Is Ben Kingsley’s Portrayal of The Mandarin in ‘Iron Man 3’ Racist? (VIDEO)

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.

Photo via

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.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

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.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

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.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

What do you think? Are you bothered by the possible racism here? Or are you just pumped for a new Iron Man movie?

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9 Responses to Is Ben Kingsley’s Portrayal of The Mandarin in ‘Iron Man 3’ Racist? (VIDEO)

  1. James Sheldon
    James Sheldon says:

    Me walking up to a counter and ordering an Asian Wonton Salad with a terrible, stereotypical Chinese, broken-English accent would be racist and derogatory. Ben Kingsley playing a make believe imagining of a character history that was developed through a creative process doesn’t really strike me as racism worthy of discussion.

    Could they have gotten Chow Yun Fat… sure… is he as dynamic as Ben Kingsley…? Probably not.

    Ken Wantanabe? He’s Japanese…everyone would have cried foul…

    No issues here. Play on Sir Kingsley.

  2. it’s only racist if an minority takes a white guy’s part. now THAT’S racist…

  3. No one said anything about racism when Mickey Rourke played a Russian villain in Iron Man 2. >.< This article is horse shit along with anyone who thinks Ben Kingsley playing a make believe character racist.

  4. He looks like a racist Chinese caricature cause the Mandarin IS a racist Chinese caricature. He’s a rip off of Fu Manchu,

    • Nope, he´s not. His earlier appearences had not much in common with Fu Manchu. Or is it already racist to have an Asian villain? -.-

  5. David Craig says:

    Interesting comment – “it’s only racist if an minority takes a white guy’s part. now THAT’S racist…” Especially if you consider Samuel Jackson playing Nick Fury. The Mandarin was specifically designed to be a mix to avoid the racism moniker only to be slapped with it regardless of all efforts to avoid the label. Since when did “Fu Manchu” sport a beard that would make Fidel Castro envious? There is enough real occurrences of racial inequality in the world as it is without drudging up this nonsense.

    • Well, there was no need to make Nick Fury Black. At first there are black heroes as well and second they could easily introduce a new hero, who is black.

  6. Lollerskates says:

    So this article looks pretty silly now that people have seen the film. A good lesson in looking before you leap I think.

  7. atoznotnow says:

    To ask was it racist is silly. Try that with a black and see what happen.