Doctor Strange (2019): China


Big place. Lots of people. Weird food. And some heavy-duty influence in Hollywood.


Yep. When we’re talking about movie agendas it’s no longer just left-wing quiche-eating yutzes in the People’s Republic of Mexifornia who want to control our values and mores. It’s also the mandarins at the bottom of the world.

In making the 2016 Marvel Studios movie Doctor Strange, the 14th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), China apparently had an active and unnervingly surreptitious hand.

The film, of course, was directed by Scott Derrickson from a screenplay he wrote with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as surgeon Stephen Strange along with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. In it, a down-and-out Strange learns the mystic arts following a career-ending car crash.

I loved it, hardly surprising since way back in the ‘70s I loved Doctor Strange comic books. The film features great action, an intriguing plot, mind-bending visuals and, all in all, was a believable origin story for a complex character. (And believe me, no one is looking forward to the May 7, 2021 release of the next adventure, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, more than your humble reviewer.)

But – in the film, Swinton’s Ancient One is described as being of Celtic origin.

Huh? In the comics, The Ancient One was of… Tibetan origin. What the hell happened?

In his bestselling book Trump vs. China, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich clues us in on precisely what the hell happened:

“Essentially, China is using its market power as leverage to influence American films without having to use any means of direct influence… According to a Business Insider story, in the original version of Marvel’s Doctor Strange, the producers changed the character named The Ancient One from being Tibetan to Celtic to appease the Chinese Communist Party. It turned out to be a good investment for Marvel. Doctor Strange was incredibly successful in China with a $44-million dollar opening weekend, the third-highest Marvel opening after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. C. Robert Cargill, screenwriter for the film, explained, ‘The Ancient One was a racial 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 1 billion people who think that that’s BS, 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.’”

This is not the only time the Chinese have flexed their muscles in La La Land. In Iron Man 3, Marvel’s stereotypically inscrutable Chinese super-villain, the Mandarin, is no longer Chinese… and not even particularly inscrutable. He is played by a British actor, Sir Ben Kingsley, with captured archive video showing him ordering his militia to execute prisoners à la ISIS in what appears to be a Middle Eastern country. And at the end, the Mandarin turns out to really be an American businessman anyhow, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).

Forget about left-wing quiche-eaters working to dose American society with cultural saltpeter. This is an agenda constructed on a global scale with geopolitical ramifications.

How sad to see the American film industry co-opted and commandeered by people who have trouble just keeping enough crispy noodles and duck sauce on the table.

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