Travesty of Avatar: "Last Airbender" updates

July 30, 2009

Yeah, we're still objecting to the racistastic casting of Avatar-derivative live action film The Last Airbender. See the funny-fun vid above for your "Yeah, mofos!" hit, and to see the new teaser trailer with a lot of snark added. Read on below for updates.

(By the way, if you can't get with this program, save us all a lot of grief and leave the "comment" button alone. Whatever you have to say, it's been covered here.)

(Short version: Asian/Inuit leads from an animated TV series were cast white. After some protest, one of the lead roles -- the anti-hero, natch, from the violent, fascistic bad-guy culture -- is given to Indian Brit Dev Patel. So instead of saying that POC don't exist, they're saying that POC are bad guys. Awesome!)

So, the awesome Airbender casting protest at Aang Ain't White, has gone big. The folks behind it have created the site to use to organize protests against the now inexorably cast movie. They were at Comic-Con last week, protesting near the Nickelodeon booth (Nickelodeon is the network that originated the TV show; they're apparently ambivalent about the film casting) and collecting a few hundred signatures for their petition.

Speaking of which, the petition is asking the production company, even at this late date, to reconsider their casting and to speak with various Asian American groups. If they won't, the petition, after months of very moderate language, finally threatens boycott. Here's the petition. Click the button to sign it. As of right now, it has over 7,500 signatures.

This is the protest that won't go away because it's not just about what adult audiences identify with. This is an issue that affects younger audiences as well, and a whitewashing movie that adults might otherwise let pass with a look of disgust becomes a matter of passing on retrograde racist notions to children. We're half a year away from Census 2010, but there's no doubt in anyone's minds that we're looking at a next generation of more Asian Americans than ever before. No doubt, that's part of the reason Nickelodeon felt enabled to produce such a wonderful, Asian-cultured TV series.

But pass that idea on to the high-stakes world of filmmaking, and any real understanding of the audience disappears. This young audience won't have any difficulty identifying with Asian protagonists until AFTER it has seen The Last Airbender, since it clearly didn't have any difficulty doing so before. But once they've seen this whitewashed version,  the "subtle" (but actually scrawled all over every frame of the film) message that Asians are okay for anime, but not good enough for real life, will be irrevocably printed on every mind: white, Asian, black, Latino, or any of the kajillion other races and ethnicities we have in this country. This film isn't just reifying racism; it's creating it in young minds that may not have had it before.

If we can't stop the film itself, we can still stop it from happening again in another film. Let's do that.




Some of you who say it doesn't matter who is cast just don't get it. It is maddening that the actors picked don't resemble the characters from the series which are indeed a mix of different Asian/Inuit etc. That in itself is upsetting, but it's so much more than that.This beautiful and moving series is based on these cultures, that are wonderfully portrayed in the cartoon. If you cast western people in the roles, they CANNOT, no matter how good their acting, do justice to the story and the cultures. Therefore, the story is ruined, and kids that love the series will of course be disappointed and it sends them a bad message.Children can pick up on very subtle things, it is not just about the cool fighting scenes, but the beautiful ideas, and the way the characters relate to one another.The film must be able to pull this off, and can only do so if the cast is true to the series! My son has already reacted negatively to the scenes of the film saying, 'that's not like avatar!' And I thought, they had better make Aang just like he is in the series. Both in appearance and in personality!
Look for a story about the casting of The Last Airbender in the next print edition of Hyphen, The Action Issue, which will be out in a couple of weeks.
What the heck people are still talking about this racist crap....1st of all Dev Patel's character becomes good, and his uncle is good (the actor is also Indian) screw you guys, yal can whine and complain all you want...the cast is not going to change...the filming is DONE...haha whatever, you all haters can sit and b*** all day about how mad you are at the casting, me and all the TRUE fans are gonna give this a chance and check it out...u gotta admit it looks like it could be epic...the music, the special effects, the HIGH budget (as opposed to Dragonball's L O W budget)...see it first, then judge it.
It's amazing how ignorant some people can be, i am a die hard Avatar fan, and i'm just glad, its big enough to be being made into a movie, who cares what race the cast are? As long as they can play and put the characters accross well, it really shouldn't matter. If it bothers you so much don't watch it, but don't go round persuading other to boycott a movie, they haven't even seen, it's a big judgement to make of a movie on just the characters. People need to grow up and watch a movie 1st before judging it, if it sucks then fair enough.
Zack, are you a snot-nosed kid or are you just racist? You haven't learned enough about race relations to understand what you are talking about. Many of us are fans of Avatar -- that's why we are fighting this so hard. If you were a true fan, you would dig a little deeper into the Asian history and Asian culture that make up Avatar. If you are simply watching Avatar because it is "SO COOL WITH LOTS OF FIGHTING" then you are missing the point of what makes this show epic and timeless.
Dev's character becomes goos when? In the third season? Yeah that's like 2 movies away. The Average person will only see Dev/Zuko as the villan in the first movie. They have no clue whats gonna happen in the second or third.Were not True fans? For what? Not wanting to support the movie that takes out the things that made Avatar, Avatar? So that must mean Dragonball fans aren't true fans considering most of them didn't watch it, Right?
I love how they ignore the link to the racebending page that wonderfully demolishes there arguments. It's almost always useless even trying to have a dialogue with these types of people who won't even concept the idea that discrimination had a part in the casting of this movie.(insert someone saying it's all about money man!)As that page said, financial discrimination is still discrimination. I predict this story will pick up even more steam as this movie comes closer to release.
If you look at the Nick show the characters do not resemble asians in the least the characters are white and the casting should falloe suit not to say that actors couldnt be indian or not but non the less to say asian american actors should of been used is bogus
That racebending site and that VIDEO cover most of the arguments about the casting of this movie. People claim to have seen them and read them but then they make the same silly arguments that have been debunked over and over. Any clear-thinking person who has really looked at the evidence can see that the casting of this movie was discriminatory. Not only that, it cheapens the quality of the movie, because highly talented Asian-American actors were passed over for Caucasians. I don't see how any fan of the show can find that acceptable unless they truly feel that white actors are better to look at than Asian ones, in which case, they are part of the problem.So before you go off and call people against this cast stupid or ignorant for feeling the way we do, watch the video and actually go to the site. You'll save yourself from looking like an idiot when you make an argument that has been proven wrong several times over.
You might also want to add in that they completely took out the Chinese Calligraphy too!
Haha yal r all stupid :P ....I bet that you are all white too...LOL I have tons of asian friends and they could care less who plays who...they just want the characters to be potrayed correctly...And btw avatar based on asian culture... OK ur right but does that mean that only asians can be in it??? Thats like being white and mad that an asian has been cast as a lead in an american based culture movie...o well, u annoying fans r just complainers anyway so y am i wasting my breath....Alright sorry...u guys have ur own opinions and I most likely won't change them, but u DO NOT HAVE TO WASTE UR BREATHE ON THIS MOVIE IF U HATE IT SO MUCH!!! Go watch the tv show, u will always have that, just quit hating on something that hasen't even released a full trailer yet...
@Zack: Being a true fan doesn't mean blindly supporting any piece of crap that's thrown at us under the "Avatar" label. I've been a huge fan of A:TLA from the beginning, and it's the only TV show that has ever had me on the verge of tears. So please don't accuse of us not being "true" fans, because it is as far from the truth as possible.@Isaac: Seriously, follow the link to the Racebending site. It addresses not only the argument you brought up, but also literally every single argument that has been brought up by pro-casters/people who aren't familiar with the issue.@Future commenters: Before you press "Submit", you'd better make a point to actually visit the link provided. It should answer any questions/arguments you have.
Ok sorry, here is my last point: the movie is mixed, SO FAR it looks like alot of earth natives will be korean, fire nation will be indian (at least the royalty will be), water tribe white, and air bender white...that seems pretty diverse to me...oh and to the @Zack person, most dragonball fans most likely did not see dragonball z because1)it looked Awful2)it had horrible reviews3)Dragonball Z is old newsI do not kno for sure (i was never really a dragonball z fan) but those are good enough reasons for a true fan to not see a movie...if dragonball looked half as good as The Last Airbender looks (so far), I think that it might have been at least twice as succesfull (haha which still isn't that
"Travesty" wow I haven't thought about that, but describes the issue very clearlyxDI wish people, BEFORE write something, REALLY read something in"They look white", "You're not true fans", "You're the racist, ignorant ones", those arguments are invalid.Ugh, I'm boycotting this film, that's all. By the way, I loved the video.
@Zack: "Thats like being white and mad that an asian has been cast as a lead in an american based culture movie.."Statements like this are why asian americans need to be casted as leads more often. Since when does American equal white? While it makes sense for a Asian to be casted as an American (because there are such people that actually exist- I should know, I am one), it doesn't make sense to cast characters in a wholly Asian-based fantasy world with Caucasians. A more apt comparison would be fans getting mad about the lead characters of the Lord of the Rings (an obviously european fantasy world) getting casted with mostly Asians.And do you even realize WHY we're boycotting this film? I sincerely doubt that you've even read the FAQ or watched the linked video: it's not at all about our personal sentiments against the current cast. It's because the asian actors/actresses that should've had a proper chance at the roles (the roles that were based off of their cultures) didn't.
Zack: be careful with the "yal r stupid" comments. There is no namecalling allowed on Hyphen blog.Isabel: ditto with the "snot-nosed kid" stuff.These are mild and I'm not gonna delete, but watch it y'all. Don't escalate.
Not that too many worry about another voice on the web, I'm putting my two cents worth into this.You all say Zuko is the villan, I'm not saying I am a master scholar with mythological archetypes, but Zuko in his own right is a hero in the first movie. I say Iroh is good all the way through. If you keep going on about how darker skins are bad guys, there are only four, the rest if you look in the background of Dev/Zuko, all of the random extras are WHITE!I understand all of you out say they are boycotting about racism, but honestly guys were you at the casting calls did you see behind the scenes every caster saying "Asians can't play these parts because they're Asian." ? I doubt it...but if you were there I really want to know who will be playing the bounty hunter....How much longer should I make this rant...I doubt you've read this far anyway your already writing your irate response...oh well one last point, from all your boycott vids and the web site, you guys seem more racist than the casting your claiming to the be racist (Which it isn't)
@AmashiCasting call:CAUCASIAN OR ANY OTHER ETHNICITY.All the random extras are white? Wonderful.How much screen time are these people going to have compared to the WHITE ninja kids saving the ASIAN EXTRAS/BACKGROUND and the SOUTH ASIAN and MIDDLE-EASTERN looking Villains?Have you even visited or can't be bothered?
"But the effects were decent!"Oh sokka, I forgot you said that. I loled hard. :) Now the throwaway comment seems predictive, doesn't it.I've been on board against racebending since the movie was announced, and have been called racist and bigoted for pointing out the racism in the movie!I hope the NAACP can but this issue in the public eye.
People.Get hobbies. Please.
Okay, ohdear and everyone else with ohdear's impulse: that's enough.If you want to engage in a real debate, come on in. But I won't tolerate any more insults. This comment thread is for discussion, not for you to express your contempt of our discussion. If you don't think this is worth discussing ... then don't. Any more of these comments will be deleted.
I am very tired today. But if something moves me to write, I don't deny that impulse. So here goes: Those of you calling this blog/blog-posting racist or reverse racist (etc.) are missing the heart of the issue. The issue is not hating on the Caucasian actors. For example, I assume that there are plenty of talented Asian/Asian American actors/actresses out there who are incredibly well-qualified for such roles. And seeing as the characters are Asian, WHY would they not look for an Asian casting? The movie is not trying to re-vamp the show in a different cultural context to make things interesting or artistically telling (examples: Akira Kurosawa's re-telling of Macbeth, or some other modernization of a Shakespeare anything, blah blah). The goal of the movie is just to take a show and stick it on the big screen. Thus (and Claire correct me if I'm wrong) Claire's beef with a Caucasian casting. What kind of statement does it make if Asians are good enough in fiction but not good enough to hang in real life?What else do I have to say? Um. Nothing. The show looks cool. It'd be cool if they did the casting differently. The end.
Ugh.... People are still complanning about this? Hollywood movie, made by an American company, created by two americans. Enough said.If you don't like it, move to china and make your own version with a full Asian cast.
both sides in this debate are rascist im sorry for the bad comment but when you see both from each side the fight seems to be either we asian wash teh movie or we white wash it, if it was a mexican background movie i wouldnt mind it if it was italian washed brazilian washed all i would care is that my favorite show was being made into movie, Couse in the end i stop and remember "its just a cartoon" i like to stick to reality :P
Sorry Claire...I just get a little heated about this issue, and I apologize to anyone who I insulted...I am not racist (I am Hispanic, and personally I don't get offended by others who "seem" racist, because I have a VERY diverse family...blacks, whites, mexicans, I apologize to anyone who think that I am being racist). I just don't like being called racist, because I think that calling some1 racist is just kind of something you throw out there when something wasn't said or done the way you wanted it to be, unless some1 is being DELIBERATELY racist (ex. people who say it is racist if you dislike Obama...just things like that)...personally I do not really pay any attention to race or vision is just that we are all people, black white, asian, or whatever, so I don't see the issue from the same point of view as others (the fans who are offended by the casting decisions, and quite frankly are being overly aggressive when this, it is just a movie...not anything essential to life...and please DO NOT say this: it is not just the movie, it is the issue of race discrimination bla bla bla...) only request is that you guys do not bring this movie down before it has even be released...mainly I ask you just to see if the characters are being portrayed well and that if it is an altogether good movie...this is my FINAL word about the issue and I will not even discuss the movie again until I have seen more (a trailer mabe)...I just want to be entertained, and I would hate to watch something that could be great be brought down by its overly serious die hard fans (which honestly I HIGHLY doubt will happen).
@ Zack's first postActually, Ms. Ricketts couldn't even be bothered to keep the race consistent within the Fire Nation royal family, so Iroh is now Iranian. I don't understand anything that this woman is doing.Azula's actor is probably going to be Native-American and look just like Katara, just to mess with the fanbase further.Anyway, lovely article.Avatar has such accurate information about Asian and Inuit cultures that it can be used in school projects. So, why not cast people with, at the very least, ancestry from those cultures?
Am efren and I know thay have already stared filming the Avatar movie but I think I can be the perfect person to play the part of Zuko because I kind of look like Zuko. Also I realay sould just like Zuko in the cartoon. I am kind buff like Zuko too. All I want is to be apart of this project that M.Night Shyamalan is doing. If someone out there gives me a change to audition for the part I won't let tham down no matter what.
I think Avatar was an amazing cartoon, and I think it made clear a transition in American cartoons. I have purchased it twice over, once in iTunes, and another time on Amazon. It took a lot of different elements, cultures, species, and mixed it together into an amazing story. There was the occasional episode and scenes that were meant for younger audiences, but overall it was a story anybody could follow. I think the casting issue is way overblown. I think maybe the crew of Airbender didn't try hard enough to get similarly culturally matching cast members, and recruited people based on individuals who tried out for the roles.In the end it does not matter because part of the embodiment of Avatar is that it mixes things together to produce something new, and the different actors representing what seems to be a limited cultures based on color of skin, may not be entirely true. Culture isn't necessarily based on skin color. The reinterpretation of characters is okay, you see it being doing by Marvel sometimes, if you want to talk about a scary all white casting in a big budget international flick (for normal looking characters)..look at the Lord of the Rings....
1. Asian Americans are very excluded from the media considering their large numbers in America. This is a perfect example to the extent to how much they are being excluded in roles that were made for them.2. My prediction is that this film will fail. The Avatar world is filled with many different Asian ethnicities as well as Native Americans. It in no way needed any Euro or African actors. Even fictional lands must play by the rules of logic. If you compare the views of people who are aware of this: most agree that the casting for everything was off.The most important theme is: this movie has no idea on what an appropriate variety of race is. Showing a Paris Hilton level of failure to understand what diversity is.People don't pay for stupid. They'll pay to see funny stupidity BUT this isn't a comedy.
i don't see why it has to be such a big deal. i think it would be weird to refer to m. night shyamalan as racist, considering he's indian (no matter where he's lived his whole life).besides, all big hollywood movies seem to disregard race most of the time when it comes to casting characters adapted from books, comics, animations and other media. look at the cast of dragon ball, look at speed racer (and yes, i know those were terrible, but they're still adaptations). if they ever decide to make a hollywood adaptation of naruto, someone please tell me where they'll find a naturally blond, blue-eyed japanese boy to play the lead.ziyi zhang was cast as sayuri in "memoirs of a geisha", and she's not japanese, she's chinese. in fact, some of the other main actors were chinese, when all the characters in the book were japanese.kate winslet won the oscar this year for playing a german. she's not german.heck, even robert downey jr. was nominated for playing a blond australian who "becomes" black to play a role in a's all roleplaying. if they can do a good job at it, then maybe it's not so bad.i know it's not ideal, but it's the director's vision. but maybe it shouldn't really matter. maybe when the movie comes out and we see the performances, we might change our minds about this.
its a movie made by america . remember the tv show kung fu how bruce lee was to asain for the main role.white america are scared of the new super powers lol
I fail to see the Native American element in Avatar. The Inuit are a distinct people from American Indians who are classified under the you guessed it, American Indian category by the U.S census. That's why you have the American Indian and Alaskan Native category. Two distinct peoples right there. They're even classed as Amerinds by anthropological standards however the Inuit aren't. Amerinds include all American Indians from the northern areas to the tip of South America. The Inuit are comparatively recent arrivals.