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Published on October 28th, 2014 | by gareth

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Is Doctor Strange A Potential Pandora’s Box Of Controversy For Disney/Marvel

While it is yet to be confirmed, rumors abound that Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast to play Doctor Strange in a series of films in the Marvel universe. Now rather than debate the pros and cons of this casting or any of the rumors I want to look at the character himself as well as the potential controversy that may follow this particular character.  Disney is well-regarded as being at the forefront of family entertainment and while they have expanded to include films with more adult themes through their various divisions over the years, there is no escaping what their core audience is.

Naturally they have evolved as any studio does over time and we have seen films with monsters, deadly and dangerous creatures, adult subject matter’s and content and darker story tones. While it’s too early to say what direction the new Star Wars films will take, I think it’s a safe bet to say that the previous films are a good basis for what tone might be followed.  “The Avengers” and the subsequent films that have followed it also had darker tones, death, and destruction as part of their core content.  Naturally PG-13 rated films are quite a bit different from G rated animated films and PG rated films aimed at the family audience.

That being said Disney has always been a company that has to be extra sensitive to potential controversies. Case in point, the Pirates the Caribbean attraction was closed for a while and remodeled when a feminist group did not like the image of pirates chasing women and the message that it sent.  The compromise became that the female characters in the attraction would be carrying plates of food and drink so that the argument could be made that the Pirates were chasing the women to get at what was being carried.

It is also known that one of the most common questions asked is when “Song of the South”, will be released on DVD, streaming, or any format again. The company has repeatedly said they have no plans to do so now or in the foreseeable future even though it is been acknowledged that this is far and away one of their most requested and discuss titles from their past catalog.  The film not only earned an Academy award for its theme song but became the basis for the popular Splash Mountain attraction.  That being said, the content of the film involves subject matter that could be seen as racially insensitive to some and therefore is not being released to avoid the firestorm of negative publicity and controversy that may come with it.

This brings me back to the Doctor. As any fan of the series will tell you the good doctor uses arcane magic for good as he battles all manner of enemies both real and supernatural. Few Disney fans ever forget Mickey’s classic portrayal as the wizards apprentice and as anyone it is been to any of the parts can tell you, Wizard Mickey hats can be found in the gift shops as well as landmarks at Anaheim and Orlando.

My big concern is that some people or groups will use this film as an excuse to gain a platform in the media to attack the film. Let’s not forget that Harry Potter had to endure charges of promoting witchcraft, sorcery, and unchristian values amongst its readers and viewers.  Too many who have read the books or seen the movies this would be seen as a dramatic reach at best.  However in the case of Doctor Strange it is clear that he is calling upon supernatural powers and elements to do his bidding.  Regardless of the fact that this is being done for good and to protect people, there are those that may take this fact and run with it.  Let’s look at the fact that reportedly the rights to Ghost Rider have returned to Marvel and you have a potential Pandora’s Box for some outspoken individuals to accuse the family-friendly company of promoting witchcraft, occult, and other non-family-friendly topics.

Now I admit this sounds ridiculous and like people would be grasping at straws but as we all know in this day and age of social media and sound bites, this could be a tailor-made controversy waiting to happen.

Marvel characters deal with all sorts of supernatural elements and powers and have so far remained fairly unscathed from the wrath of groups with an agenda. That being said, as Disney/Marvel delve deeper into their back catalog of characters it is entirely possible that their newest offerings may not have the initial smooth sailing of the previous film launches as they may be setting themselves up for controversy before they’re even released.


About the Author

Syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site and publication “Skewed and Reviewed”.He has three books of film, game reviews and interviews published and is a well-received and in demand speaker on the convention circuit. Gareth has appeared in movies and is a regular guest on a top-rated Seattle morning show.He has also appeared briefly in films such as “Prefountaine”, “Postal”. “Far Cry”. and others. Gareth is also an in-demand speaker at several conventions and has conducted popular panels for over two decades.



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