda Swinton- Margaret Cho And I Never Fought Over Whitewashing
The recent Marvel movie Dr. Strange upset a lot of people over the fact that Tilda Swinton’s character was originally supposed to be a Tibetan monk. Many were concerned that the choice to cast Swinton, a white woman, was another example of “whitewashing,” which is where a character’s race is changed to a white person, thus making it harder for minority actors to get parts.
Asian-American comedienne Margaret Cho recently appeared on a podcast where she claimed that she and Swinton had had a fight over the issue after the actress emailed her to ask her for her opinion. According to Cho, Swinton asked her if she could talk to the Asian community to support the casting. That was a suggestion Cho said she objected to since it implied that Cho somehow spoke for the entire community.
In response, Swinton has released her email conversation with Cho and argued that she never made that request. The email she released backs that up since all Swinton seems to have said to that effect is, “I would really love to hear your thoughts and have a – private – conversation about it.”
That’s not to say that Cho was lying about the encounter. It is entirely possible that she was just speaking about the general impression she got from Swinton. But the way she implied that Swinton was being overtly racist was probably a bit out of line, especially after she claimed that Swinton had treated her “like a house servant.”
And for what it’s worth, the writer of the movie implied recently that the character was cast as a white person instead of a Tibetan to avoid offending the Chinese market since the country is currently occupying Tibet in a situation that has historically provoked a lot of international criticism of the country.
But with the rise of the Chinese market as an important source of revenue, it seems like these sorts of considerations will become more common in Hollywood films.