Sad, Racist, or Firebendingly Hillarious?
"Avatar: The Last Airbender is a truly unique comic adventure with rich animation and incredible martial-arts choreography. Creators Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino designed a fantastical Asian world with compelling characters and interesting creatures that will capture kids' imaginations and spirit."
-- Marjorie Cohn, Executive Vice President, Development and Original Programming, Nickelodeon
This week, Entertainment Weekly leaked the alleged cast for M. Night Shaylaman's film adaptation of the (awesome) Nickelodeon animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender.
While the revelation that the most emo-est firebender in all the land will be played by a blonde teenybopper popstar rankled the shippers, many fans were also visually assaulted by the alabaster skin of the youthful cast. The uproar isn't that they cast white people, but over the fact that this is one of the few movies where they could have also cast diverse actors--but like, totally chose not to do so.
omg you guys it's because we aren't good enough.
It's true. Young, East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Inuit, Aborigine, Pacific Islander, First Nations/American Indian, and other assorted brownish actors just can't compete with the photogenic looks and amazing talent of Jesse McCarthy's Beautiful Soul.
Colored folk are not supposed to be offended by this casting decision because obviously, M. Night Shaylaman (who is colored, yes?) and his ilk have decreed that we have moved past the litigation-worthy discrimination faced by minority actors into a new, Colbert-esque, colorblind utopia!
You may ask: To accurately and sensitively depict Asian-inspired characters and cultures, shouldn't we be exhausting all options and painstakingly seeking for a actor of color before immediately defaulting to whiteness?
NO goddammit. Because to not allow white actors to play parts that would traditionally go to minority actors would be racist. And to not allow colored folk the opportunity to play parts that are based on or inspired by minority characters is like, so not racist at all. Get with the program, people.
Would you like to see some ironic foreshadowing from almost a year ago in which I predict racist casting, and, for whatever reason, that they will cast "someone like Jesse McCartney" from January 2008? (Do you think I jinxed it? Ken says I was tempting fate. ::cries::.)
Honestly, we should have saw this coming. Remember when the casting sides came out and they read "Caucasian or other ethnicity"? I mean, the words "Other Ethnicity" speak for themselves. We are Others. Caucasian was already the stated preference months ago. We should have flipped out then--but I guess no one thought they would go so far as to make the principal cast (and, since the supporting cast is comprised of the characters' families) completely Caucasian. . Ooops.
Okay, okay. So, the uproar isn't that they cast white people. We are upset because this is one of the few movies where they could have cast diverse actors--but didn't.
The white creators of Avatar the Last Airbender painstakingly created the Avatar setting off of Asian and Inuit cultures. To ensure accuracy and respect in their depiction of aspects of those cultures, they even went as far as to hire several different Asian cultural consultants, such as a kung fu Sifu fluent in several different Asian martial arts, a Chinese Caligrapher, Chinese translator, etc.
Paramount's failure to be culturally inclusive in their casting reflects on their lack of respect or understanding of the source material, which pays tribute to Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Indian, Inuit, and Aztec cultures otherwise underrepresented in traditional fantasy and animated fare.
By casting wholesome "American" good looks, Paramount has squandered plenty of good will by making a dangerous assumption: that the show's diverse fanbase will accept the whitewashing of characters that come from an obviously diverse background.
Avatar is one of few animated shows on TV with ethnically ambiguous, yet distinctly Asian, characters. It was proof that despite Hollywood's assumptions, little kids will watch TV shows even if none of the characters on the show look white.
Given the diversity reflected not only in the Avatar setting but also in American society, this casting decision sends a terrible message to young children of color--already underrepresented--who will see empowering characters who looked like them replaced by presumably more "acceptable" white children. This casting decision mars not only the reputation of the movie, but also the reputation of the studio. Paramount, M. Night, Mr. Aibel, you could have viewed The Last Airbender as an opportunity to cast young actors of color, who are rarely offered lead roles. Your studio would have been praised for the revolutionary decision and received plenty of positive publicity.
I publicly apologize on behalf of the assortment of yellow and brown folk interested in this movie everywhere. Obviously, this casting is not because the studio has seriously warped priorities, but because we yellow and brown people can't act. I am so sorry we were not good enough to be cast in this movie. ::cries::
I will begin brainstorming now how to explain to little Asian kids why they don't have "the
What a tweest!