If you think that the world of comic book movies is completely male-dominated, you’ll be happy to hear that things are changing: The role of The Ancient One in Doctor Strange will be played by Tilda Swinton. ICYMI, this is pretty huge: Marvel and Doctor Strange director Kevin Feige have made the decision to make the character of The Ancient One — always portrayed as a male in the Doctor Strange comics — a woman in the film. And Feige is defending the decision with enthusiasm: In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, Feige said the switch “doesn’t matter” because the role is incredibly androgynous, and because Marvel is apparently never afraid to change. Well, if that’s the case, then bring on the gender-swapping, because I think that changing up the gender of other characters in the Marvel world could be a very good thing.
After all, gender fluidity doesn’t happen often in comic books. More often than not, the difference between male and female characters is painfully obvious, from the shapes of their bodies to the way that they dress. Superheroes and villains are classically either masculine or feminine with little wiggle room in between — we’re talking superheroes and villains like Superman with his broad chest and Superwoman with her impossibly thin waist.
But that doesn’t mean that those rules can’t be broken. As our world becomes more aware of gender roles and the stereotypes associated with them, it’s exciting that Marvel would be open to swapping the gender of one of its characters. By switching up the gender of its characters and keeping everything else the same, it sends the message that gender stereotypes are not something the world should hold fast to. Instead, women can be powerful without being sex symbols — and they can also be evil without being some gussied up version of Cruella DeVille.
But this gender-swapping move isn’t the first for Marvel. Recently, Carrie Ann Moss portrayed comic book character Jeryn Hogarth in the Netflix original Jessica Jones — only, in the show, the character was female instead of male, and renamed Jeri Hogarth. Having a character who is businessman and lawyer in the comics played by a woman sends a pretty big message to audiences the world over. Instead of playing into gender stereotypes, Marvel is making moves with these gender-swapping casting decisions to show that women can be just as powerful as their hyper-masculine male counterparts.
I just hope that they continue with this trend. Let’s break down those stereotypes and start showing the world that gender is a more fluid concept than what superhero movies often portray.
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