The trailer for Iron Man 3 dropped earlier today, but you probably already know that because it’s all over the Internet.
If you want to read discussion of how awesome the fleet of Iron Men look (there’s a Hulk-ish one!) or debate why Tony Stark is so sad in the beginning (he better not go all emo Spider-Man on us), you can do that elsewhere.
Here, we’re going to discuss one aspect of the trailer that really needs to be discussed: Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of the villain, The Mandarin.
So… what the hell is Ben Kingsley doing playing The Mandarin?
In the comics, The Mandarin is an evil genius supervillain born to Chinese and English parents. He wears 10 rings, each with a different magical power.
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Ben Kinglsey is not Chinese. He’s not half Chinese. He’s half Indian, but that’s not quite the same thing.
All along, the people behind Iron Man 3 have been saying that Kingsley’s Mandarin is a new take on the character. His past is shrouded in mystery. He has incorporated many elements of Chinese culture and history into his persona — including an obsession with the writings of philosopher Sun Tzu — but his racial background is intentionally ambiguous.
“We’re not saying he’s Chinese, we’re saying he, in fact, draws a cloak around him of Chinese symbols and dragons because it represents his obsessions with Sun Tzu in various ancient arts of warfare that he studied,” director Shane Black told Yahoo! Movies.
So why does Kingsley look like a racist Chinese caricature? He has the hair, the tattoos, the robe and, perhaps most offensively, the accent. How did he think using that accent was a good idea? He’s walking a very fine line here — one that Jar Jar Binks learned (the hard way) should not be crossed.
A few fans have taken to Twitter to express their disgust at the racist overtones of the character, but it sounds like most people are okay with Kingsley’s portrayal — perhaps because The Mandarin is a character unfamiliar to all but the most serious comic book fans. Most of those who do know the character and are looking for a source for outrage have zeroed in on the fact that The Mandarin’s rings won’t have any magical powers in Iron Man 3 — they’ll be purely for decoration.
What do you think? Are you bothered by the possible racism here? Or are you just pumped for a new Iron Man movie?