With filming for Doctor Strange well underway, we have had the usual set pics, casting updates and scoops about what to expect when the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth lands in theaters this November. However, there is one update that has yet to come that has comic readers around the world a bit perplexed: an announcement of an actor cast in the role of Strange’s loyal manservant, Wong.
Adapting the character of Wong as portrayed in the comics could be tough, given the number of potentially offensive stereotypes that could be perceived by movie goers and maybe, with Marvel Studios making huge strides in the Chinese box office, they prefer not to take a step that could offend a lot of moviegoers and take away from what’s likely to be another box office hit.
Wong lives with Doctor Strange in his Greenwich Village home, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and does, in his own words, “whatever the Doctor needs.” This includes cleaning the house, making some delightful meals and answering the door. He does all this while wearing traditional Asian garb, silently nodding and making his way through the world without much notice on most occasions, playing Watson to Strange’s Holmes. This is stereotypical, superficial Wong. But longtime fans of Doctor Strange know that Wong means a great deal more to the Doctor, perhaps as much as the Eye and Cloak. His reemergence as an integral part of the newest Doctor Strange solo series by Jason Aaron confirms this.
Wong is also a bad-ass warrior monk. A master martial artist from a long line of ancestors who have always had the same goal: protect and serve Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Wong has saved Strange’s life on more than one occasion and though he is no magician, the dark and mystical places on which he has accompanied Strange over their long friendship don’t frighten him. While it has always been his duty to serve the Doctor, there have been plenty of times where the two have been at loggerheads and gone separate ways. In the end, however, Strange needs Wong more than he’d often admit and MUCH more than Wong needs Strange.
Sometime ago, martial artist Scott Adkins was added to the cast, though the role in which he was cast has gone unannounced. It was pretty widely speculated that, perhaps Marvel had cast Adkins as Wong, choosing to forego any potential disenchantment caused by casting an Asian actor and then making him subservient to the white lead. If that’s the case (and we have no idea if it is) it raises a question: is it better to whitewash an existing Marvel character to eliminate any perceived stereotypical intent or is it more important to stay true to the character in all ways and let moviegoers come to know the one, true Wong?
Marvel Studios has to carefully balance its relationship with China amid the country’s censorship against staying true to the story of who Doctor Strange is. Perhaps the question for them is “how valuable to the story of Stephen Strange is Wong?” Is he so valuable that you put him in the film and potentially lose an entire country’s box office? Or, could they perhaps be intentionally subversive of the stereotype by introducing Wong, letting viewers fill in their own ideas, and then allowing him to smash them, and the demons of the Dark Dimension, to the ground?
This is not a question to be taken lightly and I’m sure it’s one that the brain trust of Marvel Studios has considered. Will Adkins be Wong? Will Wong, a vital character in the story of Doctor Strange, be left out in order to avoid any perceived slights? Has someone other than Adkins been cast as Wong, but left out of the official releases?
Where do you stand on these questions? These questions are vital ones because they tether us to each other…
Doctor Strange will bring inter-dimensional madness to theaters November 4, 2016.