Thursday, July 01, 2010

Is The Last Airbender Racist

"Some viewers heads are spinning over the look of 'The Last Airbender,' which opens July 1. Not over the fantasy-action 3-D special effects, but over the faces of the main characters, which are largely white in the movie but Asian and Inuit in the popular Nickelodeon cartoon that inspired the film.

Complicating the accusations of racial insensitivity over the casting is the fact that those casting decisions were made by director M. Night Shyamalan, who is of Asian descent himself. In fact, Shyamalan bristles at the accusations and insists that, not only is his cast as multicultural as possible, but also that it's his critics who are the real racists.

The characters in the TV series 'Avatar: The Last Airbender,' created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, are clearly drawn from Asian and Inuit cultures, from their names to their costumes to their martial arts styles. The hero, Aang, is inspired by Tibetan Buddhist monks. His friends, Katara and Sokka, live in a realm of anoraks and igloos. Antagonist Zuko and his tribe appear as classical Chinese warriors.

In the movie, all four characters were initially cast as Caucasian actors: Noah Ringer (Aang), Nicola Peltz (Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), and Jesse McCartney (Zuko). Before shooting began, however, McCartney was replaced by Dev Patel, of 'Slumdog Millionaire' fame. That change did not appease the project's critics, who noted that the heroes were still all white Westerners, while the only Asian in the principal cast was the villain.

The clearinghouse for the protests has been the website Racebending, which is calling for a boycott of the film. "American actors of color rarely get to play the hero, if ever," said Marissa Lee, one of Racebending's co-founders, in a statement. "We're really disappointed. Paramount felt that white actors were better suited to play heroes of color than hardworking, underrepresented actors who are actually of Asian or Inuit descent."

Shyamalan has insisted he had no intention of whitewashing the characters. In a recent interview with Indie Movies Online, he went into great detail about the casting choices, which he said were entirely his and not Paramount's. He argued that the complaints didn't look beyond the principal players to note the entire cast, which consists of actors from multiple cultures and racial backgrounds playing the 'Airbender' world's four tribes. Of the protest, he said, "The irony of this statement enrages me to the point of ... not even the accusation, but the misplacement of it. You're coming at me, the one Asian filmmaker who has the right to cast anybody I want, and I'm casting this entire movie in this color blind way where everyone is represented. I even had one section of the Earth kingdom as African American, which obviously isn't in the show, but I wanted to represent them, too!"

Why, then, did he cast white actors in the leads? "Noah Ringer walked in the door -- and there was no other human being on the planet that could play Aang except for this kid," the director said. "To me, he felt mixed race with an Asian quality to him. I made all the Air nomads mixed race – some of them are Hispanic, some of them are Korean." Patel's people had to look like him, too, which is the reason the members of the hot-tempered Fire tribe are all played by darker-hued actors.

With three of the tribes played by non-Caucasian actors, Shyamalan said he felt the fourth group, Katara and Sokka's Water tribe, could be played by white actors. "If you don't have an edict of "don't put white people in the movie" then the Water tribe can be European/Caucasian," he said. So, by his logic, casting white actors as Katara and Sokka was actually an act of inclusion, not exclusion. (It's worth noting here, as Shyamalan has, that the cartoon's adherence to the visual conventions of Japanese anime, including round eyes and light skin, have added to the racial confusion. If the characters are drawn with racially indeterminate features, why shouldn't his casting follow suit?) "

5 Stars
(select link for full article)


Anonymous said...

The actual genders and races of what the elements represent are in Rodney St.Michael's book, Sync My World: Thief's Honor GA SK. (

Air = Yellow "race" = Males = Scholars.

Water = Small Browns = Females = Shamans.

Earth = Blacks = Lesbian = Social Ubuntu Business Class.

Fire = Whites = Gays = Military, Militant Business Class.

Ether or Metal = Big Browns = Bisexuals = Working Class, Bi-military

(females & bis go together like Katara & Sokka or brown females and males).

Therefore Aang should be Chinese.

Katara should be a Malay like a Filipina.

The Earth Kingdom should be African.

Zuko should be White like Hitler, Alexander the Gay or Gen. Arthur McArthur.

The Fire Nation's army should be like the fiery Sacred Band of Thebes (an ancient elite gay army that Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell troops would be envious of) or the Sturmabteilung, the much-feared homosexual stormtroopers of Hitler.

And the Slumdog Millionaire (casted as Zuko) should be Sokka.

This film is just as messed up as the movie Angels and Demons. The branding of the priests were incorrect.

But anyway, from the guy who gave you the Sixth Sense, which did not portray childhood schizophrenia accurately or anywhere near the real world, what do you expect?

Bisexuals love horror and terror. They also scam people, just like the Wizard of Oz. The old Oz film which is also about the Elements is understandably all-white because they were ignorant back then. People have higher standards now, and realism is a must.

But M.Night, the Wizard of South Asia also has lessons for everyone after conning them:

1) Clearly, when people don't play roles that fit them, everything is messed up. (e.g. "male" clergy in what should be a female realm, forbidding gays in the military which is their territory)

2) Whites are not fit to play the leading roles of Air and Water in the world scene. Leave that to the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, Korea and South East Asia).

3) Arabs are not necessarily the greatest evil in the world. Occasionally, they float like Ether to the ranks of Water. It is fiery whites that fit the role of Lucifer or Satan.

4) By acquiring objective reviews from leading critics, they have agreed themselves that these are all factual objective realities.

Thus, the Wizard, even if he is a con man, is also an accidental pseudo teacher. Partly, it's called sunyata or "emptiness."

Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................