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January 22, 2009

Last Airbender movie with a cast of white actors?

Derek Kirk Kim posts about this on his blog, beginning thus: 

"This past Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, I discovered that the casting of the four leading characters for the upcoming live-action movie, "The Last Airbender" (based on the TV show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) had gone entirely to white actors. I want—no, need—to say something about this."Aang


*sigh* M.Night Shamalan doesn't -love- the series! He's just making the movie because he wants a "Daddy of the Year" award for his brood, and so he can vainly attempt making a movie people will actually watch and enjoy. You can't tell me that a man who just randomly sat down with his kids during TV time suddenly loves the show! He's trying too hard, and he's pretty in love with the idea of being white. I think he has a deep-seated wish to be caucasian. NONE of his other movies have ever had prominent POC roles, and being a POC, of all people, he should know better! He's ashamed of who he is! He's drained the love, life, and definitely, the color out of this movie with his white-washed casting. Sokka looks downright lifeless! Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes colorblind casting is great, but it went completely against the artists' visions of them as POC, and for another thing, the culture IS ALL WRONG. Clearly they are meant to be Asian. You don't stick a white man in a cheongsam and expect him to become Jet Li. Not to mention the water tribe! Anthropologically, it's just improbable for them to be white! Inuits have tanned brown skin for a reason--too SURVIVE. It draws heat and keeps them warm, and protects their skin from snowburn! These pasty faced brats they've cast in the movie wouldn't last a day! This, from the mouth of a caucasian...I hate white-washing. It's disrespectful to culture, vision, ethics, and biology.

Avatar isn't all-Asian all the time. I'm not talking about the supposed Inuit influences but the Sun Warriors are reportedly based of Meso-American (read: American Indian) cultures, specifically Mayan. So Asian cultures aren't the only ones being represented in the series.

I do not know what M. Night is thinking with that cast. He is insulting all the Asians this show was set as a tribute to.

Just cause it is anime-esque doesn't mean that everyone in the show is Asian. Is everyone saying that everyone on the planet earth in avatar universe is Asian? That really seems ethnocentric. The show has strong Asian influence, but also many other influences like Inuites, Mayan (the Sun Warriors), hell the eastern water tribe is a bunch of back wood bumpkins. Should they be played by Asian people?

The nations are divided by not only cultures but by geography. Just like planet earth people in different places look different and you have to take into account the cultures of each nation. Like the air nomads are peaceful, they would probably be very accepting of different people joining, where as the fire nation would be exclusive and probably have caste system based on ethnic. That is why team Aang always said they were from the fire nation colonies.

Remember this is still a kids cartoon that was meant to entertain and that it isn't going to get into the nitty gritty cultural issues. I mean the Fire Nation committed genocide against the Air Nomads, that's some pretty heavy stuff. Yes, it is might seem a little offensive that Aang might not be asian, and yes Sokka and Kattara are played by white people, but they have darker complexions and may be trying to pass as Inuites, but Dev Patel is playing Zuko and he is Indian. Hey M. Night is Indian too! So why don't we see what he has planned out. Now if they cast Ed Asner as Iroh, then I'd be pissed.

This is going to get really ugly. I have seen some of the comment posted in


Producers, Directors, Cast and Crews. I know this may not seem big to you. There are fans that are not HAPPY! And are not willing to watch this movie ones it comes out because of how you guys cast people for this movie. If you loose 30 viewers technically you will be loosing 300,000 viewers and that is in US DOLLARS. Imagine having that multiply even more because of how you picked the people for the role. Look at Harry Potter for example and why the gross was successful.


The last post about the voices being white actors is an interesting one. What exactly do people expect Asian people to sound like? Apparently on TV, even Asian Americans that speak perfect English have to play Asians with accents and broken English (Lost, Heroes). I guess that's what is expected. I'm Chinese, so I guess I should speak with a broken Chinese accent so people don't get me confused with "real Americans."

When you translate something into the visual realm, why did the creators choose something with an Asian theme? The creators reported saying they really wanted to honor the Asian cultures that the show is based on to show the philosophy and beauty of the culture. If they put so much effort into trying to bring across this culture, and the live movie has these white kids talking about their "Asian heritage and culture" wearing Asian outfits, living in areas with Asian architecture, and practicing Asian martial arts, basically they're telling us how much they love the Asian culture, but they don't love Asian people. This is a slap in the face to the Asian American community, and I for one can't believe this "yellow face" racism still exists.

People laugh now when they think of how David Carradine played his role in Kung Fu, stealing a role made for Bruce Lee 30-40 years ago, but we're still dealing with this racism today.

Certainly, it's a terrible thing when white actors play Asian characters. After all, the entire voice cast of the Avatar animated series was Asian—oh, wait, no they weren't, were they? A few of them were, but the majority of them weren't. Yet I don't seem to recall very many people complaining about them!

Seems to me if you're going to get upset about non-Asian actors playing Asian characters in Avatar, you're starting a little bit late. Why should it be different if we don't see their real faces?

I am disappointed. My love of the show will not save me from going to see it. And I don't believe if it is terrible it will affect my love of the show. I have all three seasons on DVD and it will always hold a very special place in my heart. I want to hold judgement until I see the project because I do (mostly) trust M. Knight's judgment and hias and his kids love for the series. Why would he just mess it up?

This cast is a joke. I don't see how you can like this cast and call yourself a fan. It is a slap in the face of the Asian culture to which it is based. If you don't care then you must be young. If you're young and Asian and like this casting then you don't know what your parents' generation had to go through and the crap they had to take. This casting just further impedes our progress for equality.

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