This is gonna kill me.
One of my favorite TV shows of the past couple years has been Nickelodeon's anime-inflected cartoon drama Avatar: The Last Airbender. Although most of the names responsible for the show are not Asian names, the show takes place in an all-Asian-Pacific fantasy world that actually WORKS. The world is divided into nations modeled on Inuit, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Pacific Islander cultures. That means ALL of the characters are some kind of Asian Pacific. There are no other races/ethnicities.
Aside from this wonderful fact, the show is beautifully done. The music is good (if a little ching-chongy at times), the art starts out good and gets fantastic as the show goes on, and the stories are well-written and full of complex character development. It's really good work.
And then, I found out that M. Night Shyamalan had been tapped to direct a live action film of the series. How cool is that?
So the news this week that the main characters -- who are from Tibetan, Inuit, and Japanese-based cultures -- have been cast and are being played by white actors ... well it just stuck a knife in my heart. It's been done many times before: most notably in the recent casting of white actors to play the distinctly dark-toned characters in Ursula le Guin's classic magical bildungsroman A Wizard of Earthsea.
But Avatar is different. It's not being adapted from a book. It's being adapted from a television show where the audience has already seen the characters' ethnicities -- and they are distinct, as you can see in the fan video above. Furthermore, the Avatar generation is less fussed about race, and more used to diversity. Casting Avatar all white is just so ... unnecessary.
Why? Why are they doing it? Argh!
I'm sending a letter.