Tuesday, May 25, 2010

(LACK) Of Races in The Last Airbender Film

I couldn't resist.

With the upcoming release date of the Last Airbender movie, I had to put in my two cents. I'm usually not one to blog about deep set emotional issues or politics of the matter, but I felt the need to share this one particular issue with the internets.

As some of you may or may not know, Nickelodeon hosted a brilliant, beautifully written and animated show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. It had a total of three seasons, and follow the "traditions" and culture of what would seem a primarily Asiatic setting. Words and such were written in chinese characters, clothing, mannerisms, all reminiscent of ancient China, Japan, etc. After season 3 and the end of the series, we were all left with wanting more, adults and kids alike. Then we got the good news of a live action adaptation film! It was great to hear, with the technology the way it is now, they could do unbelievable things with it. But! Remember, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually means it is.

Then we got the bad news that the project was taken under the wing of none other than M. Night-freakin-Shyamalan.
Yea, that guy. The man responsible for The Village, The Happening, more like it. What a twist indeed.

And as if we were being insulted in the first place, the cast they pulled together for the film is like a huge loogie, right in the eye. And here is where I get to the meat and potatoes:

You have three white kids playing as the main roles, and an Indian-American playing the role of the main antagonist. Nothing against any of them, but when will Hollywood understand that the culture of a race of people is not decorated and hidden behind hair cuts, dark tans, and a few costumes? As an Asian-American myself, just hearing about the cast list hurts deep inside. I am sure that there are plenty of capable and talented actors among the Asian-Americans here, that they could manage to find to fit the roles of these characters. And for those that argue, "the characters are never stated as being Asian or from Asia," you are still wrong. No, they may have never come out in the show and said "Hey, I'm Aang. I'm a little Asian boy," we can all assume that the writing, names, clothing, culture, land, fighting styles come from a land not known as America, but from a culture across the world. (No people, Asia is not make believe land where all the people are either Chinese, Japanese, or "Oriental") My argument? Take Harry Potter's love interest, Cho Chang. How would that be, if she was cast as a white girl? J.K. Rowling never stated in the book that Cho was chinese. But even from just reading the name, we can gather that she is either Chinese, or Asian of some sort. What if everyone in Lord of the Rings was black? People would FREAK OUT. Yes, yes, they would. Did they ever state that they looked like white people? Nope, but its understood.

I may not be able to do much from my simple little art blog, and I may not be able to do much talking the issue with people (and getting laughed at about it at work), but the activist in me has stood up to do at least this much. I am telling the internets about this blatant disregard for a race of people, and I am refusing to go watch this film. No way will I support hate as obvious as this, no matter how much I love the show.

I'm a bit ADD and I can lose focus easily, but if you really would like to read more about the Asian Americans vs. Hollywood, you can go to racebending.com, they have a buttload more information than I do on the matter... here are some good points:

The following statements and actions have caused anger, disappointment and disgust to members of the community, many of whom would otherwise have been enthusiastic fans of the movie:

  • The initial casting breakdowns for the lead characters and the resultant all-Caucasian initial cast. The casting calls clearly indicated a preference for Caucasian actors to play the show's ethnically Asian characters, by using the wording "Caucasian or any other Ethnicity," rather than “Asian or any other Ethnicity” or even an unbiased “Any Ethnicity.”
  • The subsequent tokenism resulting from the casting of minority actors to play only supporting and antagonist characters, while all of the heroic lead characters remain Caucasian.
  • The inappropriate and offensive language used by various members of the production, including casting director DeeDee Ricketts’ repeated culturally ignorant statements (such as calling traditional clothing “costumes,” “If you're Korean, wear a kimono”) and actor Jackson Rathbone’s assertion that he will “get a tan” to look more like his ethnically Inupiat and Yupik character.
  • The casting decision to seek "authentic Asians"—a description Rickets gave to The Washington Post—to play background extras, when the very same "authentic Asians" were so blatantly discriminated against in the casting calls to play the lead characters.
  • The decision that the two most subjugated “Nations” in this Asian fantasy setting will be retrofitted from Shaolin and Tibetan Buddhist and Inupiat and Yupik ethnic peoples to be Caucasian peoples, even as the film continues to appropriate the franchise’s core Asian concepts, including a Hindi Avatar and the Four Buddhist Great Elements

Please, don't support Hollywood racism and don't support M. Night Shabadabadingdong.