The Last Airbender is The Last Straw

I am never surprised when Hollywood takes a story with Asian characters and casts white people instead of Asians. This is so typical and happens with such frequency! I always thought that in order to make our presence known in entertainment, we should be writing, bringing our dreams and realities to the cinema, but now even telling our own stories isn’t even enough.

Why is it better to have white actors play the roles of Asians? I don’t understand. Because it sells more tickets? I am not white and I have had no trouble selling tickets. Maybe the powers that be should ask me what to do.  I would tell them. “The Last Airbender” is the last straw to a lot of people:

—— Forwarded Message
From: Boone Adkins
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 13:51:36 -0400
To: margaretcho
Subject: Racism Against Asians in the casting of The Last Airbender: Would you help us?

Dear Margaret,

I love your standup! Your comedy is as deep as it is hilarious, and touches on a lot of issues I feel strongly about. I’m a college student who is Asian American (I’m half-Thai) and who is involved with the LGBT community as an ally, so I feel I can relate to you from two angles. I’m emailing you to inform you of a controversy that you may not be aware of, and to get your support.

It boils down to this: The hugely popular Asian-themed (as opposed to European-themed) fantasy Avatar: the Last Airbender is being adapted from animated TV to a live action movie by Paramount Pictures. The fantasy world of the original series is very well researched and very ASIAN – kung fu throws fireballs, people wear kimonos and hanboks, the art style is influenced by traditional Chinese painting and anime, and everybody eats with chopsticks and writes in Chinese. There is also a heavy Inuit influence in the design and culture of the Water Tribe.

And yet the producers of this movie thought it would be best to forgo talented Asian kids and cast three WHITE actors in the leading roles! Even with Asian actors in supporting roles and as extras, it sends the message that ‘Only white people can be heroes. Asian people can’t save themselves – they need white heroes to save them.’ There are stories about Asian kids who auditioned who now think their race isn’t okay, that they have to be white to get a role. Possibly to try to soothe angry fans, Paramount recast the main villain with an Indian actor and several supporting villains with other dark-skinned actors. So the message is still that ‘Only white people can be heroes,’ but it adds another message that ‘The evil Fire Nation are dark skinned, so dark skinned people are obviously evil.’ It’s offensive to Asian Americans like myself, damaging to our children, and hurtful to fans of the original series.

I beg you to lend a hand. There’s a small grassroots movement protesting Paramount’s casting decisions. Just a few words would do so much! But don’t take my word for it – more information can be found at www.racebending.com (especially http://racebending.com/youcanhelp.php) and http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/.

Sincerely,
Boone Jaisard Adkins

———————————————
From: Crystal Knoll
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2009 02:02:20 -0700
To: margaretcho
Subject: the last airbender

Hi Margaret!

I’m a big admirer of yours and a longtime fan.

I was wondering if you had heard about the new M Night Shyamalan film, The Last Airbender. It’s based on a recent Nickelodeon children’s cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was an amazing series set in a feudal fantasy world of magic – but unlike most fantasies that are based on European legends and culture, it was based on a variety of Asian cultures and ideas. All the characters in the series were Asian or Northwestern Aboriginal/Inuit inspired, as well as all the architecture, clothing, a lot of the plot structure, etc.

The movie adaptation has started filming, and originally cast all four lead characters (three heroes and one villain) with white actors. The white actor playing the villain (Jesse McCartney!) dropped out and was replaced by Dev Patel, so now we have three white heroes and one brown villain. Did I mention the villain came from a nation of genocidal tyrants? Yeah.

Anyways, you blogged once about 21, and how that was white-washed. Maybe that was worse because it was based on real events, but since this movie is aimed at kids there’s a lot of us that think this is pretty egregious too.

If you want to know more there is a great website set up at http://www.racebending.com/

http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com also has great posts about it,
and is the home of a letter-writing campaign. I understand you’re on tour just now and probably very busy, but we’d love to hear what you have to say about it!

Lots of love,

-Tally Knoll

———————————————

From: Min Yang
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2009 23:10:43 -0800
To: margaretcho
Subject: We Need Your Help! The Last Airbender Racist Casting

Hi Margaret, First of all I would like to say I am a big fan of you. I think you are a great role model for Asian-Americans and I am so impressed by what you have accomplished. I am not sure if you have heard about this controversy over the casting of the Avatar: Last Airbender movie.

I am not sure if you have ever seen this Nickelodean cartoon, but it is mega popular cartoon that features a world that is heavenly inspired by Asian cultures. The main characters practice martial arts that give them the ability to control four different elements: air, water, fire and earth.

M Night Shyamalan is directing the live action movie and they recently cast the four main characters of the show. In the cartoon, the four main character are clearly Asian and Intuit/Native American, but for the movie… they cast 3 White actors to play the parts.

http://www.slashfilm.com/2008/12/10/first-look-the-cast-of-the-last-airbender/

I am part of a large and dedicated group of fans who are trying to raise awareness for this clear case of discrimination. We are wondering if there is anyway you can mention this issue in your next video and please help us spread the word on this injustice!

You can read about all the issues and the letter writing campaign and demonstrations at the following sites:

1) Letter Writing Campaign
http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/

2) Blog by award winning Asian-American graphic novelist who is rallying industry professionals and other blogs
http://derekkirkkim.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-day-in-politics-same-old-racist.html
http://glockgal.livejournal.com/375625.html
http://ciderpress.livejournal.com/209919.html

3) San Francisco Chronicle Column on the subject
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/01/28/apop012809.DTL

4) Heated debates on the IMDB.com column… the amount of ignorant and racist comments you see here are shocking
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0938283/board/threads/

5) Facebook group
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54866461619&ref=mf

I appreciate anything you can do!
Thank you so much,
Min

68 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. Margaret,
    I loved that show, I’m a grown man and not afraid to admit it. However, I will not see the movie/TV movie whatever if they’re going to be casting all white actors. I’m white, and it even offends me. The characters are DEEPLY Asian, down to their everyday mannerisms in the cartoon. They even hold festivals with paper lanterns, have warriors with white-painted faces, and the belief that the four elements will bring peace to the world when they are in harmony. I don’t see how anyone who isn’t Asian or even biracial with Asian in there somewhere would accept these roles. Shameful to Hollywood. Very shameful indeed.

  2. I have been very strongly opposed to the casting of the Avatar movie for quite some time. It infuriates me that in times like this, where we’re supposed to be coming together in more unified ways, people can still have such horribly racist ideas about movies. And to think, M. Night Shyamalan didn’t have ANYTHING to say about it!? I was already disgusted when I heard he was directing the movie, but then this sealed the deal for me NOT to see it (except maybe if I decide to illegally download it just so I can write a bitchy review :P).

    The thing that made the cartoon so wonderful was that, even though it was an American show, it could have very easily been an anime all the same because of how deeply researched the Asian themes were. (Hell, it made it even better than the vast majority of anime because I pretty much despise dubs and I’m far too ADD to read subtitles.)

    A white boy cannot properly play a Shaolin monk-inspired character, in my opinion. It wouldn’t look right. And I’m sorry but Jasper from Twilight could never make a decent Inuit. =/

    Thank you so much for helping bring awareness to this, Margaret. You’re amazing, and I admire you that much more (which surprises me because I already think you’re a queen)!

    <3
    ~Willikins

  3. After some time to think about how I felt of this situation, all I can say is, I can’t agree more.
    Though the original animation DID Show Racial diversity, I cannot accept the blatant racism being reflected in the cast.
    America, even the film industry, has a long way to go.
    Asian roles should never have to be justified!
    Thank you for notifying us of this travesty. I have taken as many measures as I could to inform my friends, my family, and anyone around who should care about this.

    Your Fan, your ally in defeating bad casting,
    Tin Hicks.

  4. “Shocking.” “Unheard of.” “Unbelievable.” I wish.

    The reality is more like, “Typical.” “Predictable.” “Uninspiring and uninspired.”

    The Last Airbender is one of my all-time favorite shows, with its well developed characters and epic themes of redemption, reconciliation, and triumph. To cast all white actors in the leads doesn’t diminish the story, but it certainly speaks very poorly of this country…

  5. My kids are devoted Avatar fans, but were really disappointed in the casting for the movie. They didn’t get why white people were going to be playing Asian characters. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have with them, but we had a good discussion about racism.

    It’s ridiculous that they would cast an obviously Asian show with non-Asian actors. I can see why it might feel like a slap in the face to the Asian community.

  6. I can’t agree more with this whole thing! I love avatar and think asian actors should be cast. Dev Patel’s casting gives me great hope, but it is quite a mischaracterization to say his character is simply a villain, perhaps in the first movie, but hopefully they will the finish the plot arc.

  7. Margaret, as a long time fan I am so glad that you are bringing more attention to this issue. Avatar is an amazing series and the way it presents such vital themes needs to be preserved. Thank you

  8. Thanks for bringing some attention to this.

    In honor of the Avatar casting controversy, Hyphen has published a little collection of other such moments in Hollywood: “And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Whitewash”

    http://tinyurl.com/chetdw

  9. As one of the admins of racebending.com working tirelessly on this issue, I just want to thank you for bringing this to the attention of your fans.

    We need more people who work within Hollywood to speak out about these kinds of unethical and unfair casting practices. While it is easy for consumers to criticize and gripe, it is much harder for someone who works in the industry to risk her neck by speaking out.

    Thank you so much for supporting us and keep on kicking ass!

  10. Margaret,

    I refer to your post on the minstrel show that was the Harajuku Girls roughly three thousand times a month because it is THAT AWESOME, so I am overjoyed to find you also ringing in on the racist, awful whitewashing of the Avatar movie. You are a strong and smart voice when it comes to shit we need to be aware of, and your support is much appreciated!

  11. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH! Although I am not Asian (am Puerto Rican) I am also deeply offended by the White Washing of both the Asian and Brown people in the Avatar. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.

  12. This reminds me of Hollywood remaking Japanese horror films (more commonly known as J-horror films). One of the masters of the J-horror genre, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira Kurosawa) has made some brilliant masterpieces, most notably Cure and Pulse. Pulse was remade as a really bad, loud, obnoxious film by the hacks in Hollywood a few years back, and it’s awful.

    Kurosawa’s style is slow, meditative, bleak, and brilliant, which Hollywood assumes (incorrectly) that American audiences can’t handle it. Nowadays it’s easy for people to find the original films, as they are much more widely available. Hollywood treats people like children.

    I think the casting of white actors may have more to do with Hollywood’s attempt to make everything boring, bland, predictable, and crappy. Hollywood wants to suck the originality out of the original series. They’re good at that.

    There are plenty of good Asian actors/actresses out there, anyway. They could have cast them easily.

    If I read it right, M. Night Shalyman is directing. That’s not a good sign, regardless of the cast.

  13. As a young Asian American girl who dabbles in the performing arts, the Avatar casting hit me really hard. Even though I didn’t audition personally I can honestly relate to the feeling of not getting a role solely because of race. It’s ridiculous and I am SO happy that you’re behind this issue! I couldn’t thank you more Margaret! You are one kick ass lady. :)

  14. i saw the commercial for this movie and the first thing i said was
    “THEYRE MAKING THIS INTO A MOVIE?!?”
    the second thing i said is
    “THEYRE PROLLY GONNA BE ALL WHITE..”

    and i was right.

    i do understand that this is offensive but wat i dont understand is why everyone is so shocked by it.. this is typical.. i really wish theyd stop doin this dammit.

  15. Thank you so much for speaking up about this! Aang is a great Asian hero and it’s so sad to see how Paramount has completely disregarded the original creation to cater to the stereotypes of Hollywood. They really had the chance to do something great and blew it. I still love the TV show, though.

  16. I’m so happy that you’ve talked about this. I’m a PoC who’s looking to write stories with PoCs in the lead and stuff like this just reminds me how dangerous it is to ever allow Hollywood to get their racist hands on it, because the first thing they’ll do is make ALL THE MAIN CHARACTERS WHITE save one inconsequential token. I mean, did you see what they did to Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea?

    The funny thing is, when a lot of people think about racism, they think about really overt stuff: KKK, Neo Nazis, violent hate crimes, internment camps etc. That’s why many are incapable of spotting racism in its more subtle forms, despite the fact that it’s exactly this kind of subtle stuff that is the most prevalent and the most dangerous, precisely because it’s subtle. It’s *institutionalized* racism, the kind of racism that works because it’s widely accepted within many institutions as normal practices.

    For example, a movie made of all white main characters is meant to appeal to everyone. But a movie with more than three black people as main characters is automatically supposed to appeal to a ‘niche market’, probably black people or people entertained by what they think is ‘black culture’. But oh no, this isn’t racism! It’s not like anyone’s being called the ‘n’ word or being hanged in trees, so it’s not racism! It’s just normal that a movie with all white main characters would appeal to everyone, right? Right?

    But the underlying assumption here is that it’s normal because white is default. White is normal. White is superior. So white should appeal to everyone. Anything else is a deviation from normal so can’t be expected to sell as many tickets. The assumption that casting Asians in movies wouldn’t sell as many tickets ALSO assumes that a) white people are the only audience members that matter and b) white people just can’t be expected to enjoy watching people on screen that don’t *look* like them.

    Practices like these are much more dangerous than people realize because it goes by unnoticed by most, it’s accepted by most, it’s deemed natural by most and this only perpetuates the kind of racist ideas (white = superior, everything else = inferior) that leads to the more hateful, bloody and violent forms of racism we more easily recognized (again KKK type of stuff).

    In order to get rid of the overt, we have to get rid of the subtle. We have to destroy any and all practices, institutionalized especially, that supports the idea that WHITE IS DEFAULT AND SUPERIOR. Otherwise we’ll never have true equality in this world.

    Somebody tell that to Frank Marshall aka Le Doctor Asshat please.

  17. Oops correction to the last post

    *That’s why many AREN’T incapable of spotting racism in its more subtle forms, despite the fact that it’s exactly this kind of subtle stuff that is the most prevalent and the most dangerous, precisely because it’s subtle.

    sorry for spamming :)

  18. Margaret, help!

    I am quarreling with an L.A. standup comic named Dan Bialek who is exploiting a gay homeless man as part of publicity gimmick. He has dubbed the man a “gay transvestite hobo” and is posting video of him on YouTube.

    The guy admits to throwing a chair at this man and I am afraid that he will do other acts of violence against him.

    You can check out the details here. I’ve written about this at Pam’s House Blend. I know you’ve met Pam and she is an old friend of mine.

    http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/10448/is-the-exploitation-of-a-gay-homeless-man-funny

  19. Thanks so much for speaking about this. I’ve seen how seeing hero’s getting taken away from kids hurts and knowing that there are people in show biz who feel strongly is always great to see.

    We’re still trying to contact everyone we think might listen and spread the word, not only about ‘The Last Airbender’, but this white washing as an industry wide issue.

  20. Also, see the new Dragonball Z movie–it also features mostly white actors, even the main character, Goku!

  21. From the Racebending LJ:

    “MANAA Meeting This Thursday Night!
    There’s a Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) meeting tomorrow, April 16th in Chinatown, Los Angeles– where they will be discussing next steps to take for THE LAST AIRBENDER.

    When: April 16, 2009 at 7:30PM
    Where: Chinatown Public Safety Association, 823 N. Hill Street (between Alpine and College Streets) Los Angeles, CA”

  22. Fact is, Asians are one of the most underrepresented groups in the media in the US. I am nonetheless infuriated by this, but something tells me it’s gonna be a long time before America’s white kids get over themselves.

  23. So let me get this straight ,it’s okay for most of the main characters to voiced by white people but white actors can’t play the roles in the live action version,even if they’re better suited to the part over an asian actor? to my Asian ass that sounds hypocritical and just as racist and as far as I’m concerned the only casting screwup was with Zuko, Dante Brasco would have made a much better choice and he probably knows the character best

  24. @ Edward DeGuzman

    I work in the voice acting business and let me make this clear:

    Voice Actors =! Stage/TV Actors

    Completely different qualifications, standards, ect.

    One of the main reasons for this is that as long as you speak the language you can voice anyone. That is because (unless you steryotype it) there is nothing in a voice that tells you what race you are. For instance, there is no “black voice”. You can be black and speak in an American Accent, you can be black and speak in a full on British Accent or you can be black and speak pure German. There is nothing in any of the three languages that makes you “sound black”, just like there is nothing in anyone’s voice that makes them sound “asian”, or sound “white”, or sound “Hispanic”, ect.

    Accents basically come from region, not by race. Hence the different standards. That is why the voice acting community is so diverse and one of those reasons is that nobody judges you by your face because it’s only your voice.

    That and well, you can do your work in your bath robe while playing video games, but that is a whole other thing all together.

  25. I apologise but I have to weigh into this and remind you all of something important.

    There is ONLY one race on the planet Earth.

    Human.

    We have to start to divorce ourselves from this silly 20th century and older misinformation of somehow pigmentation and geographical location denotes a race.

    We are all homo sapiens. Every last one of us are the same.

    So the people picked to do this film are homo sapiens. And the people upset by the casting are homo sapiens.

    I will agree to would have been nicer see Asians with greater representation, but this is due to the fact that most in Hollywood are part of the old “racist” bullshit misinformation of the past century.

    They have not figured it out yet either.

    Please let us take it to heart and teach them and future generations that in the early part of the 21st century society started to move to be counted as a single race.

    Perhaps by the end of this century it will come to pass that history books will show this as a fundamental shift in understanding.

  26. @Jordan White

    Thanks so much for explaining that. It’s really amazing how people don’t get it.

    The argument that the main voice cast for the show was mostly white is completely irrelevant. The funniest part was when people brought up that everyone on the show “sounded” white, despite all the Asian-American voice actors on the show – somebody said Suki had to be white because she sounded white… when Suki is voiced by a Filipino-American woman!

    Thanks so much for talking about this Margaret!

  27. I am so glad you are supporting this! I have been a long time fan of yours, but omgosh I am white. I write stories, comics, and am working my way into being in film and this kind of thing bothers me to positively no end. I live near Philadelphia, and while I could not attend the extras castings, a friend of mine did. He informed me that the line was long, and almost entirely white kids. That makes so much sense! ¬_¬

    What is the point of even trying to do this kind of thing if you strip away everything that gave it flavor? I want to feel immersed in the story when I go to the movies, not feel like we’ve reverted back to 1950′s Hollywood where Egyptians are played by white people with super pale skin. Don’t Hollywood executives realize that a quality product will put more money in their pockets? :|

  28. Ugh..that is soooo annoying…how could they cast white kids for the part of the main characters in the last avatar…they totally wouldn’t even fit with the storyline since the whole story is based around asian cultures and themes…this movie is probably going to be horrible…I looked at who they cast..and the two white kids are way too pale to play the main characters anyways…this is The Last Avatar…not Twilight…this is such an insult to asians and asian-americans…it’s totally not true that asians can’t play main characters in a movie and still be a hit in america..it’s just that hollywood won’t give them a chance…now I see that the only reason why asians are never cast in major movies is because America is just down right racist. I’m going to boycott this movie..and I hope everyone else does too. Hmph.

  29. Thank you so much for bringing more awareness to this issue, Margaret. =) I say we have a massive boycott, yes?

  30. How can this happen? I loved The Last Airbender series. Casting white people instead of asians is like casting a black man to play the lead role in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. I can see why people are outraged as The Last Airbender has very deep asian roots and a very big asian culture. I will probably go to see it, however, they still won’t ‘get it’.

    Damian

    gaytraveller.com.au

  31. When i heard about the avatar casting i was just as bummed out as many others here, it seems so stupid and needless.
    However i think there’s a little bit of white bashing going on. I don’t think the problem is so much white people but Americans. I live in New Zealand and American films often also change white characters from others countries into Americans in a weird attempt to appease american viewers because hollywood thinks they can not handle an accent that isn’t American.

  32. There is certainly a white default that’s mainly marketing-driven. In terms of ticket and merchandise sales within the US, it’s about demographics perceived to have more spending power. Overseas, which is increasingly more important, there was once a real concern a film with an African-American lead would be a hard sell in some international markets. I think all these things are on their way out, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I just think to sitting in an art theatre about a year back, watching Jackie Chan and Jet Li training some white kid chosen one who looks like he’s playing dress-up. I’m not opposed to the idea of the lead being American but geez, the movie’s not even a huge release so why not have the lead be a girl or black or something other than another white boy.

    Now, I’ve heard people argue “Oh, Avatar is fantasy- no one’s really Asian- so what’s it matter?” I would say the predominance of white characters in fantasy is one- it’s getting old. But also, the cultural roots are an issue as well. I’m used to seeing people cosplay characters of other races and genders and species at conventions but it’s a whole other thing in an actual film- especially when it’s a whitewash. A black He-Man might look a bit off in the barbarian style of dress but it beats Tarzan- cultural majority playing dress-up.

  33. I’m sorry, but I think this whole thing is ridiculous. I’m sorry, but Aang is such a white kid, and Katara and Soka are far more Inuit, Eskimo than straight up Asian.

    Besides Dev Patel, of Indian decent, is cast as Zuko. Of all the main characters I feel Zuko stands out as the most “asian” and Dev Patel is clearly not. The cast him because of his great acting skills and tae kwon do experience.

    People are bitching that the casting is racist, when in reality it just isn’t “asian” enough for them. Why don’t we all wait and see how the film turns ot before grabbing our flaming torches. Your entitled to your opinion’s, but I feel there are greater social injustices being committed than the casting of a movie.

    I’m sure I’ll get flamed because I disagree with the majority of these posts and couldn’t disagree with most of you more. Let the Agni Kai commence!

  34. Hi: I recently did a scifi convention panel on Evangelion, which is also trying to get a live-action adaptation and the question of “what ethnicity will the cast be” faces us as well.

    So I devoted some time to talking about Avatar’s casting controversy:

    I made of video of my panel and put it on YouTube, here’s the Last Airbender part: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAhRAXUdXNs&feature=channel_page (the Avatar stuff starts about 4 minutes into the clip)

    Check out the reaction from my audience: “This is the Katara your children will grow up watching!” resulted in a chorus of boos.

    The funny thing is….they reacted, most of them, like they didn’t even know a live-action movie was being made, and those that did seemed to have only been vaguely aware of it.

    ***most people don’t even know there’s a casting controversy, don’t know who they’ve cast. THANK YOU for helping to spread the word ms Cho.

    seriously; I mean girls in the audience who are white were just shouting in disbelief “but Zuko is supposed to be Asian!” etc.

    I myself am not a raving fangirl but a PhD student in medieval Europe studies….and even *I* am thoroughly disgusted by this. This is like when Mickey Rooney played an “Asian” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; I thought we’d moved beyond this.

    It utterly lacks respect for the source material: I mean, Lord of the Rings was *set* in a pseudo-Europe, so all the actors were white, but that’s like…a King Arthur movie would logically not include Asian people. But would you make like, “Journey to the West: the movie” and cast only white people?

    The problem we’re afraid of is that if Avatar doesn’t get Asian actors, Evangelion won’t either (and the funny thing is, of the three Evangelion main characters, one of them is a German transfer student, so one of them is ALREADY not asian…isn’t that “enough?”)

    But this is just crazy. Aang Ain’t White. And judging from my audience’s unanimious hissing and boos, and overall reaction of actually “shock”, I think a lot of people dont’ even know they didn’t cast Asians.

    There’s a livejournal group and stuff for this as well, “anti-racebending” and “Aang Ain’t White” and stuff; they have meetings with the Asian Media Watchgroup in San Fransisco I think; going would help promote the cause.

  35. Margaret, while I can understand you’re angry, why deal with movie casting when there’s much greater racism being promoted? You did see Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Durban conference, right?

  36. @Soapfish

    Here’s a snippet of what you said:

    “…People are bitching that the casting is racist, when in reality it just isn’t “asian” enough for them…”

    I find that image reversal helps many with empathy-meter when it come to race matters so, here you go:

    How about we recast King Arthur as Chow Yun Fat, Gwenivere as Lucy Lui and let’s leave Morgan Le Fay white….

    Is this movie white enough?

  37. Thank you very much for blogging about this and sharing the information about the Last Airbender casting debacle with your fans.

    One of the things I love the most about Avatar is how they handle the Asian and Inuit cultures their fantasy nations are based on. It’s a show which is refreshingly free of the “good” old stereotypes we all know and really, I just love it that it’s a fantasy tale which looks elsewhere for inspiration than the staple European Middle Ages (not that I don’t love such fantasy, but a change is refreshing.) I like Avatar BECAUSE it’s different, BECAUSE it doesn’t bend to the default of what filmmakers believe earns the most money.

    Thus I was very disappointed when I learned of the casting and as I thought more about the decisions and the way of thinking behind these casting decisions, it also made me angry. I’d have been alright with a mostly white cast if that’d just been how a color-blind casting turned out, but that they specifically only wanted white leads made me mad as it’s very disrespectful. Making the bad guys asian doesn’t help much, either. Yeah, so Zuko isn’t a villain all the way, but that just makes it worse seen in this light. Zuko will “see the light” when he realises that it’s his destiny to help Aang.

    So in movie 3, we’ll see the Asian villain realising that he’s meant to be the white hero’s loyal sidekick. And that’s supposed to make us feel better about the casting?

  38. Margaret is a rock star for writing about the whitewashing of films and the objectification of Asians, but I especially appreciate the support for fans that are sick of being invisible. It’s sad to see comments suggesting that the only real racists are people that notice racism. Saying that diversity doesn’t exist is simply another way to marginalize underrepresented people. If you hear racist epithets or you aren’t hired because of your race or you can’t practice your beliefs, telling yourself that race doesn’t exist is foolish. Angelina Jolie is human, but that doesn’t mean she should star in the Joy Luck Club 2 or the Color Purple.

Leave a Reply