Update: Wow, Margaret Cho Seriously Mischaracterized Her Conversation with Tilda Swinton
Update: Our illustrious commenters (below) alerted us to a Jezebel piece wherein they asked Tilda Swinton to comment on the below exchange. Swinton provided her entire email exchange, and Cho seriously mischaracterized it. Swinton was incredibly classy, mortified that she was caught up in a whitewashing scandal, and mentioned her project with Steven Yeun in an entirely appropriate fashion. Read the full email exchange here. We apologize for doubting SWINTON.
In your sounds-like-a-parody-but-is-horrifically-true news, Margaret Cho got shoved into the ongoing Doctor Strange whitewashing controversy, with “holy shit” results. Cho tells the tale of racism and woe on Bobby Lee’s Tigerbelly podcast, during a discussion of Asian casting in Hollywood.
Through the random middleman that is Alex Bornstein (who notably played an Asian caricature on MadTV), Tilda Swinton contacted Cho, simply not understanding why folks were ticked off at her casting as the Ancient One, a Tibetan monk in Doctor Strange. After Cho’s explanation of why Swinton’s casting just wasn’t chill fell on deaf ears, Swinton then reminded Cho that her upcoming film, on which she was a producer, had The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun in it, thus fulfilling Hollywood’s variation of “It’s okay, I have a black friend.”
I’ll give you a moment to scream, laugh, shake your head, throw your phone, whatever.
All done? OK.
To add to the weirdness of it all, after not getting Cho’s approval, Swinton asked Cho not to tell anyone. Luckily for us, Margaret Cho doesn’t give a fuck. Is it ANY surprise why actors of color remain skeptical of diversity in Hollywood?
In related Steven Yeun news, on the same podcast, Bobby Lee recalls auditioning for the same five-line stoner Asian role in a comedy film. He talks about being surprised Yeun even had to read for the role, and Yeun responded that he had to read. Lee then expressed his frustration at Yeun and other breakout POC actors having to audition for small roles, reminding us that all notable white actors wouldn’t have to audition, comparing Yeun to Aaron Paul.
I’ll leave this with a line about Hollywood from Bobby Lee: “To not think of this as a racist business — of course it is. It is. The truth is that we have to read. We have to go in for things and it’s shocking, especially for somebody like him.”
We — and Hollywood — have a long, long way to go.