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Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has a message for fans upset at the announcement that the Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange won’t be the wizened old man that he appears as in the comic books, but instead be portrayed by Tilda Swinton: it’s not important.
“Look, she’s a chameleon in everything she does,” Feige told Entertainment Weekly about Swinton, going on to say that she “has this amazing [ability to] harness of this androgynous sense.” That’s apparently important because, in Feige’s words, “we use the term ‘her’ and ‘she’ in the film but, other than that, [the role is] very androgynous. Because it doesn’t matter.”
Technically, that’s true. The Ancient One — supernatural mentor to Doctor Strange, who offers advice as a ghost following a death which saved the world from an extra-dimensional threat — is a comic book character whose gender is entirely superfluous to their existence. Their entire narrative purpose is to offer vague advice and prognostications to Strange, which allows them to be male, female or anywhere on the spectrum in-between. The comic book incarnation of the character was always presented as male, however, complete with a beard to underscore the matter.
Not that the fact that it “doesn’t matter” stops Feige from being excited about the switch, however.
“We’re never afraid to change,” he told EW about Marvel’s bravery, citing the swap from human butler to artificial intelligence for Jarvis as an example. “I think if you look at some of the early incarnations of the Ancient One in the comics, they are what we would consider today to be quite, sort of, stereotypical. They don’t hold up to what would work today.”
For Swinton, the notion of which gender her character is will be left purposefully vague. “I wouldn’t know how to answer that one,” she said in response to an EW request for comment. “I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder.”
Doctor Strange, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular hero, will be released Nov. 4, 2016.
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