The Last Airbender: don’t do it

Some of you may remember a rant or two I’ve posted in the past about the whitewashing of the forthcoming film adaptation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series.

Well, it’s finally almost here.

So here is my plea to you, as an Indian-American and a huge fan of the original show: if you want to watch it, don’t watch it in theaters. (Take that to mean what you will.) Please don’t support this film financially, because that will signal to Hollywood that it’s okay to engage in racist and discriminatory casting.

If you missed my rant and all the talk of racebending, here it is in a nutshell:

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a wildly popular and critically acclaimed animated series. Its creators wanted to explore Asian tales and myths instead of the typical western ones. Everything about the show–the characters (clearly Inuit and Tibetan and east Asian), their names, their clothing, the architecture, the writing, the bending styles (based on distinct forms of martial arts), the governmental and political systems, the other major and minor artifacts throughout–is based off Asian culture and religion and mythology. Not only that, but they took great pains to make sure they were faithful depictions, and not in the last bit stereotypical, employing cultural and martial arts consultants and a traditional Chinese calligrapher.

M. Night Shyamalan’s film adaptation, though, involves a cast of white protagonists and dark-skinned minority antagonists (Indian, Iranian, Maori). The casting call asked for actors who were “Caucasian or any ethnicity,” so this really wasn’t them casting whoever they thought was right for the parts–they went straight for white actors.

This is wrong for several reasons:
– Part of the show’s success was rooted in its diversity and ethnic richness, something that’s quite rare in western media and something that resonated with millions of viewers of all backgrounds and ages. These casting decisions demonstrate a total lack of awareness of what was so significant about the show.
– It is well documented that Asians very rarely are the primary characters in American movies and TV shows. This would have been a prime chance to highlight talented Asian actors.
– Hollywood is perpetuating the ridiculous notion that Asians can’t carry major films and can’t draw in the same money that white actors can.
– There is no ambiguity in the characters’ ethnicities, as many try to argue: every single other facet of the Avatar universe is Asian, so it follows that the characters are meant to be Asian as well.
– It’s not reverse racism to want Asians to play these roles: it’s a cry against institutionalized racial discrimination and whitewashing in Hollywood, which has occurred in a number of other movies historically and recently (Prince of Persia, Dragonball, 21). Racist depictions are nothing new, either (Sex and the City 2 and its really horrible depiction of the Middle East). Jacksone Rathbone, the actor playing Sokka, was quoted as saying that he needs to “shave his head and get a tan” in order to play the part. (“Get a tan?” Are you kidding me?)
– How on earth can an Indian-American director allow for such racist casting, and then claim that he isn’t being racist? What a slap in the face that is.

Think about this, too: one of the things that made Pirates of Dark Water so unique was the diversity of its cast. Ren, Tula, and Ioz–none of them are white! Tons of fans have noticed that, too, and commented on it in a very approving way over the years. Conceptual artist Floro Dery did state that he based Tula’s character design heavily off Middle Eastern influences, and you can see similar influence in Ren and Ioz’s character designs.

So, yeah…that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve ranted about this so many times to so many people that I occasionally forget some of my speaking points because I thought I hit them already, haha. Please do steer clear of seeing this film, or at least don’t go see it in theaters. The show deserves a much better adaptation than this, and Asians have been jerked around by Hollywood more than enough already.

Technical difficulties

FREAKING WORDPRESS. AUGH. Please pardon me as I sort out where the index page’s layout went.

[Edit #1] This will teach me. BACK UP YOUR FILES. I have a copy of the WordPress files dating back to 2007…man. Let’s see what happens.

[Edit #2] Very weird…my WordPress theme folder was untouched, but for some reason it started pointing to the default. So I just uploaded my PoDW theme into the default folder, and we seem to be back. Extra motivation for redesigning the site, in case there are any bugs…do let me know if anything looks off, though. It should just be limited to the index/blog section.

PoDW on Twitter and elsewhere online

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has had one somewhat amusing side effect: a number of Pirates of Dark Water references are showing up on Twitter.

@callingshotgun Was early 90s cartoon “Pirates of Dark Water” environmental propoganda like “Captain Planet”, but more subtle? BP fiasco makes me wonder.

@OddKnowledge if only solving the BP oil spill was simple as finding 13 treasures like on Pirates of Dark Water
FYI, the link is safe; it goes to the opening of the show on YouTube.

KeatonThomas The cartoon The Pirates of Dark Water was actually a misinterpreted political warning about off shore drilling…. #thedarkwaterisreal
Love the hashtag.

MagnusApollo “the Pirates of Dark water” who knew that that old cartoon would have been so prophetic. Find those crystals people.
More prophetic than we realized, since they DID try using a gem to cap the leak, in the form of a diamond saw…yeah, kind of stretching, I know.

greekgodspeed BP + Oil Spill = The Pirates of Dark Water.

theconq19 Who would’ve thought Pirates of Dark Water would turn out to be a documentary?

And so on.

(This is not meant in any way to trivialize this devastating tragedy. BP’s attempts and failures and pathetic excuses make me sad and furious all at once–sad for the loss of both human and animal/marine life and the horrible devastation of the local ecosystems (there’s a real ripple effect in play, too, affecting much more than just that), and furious with BP for letting this happen to begin with.)

Anyway, moving on.

Something else posted to Twitter: there’s a section for PoDW at Behind the Voice Actors. It’s a breakdown, with photos, of the voice actors for the main and recurring characters.

Also, in response to a request I’ve gotten several times, I pulled together a video clip of the ending credits of episodes 1-5. They’re from the Japanese VHS releases, so they have the Dark Water opening and the HB “swirl” has been replaced with a couple of screens of Japanese credits.

Next up: more RPG character page scans. I SWEAR.