Well this is pretty god damn dumb. If Dr. Strange and Magik have the power to just rewind time and fix everything at will, then pretty much nothing bad can ever happen again in the Marvel Universe. This was a fun adventure, but the stakes are so watered down by this point, and the writing is so completely contrived with all this Deus Ex-Machina stuff that just fixes everything in the last two pages. (The Uncanny X-Men #191 – Mar 1985)
I’ve been having a lot of conflicted
feelings. It’s definitely one of those situations where, yes, the
original Strange was white! But to think about what they could have
done with this character…
So imagine. An Asian med
student. A Chinese guy getting mocked for being one of a thousand
Chinese students, for thinking he’s going to be special. A Filipino guy
getting laughed at and told to scrub the floors because that’s all he’s
good for, doesn’t he know that he’d have to struggle to make nurse? An Indian guy, keeping his head down and getting the work
done while people make Apu accents at him. Imagine the work he puts into
forcing his ethnicity behind him. He stops speaking Mandarin at home.
He starts throwing his mama’s pancit in the trash when she makes him
take leftovers, instead of saving it for later. He learns to love
hamburgers, ignoring his great-grandma’s ghost in the back of his head
and her horror at him consuming beef.
He finishes med
school, gets his residencies behind him, and he was right all along– he
is astoundingly skilled. A marvel. Hopeless patients thrive under his
hands. But is he going to be recognized for that? Well, I mean, he’s
Asian. He’s not special, they’re just meticulous like that. So the
recognition comes, sure, but people make jokes, even his friends, about
Surgeon Level: Asian. And the ego and the anger build up, like nacre on
a pearl, layer after layer of contempt as he gets better and better at
his skills. Contempt for the people around him. Contempt for the people
who made him. Contempt for the people he saves. Contempt, all of it,
for himself, for that nineteen-year-old pitching his mama’s pancit in
the garbage before going to bed.
And then the accident
happens. And he’s an out-of-work Asian dude. No more the protection of
his title, and everyday shit–people pulling their eyes at him or making
small dick jokes, people doing racist accents and calling him any of a
thousand slurs–hurt a lot more when he can’t say I’m a doctor.
I’m above them. Because all the work he did, he’s never going
to escape the color of his skin.
And a relative, his mom,
his auntie, seeing the darkness growing deeper and deeper in him, says
“Stephen. You need to go home for a while and get away from this.
Rest.” And he thinks about “home.” He’s second or third generation
American, this is his home, but the children of immigrants all know the
longing for a place where we fit. Where our eyes aren’t out of place and
our skin isn’t remarked upon, where we never have to hear “Where are
you from?” He thinks about being five years old, his hand–broken now,
aching–small in his mother’s as she walked him down a bright street.
He smells adobo at random, out of nowhere, another ghost calling to him.
He thinks about when things were simpler, and despite his contempt for
himself, for his mother’s people and his roots, he books a plane ticket.
the plane is full of people speaking the language he’s stopped speaking
to his mother, the language he was never really steady in anyway. And
something about it is comforting, and that scares him. Everything he
worked so hard to be, all in threads at the sound of the young mother
five rows ahead of him singing softly in Tagalog to her little boy.
been so angry and so sick in himself for the months since the accident
that relaxing feels wrong. But the air here smells right–the second he
steps off the plane it’s like he fills up a pair of lungs that have
been gasping for a decade. How stressful it is, to feel better and hate
yourself for feeling better.
He walks the roads his mama
took him on thirty years ago, and they’re busier than they were, the
cars are louder, but the sameness of it all is dizzying. He checks the
paper his mother gave him, the names and the addresses, and loathing
himself he goes to an acupuncturist, to a reiki master, to practitioner
after practitioner, and he hates them. I’m a doctor, I’m a doctor, these people are all quacks and
fucking idiots. he thinks, but his heart is in rags and his
hands are twisted on each other like the nightmares of an arthritic, and
so he goes.
Imagine, when he finally finds the Ancient
One. Imagine that the Ancient One has his great-grandmother’s eyes, that
the language the Ancient One speaks is the one Strange learned at his
mama’s knee and threw away. Imagine that the Ancient One–female or
male–is dark of skin, wears their traditional clothing as casually as
Strange wears a T-shirt, offers Strange a bowl of adobo and the steam rising off of it it smells just like it always did…
Strange coming full circle, back to his roots, back to the place in
himself that he’s ignored and beaten down for all these years. Imagine
him looking at the history that belongs to him and claiming it. Imagine
him being still, yes, American. But honest to himself. No longer
fighting to be white, no longer fighting to play by the rules of white
people, recognizing that there’s power where he came from and it belongs
to him. Imagine what it it feels like, to have that sudden knowledge
opening inside your chest, to have the shame over your dark skin and
your narrow wrists and your almond eyes washed away by certainty and
confidence and a clean pride that bears no resemblance to the ego of the
Hollywood has no idea what to do with Asian people. And, given the fact that Hollywood often serves as a reflection of contemporary culture, this is a major problem. Aside from casting us as goofy comic relief (Long Duk Dong, really) or evil mystical ninjas (come on, Daredevil season 2), they just don’t know what to do with us. The confusion and ignorance around what we bring to the table sometimes gets so bad that rather than try and find out who we actually are, they’ll overwrite us with white characters, erasing us completely from narratives that inherently belong to one culture or another (looking at you, Ghost in the Shell).