[UPDATED] Margaret Cho Says Call With Tilda Swinton About Doctor Strange Whitewashing Made Her Feel “Like a House Asian”
[UPDATED 12/16/16 at 5:39PM: Tilda Swinton has released the entire exchange (which apparently was over email, not over phone) with Margaret Cho, which you can read on Jezebel.]
Margaret Cho recently went on TigerBelly, the weekly podcast hosted by comedian Bobby Lee and Khalyla Kuhn, to talk about “mummified bodies, training your parents, and Tilda Swinton.” The last one made headlines as the pioneering comedian, who’s always been outspoken about Asian representation and activism for women, revealed that Swinton had reached out to her through Alex Borstein (the irony was not lost on Cho) and the two had a “long discussion” about Swinton taking the role of the Ancient One.
While this sounds like a commendable effort on Swinton’s part to learn more about representation, it becomes clear as Cho talks about the exchange that this was not the case. More accurately, it sounds like Swinton was less interested in hearing another perspective and more hoping that Cho would appease and calm down the voices upset and angry at the casting decision (Lee jokingly calls this the “Yellow Phone”).
Cho describes it as “a long, kind of a fight about why the part should not have gone to her.”
That’s what I thought: The part should not have gone to her. We’d fight about it and basically it ended with her saying, ‘Well I’m producing a movie and Steven Yeun is starring.’
In case you didn’t catch it, that was Swinton playing the “I have Asian friends” card.
After the conversation, Cho says, “I felt like a house Asian, like I’m her servant… That’s sort of what I felt like, like I was following her with an umbrella. I had a weird feeling about the entire exchange, especially the part of ‘Don’t tell anybody.’” We’ve gone over how Doctor Strange failed at Asian representation, and how the team has defended their decision with misinformed answers. Cho sharing this story only solidifies how the film continuously refused to listen to Asian voices.
The full podcast also has the two talking about accents in Hollywood, their own experiences, and Steven Yeun having to audition for five lines.
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