Marvel did not whitewash one of the Doctor Strange characters like what Paramount did with Ghost in the Shell — it just changed its roots entirely.
At least that is the reason Marvel gave in an attempt to defend its decision to give Tilda Swinton the role of "The Ancient One" in its film adaptation of the Benedict Cumberbatch-led Doctor Strange.
"The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic," Marvel Entertainment said in a statement.
Well, Swinton did say in an interview that she is not playing an Asian character and that The Ancient One was not written as an Asian in the script.
"The script that I was presented with did not feature an Asian man for me to play, so that was never a question when I was being asked to do it," Swinton said.
In an earlier interview, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige defended the decision to cast Swinton by reinforcing the idea that changing a character's roots is not something the Studio shies away from.
"We're never afraid to change [...] We are always looking for ways to change [...] 'the Ancient One' is a title that many people have had [...] What if the title had been passed and the current Ancient One is a woman?" Feige explained.
As to why exactly Marvel decided to make the change other than its belief that the comic book representations were too stereotypical, Doctor Strange writer C. Robert Cargill said that the production did not wish to offend Asians — specifically, the Chinese.
"[The Ancient One] originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he's Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people [...] If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular [...] if you think it's a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind," he said.
He also noted that doing so may offend the Chinese government and could result in the film getting banned in the second biggest film market in the world.
In plain speech, this is the main reason for the change: worldwide box office earnings.