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Author Topic: The White Airbender?
Puffy Treat
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When the actors portraying the four main characters of the upcoming live action movie adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender were announced, everybody noticed they were all a bit...Caucasian.

I mean, Jesse McCartney cast as Prince Zuko? Seriously?

It's caused a predictable backlash against the film, which this post by illustrator Derek Kirk Kim sums up quite well.

I'm no longer chuckling at that one song from the Doctor Horrible "Commentary! The Musical!"

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neo-dragon
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Oh boy. [Roll Eyes]
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James Tiberius Kirk
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Saw it coming...

--j_k

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Blayne Bradley
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I just started watching the series, frankly live action anything is a bad idea. Should've made another animated movie.
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Armoth
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::shrug:: it's not a big deal to me...

McCartney is obviously intended to tap into the whole Zuko is a hottie thing.

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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
::shrug:: it's not a big deal to me...

McCartney is obviously intended to tap into the whole Zuko is a hottie thing.

That's the thing...it could be seen as saying a non-white guy can't be attractive. My own thought is the studio and director wanted to try and tap into McCartney's fan base without considering the possible implications of the choice. [Dont Know]
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Armoth
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I guess we'll know when we finally see the movie. Based on how the film plays out we'd better be able to tell what direction the director was trying to take the film...

The idea of a live action Avatar kinda creeps me out.

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Shanna
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McCartney has a fanbase?? Isn't he a has-been?

Between the director choice and now the casting, I've lost all faith in this movie. The casting in particular really breaks my heart, especially after reading that letter from Derek.

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Mucus
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Its kind of a pervasive problem in Hollywood.

The most recent incarnation that comes to mind was the Forbidden Kingdom with both Jet Li and Jackie Chan. With those two actors, somehow the producers still felt the need to insert a random white guy. Presumably because they thought that while the two *actual* stars of the movie would put Asians into theatres, white people still needed a random white guy to relate to.*

I mean seriously, who makes a movie with those two and then focuses the story on someone else? Oy.

* The thought that it wasn't just the producers thinking that, and that it's actually true is a rather horrifying idea I'll ignore for now.

But yeah, it happens. Oh, this too:
21: Based On Real Life (without all those Asian kids) (It's in the OP article, but this adds a bit of info)

quote:
Itís a true-story-turned-Hollywood movie in every fashion - promising MIT students, desperate to raise tuition money! Dramatic kidnappings! Kevin Spacey slowly turning evil! Oh, and one other little thing: the mostly Asian American MIT Blackjack team had been replaced with white actors.

According to this article from MITís newspaper, The Tech:

During the talk, Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process ó though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the filmís actors would be white, with perhaps an Asian female.


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TL
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quote:
That's the thing...it could be seen as saying a non-white guy can't be attractive. My own thought is the studio and director wanted to try and tap into McCartney's fan base without considering the possible implications of the choice.
I thought Shamalan was directing this.
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Puffy Treat
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Yes, he is.
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TL
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So after I suggest that the supposed implications of the choice aren't there -- and cite as evidence of this the fact that the director isn't white -- that it seems fairly reasonable to assume they cast this McCartney kid because they think he's right for the part?
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Puffy Treat
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The director will never be seen on the screen, unless M. Night has secretly cast himself as Admiral Zhao or something. [Wink]

All four main characters are Asian or Inuit looking in the cartoon. All four have had white kids cast in the part.

I'm personally assuming they cast McCartney because he is (or used to be) to be a popular bubblegum pop singer, and Viacom wants corporate synergy. I can see it now: "Jesse McCartney sings the Songs of the Fire Prince, Music Inspired by The Last Airbender! Download the MP3's now!" [Roll Eyes]

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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
So after I suggest that the supposed implications of the choice aren't there -- and cite as evidence of this the fact that the director isn't white -- that it seems fairly reasonable to assume they cast this McCartney kid because they think he's right for the part?

You'd think... but then the specifics of the casting call, if accurate, do seem to suggest that they had a preference for white folk, even without specific names in mind. (Given the source material, "Asian or any other ethnicity" would have been the more obvious wording, rather than putting "Caucasian" up front.)
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Puffy Treat
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Judging by what I've seen of Jesse's acting skills (mostly glimpses of tween shows he's been in while visiting my with my step-sister) I'm not sure he has "brooding" or "intense" in him. Yeah, I'm pretty much convinced he was cast for his perceived fame with a certain demographic.

Edit:

Man, the casting details for the extras sure are telling. [Frown]

And Jesse doesn't know a single detail about the show, or the character he's been cast as. My, my.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
... -- and cite as evidence of this the fact that the director isn't white -- ...

An odd piece of "evidence." Does this mean that Europeans never discriminated against Jews? After all, they're both not Asian.

In any case, the director doesn't always have final say in these matters.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Puffy Treat:
...

And Jesse doesn't know a single detail about the show, or the character he's been cast as. My, my.

Theoretically, he knows a bit. He knows that to look more Asian, he should get a tan:

quote:
"I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan," he said of the transformation he'll go through to look more like Sokka. "It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."
http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1602757/story.jhtml
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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
Deedee Rickets, the casting director for the film, said she is looking to cast men and women ages 18 to 65 and children ages six to 15. Casting officials are seeking candidates with military or martial arts experience, athletes, gymnasts and people of various races and cultures.

"We want you to dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire," she said. "If you're Korean, wear a kimono. If you're from Belgium, wear lederhosen."

Wow.

--j_k

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Mucus
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(For the record, the Kimono is Japanese while the Hanbok is Korean, but thats only a small part of the facepalm here and I'm digressing. Still
link )

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Traceria
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quote:
Originally posted by Puffy Treat:
I can see it now: "Jesse McCartney sings the Songs of the Fire Prince, Music Inspired by The Last Airbender! Download the MP3's now!" [Roll Eyes]

*groan* Please...no...
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TL
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quote:
An odd piece of "evidence." Does this mean that Europeans never discriminated against Jews? After all, they're both not Asian.
Obviously.

*cough*

....so weak.... so very weak....

quote:
The director will never be seen on the screen
That's a bet I'd take. [Big Grin]
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
Obviously.

Thanks, I'm glad you agree.

quote:

*cough*

....so weak.... so very weak....

You don't have to be so hard on yourself.

I didn't want to say it first, but thats precisely what I thought about your line of argument, which essentially relies upon all non-whites being homogeneous and interchangeable.

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Xavier
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So this thread sparked my curiosity about the series, and I went off to the Wiki page:

quote:
"There's an air guy along with these water people trapped in a snowy wasteland... and maybe some fire people are pressing down on them..."
This is very amusing to me, because this describes the exact sort of early concept I had when I first tried my hand at creative writing around age 14. The rest of the page describes a world that's pretty darn similar to what I had in mind.

My story never went anywhere, because I realized that (1) creative writing is hard and (2) I was no good at it. Would be funny if I still had the 4-5 pages available that I wrote before abandoning it in disgust.

It's cool to see that some people much more creative than me took the concept and made something good out of it. Maybe I'll check it out sometime.

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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:


quote:
The director will never be seen on the screen
That's a bet I'd take. [Big Grin]
Actually, I'm fairly certain that only extras and villains will be portrayed by non-white actors, if these current casting decisions stand. I can easily see them justifying an M. Night cameo as being "enough". [Roll Eyes]

Good grief, Hollywood was planning to make the kids in "The Chronicles of Narnia" American until the "Harry Potter" films proved a UK cast of kids could be successful. They're even more skittish on this count.

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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by Xavier:


It's cool to see that some people much more creative than me took the concept and made something good out of it. Maybe I'll check it out sometime.

It's well worth checking out. All three seasons have been released on DVD.
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Armoth
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Give it a chance.

Avatar's claim to fame is that it is American! Let is be American! The Japanese have been so superior to us in animation for years, this is the first American cartoon that isn't only tolerable - it's fantastic! Just like Harry Potter's actors got to be British, Avatar's actors, it's humor, it's American!

Aang, Sokka, Katara are all American. Dante Basko, i doubt, was chosen for his voice because he is Asian. He has SUCH a Zuko voice.

I think everyone needs to chill and see how this comes out...

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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
Avatar's claim to fame is that it is American!

It's not the story, the characters, the world-building, the action, or the high (Korean) animation quality. No, people embraced it because the two guys who created it were Westerners, and because the unseen voice performers of some of the leads where American.

Right. [Wink]

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
Avatar's claim to fame is that it is American! Let is be American! ...

Right. Because Asian actors couldn't possibly be American.

Could you imagine if a story with black characters was recast with all white actors because black actors wouldn't be American enough? Seriously.

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Armoth
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All I'm saying is that Avatar need not be incredibly true to it's obvious Asian influences, and I'm not going to be disappointed if that is the case.
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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:

Aang, Sokka, Katara are all American. Dante Basko, i doubt, was chosen for his voice because he is Asian. He has SUCH a Zuko voice.

Great, now I don't like you. :/
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TL
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Mucus, the leap you took from my comment was so absurdly illogical as to be comical; Both in its interpretation of my comment as some kind of solid argument in need of repudiation, and in the... just... epicness of the straw-man.

I knew someone would say it. I just didn't know they would say it in such a hilariously swaggering way. I cracked up. Thank you.

quote:
I didn't want to say it first, but thats precisely what I thought about your line of argument, which essentially relies upon all non-whites being homogeneous and interchangeable.
Yeah, it really doesn't. Additionally, I wasn't making an argument. I was suggesting another angle of thought. I don't think Puffy was making a definitive argument in the first place. I think he was suggesting a line of thought as well. This isn't an issue I've even taken a position on, and I'm sure I won't. The Last Airbender is not something about which I find myself particularly impassioned.

It just sounds to me as though what's happening with the casting of this movie is just your average garden-variety Americanization. Perhaps there's racism involved. At a glance, it doesn't seem likely to me -- partially based on the unlikelihood (not impossibility) of M. Night S. being a white supremacist.

Edited to add:

Don't forget that the post I was responding to posed the issue thusly: "...it could be seen as saying a non-white guy can't be attractive."

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Armoth
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quote:
Originally posted by T:man:
quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:

Aang, Sokka, Katara are all American. Dante Basko, i doubt, was chosen for his voice because he is Asian. He has SUCH a Zuko voice.

Great, now I don't like you. :/
I'm not really sure how to respond to that. I'm also not sure what you were trying to convey by saying that out loud. You don't like me because you disagree with me? Or were my opinions so heinous that I obviously have a personality problem...

::shrug:: whatever...

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
It just sounds to me as though what's happening with the casting of this movie is just your average garden-variety Americanization.

Again, what is with the bizarre notion that Americanization is at odds with Asian actors? You do realize that the article linked in the OP is advocating the use of Asian *American* actors, not foreign Asian actors.

quote:
Don't forget that the post I was responding to posed the issue thusly: "...it could be seen as saying a non-white guy can't be attractive."
Precisely, and you responded that the mere presence of non-white director was "evidence" (your words, not mine) that racism couldn't be a factor. An odd argument that not only ignores the fact that "non-white" is a category that spans at least three traditional race boundaries (brown, yellow, and black), but numerous nationalities, and in fact the vast majority of the world's population.

And even this analysis ignores the problem of internalized racism as touched upon in the OP's article:
quote:
Back in my Drama days in high school, I used to dream of being white so I could pursue acting.

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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
quote:
Originally posted by T:man:
quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:

Aang, Sokka, Katara are all American. Dante Basko, i doubt, was chosen for his voice because he is Asian. He has SUCH a Zuko voice.

Great, now I don't like you. :/
I'm not really sure how to respond to that. I'm also not sure what you were trying to convey by saying that out loud. You don't like me because you disagree with me? Or were my opinions so heinous that I obviously have a personality problem...

::shrug:: whatever...

YOU RESPONDED TO MY BAITING ^_^

now I like you [Smile]

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the_Somalian
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One of the reasons Mr. Shymalan has made it big in Hollywood is precisely because he fills his films with white people. I doubt he would have found much success with his films (as far as greenlighting goes) if he insisted on making them about non-whites.
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lem
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I am having repressed memories of Earthsea resurfacing.
*groan*

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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by lem:
I am having repressed memories of The Earthsea Trilogy resurfacing.
*groan*

[Eek!]
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Armoth
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Am I being flirted with?

::shrug:: I'm still not changing my mind!

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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
Give it a chance.

Avatar's claim to fame is that it is American! Let is be American! The Japanese have been so superior to us in animation for years, this is the first American cartoon that isn't only tolerable - it's fantastic! Just like Harry Potter's actors got to be British, Avatar's actors, it's humor, it's American!


You do realize that Harry Potter is actually set in Britain and the characters are British. Avatar is not set in America and the characters aren't white.

I wonder if they'd cast white actors for a live action version of Boondocks...

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Nighthawk
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quote:
I wonder if they'd cast white actors for a live action version of Boondocks...
Is Jake Lloyd too old? Darn...
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Armoth
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quote:
Originally posted by neo-dragon:
quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
Give it a chance.

Avatar's claim to fame is that it is American! Let is be American! The Japanese have been so superior to us in animation for years, this is the first American cartoon that isn't only tolerable - it's fantastic! Just like Harry Potter's actors got to be British, Avatar's actors, it's humor, it's American!


You do realize that Harry Potter is actually set in Britain and the characters are British. Avatar is not set in America and the characters aren't white.

I wonder if they'd cast white actors for a live action version of Boondocks...

Unfortunately, the land of the 4 nations does not exist...
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neo-dragon
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But I'm pretty sure that Asian people do.
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Blayne Bradley
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The theme is very Japanese-Korean-Chinese should be filmed in those locations.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Unfortunately, the land of the 4 nations does not exist...
Each one was themed on a particular culture. Aang would be most 'appropriately' played by a Tibetan youth.
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Armoth
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Ang would most appropriately be played by a cartoon.

Can we give the director a little room please?

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neo-dragon
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He can have all the room that he wants, I actually care very little. I just think that it's silly to deny that there's a racial bias in Hollywood.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
The theme is very Japanese-Korean-Chinese should be filmed in those locations.

According to that interview with the actor. They are in fact filming abroad in Asia, just with white main actors.
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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
Am I being flirted with?

::shrug:: I'm still not changing my mind!

Yes most definitely [Wink]
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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:

Can we give the director a little room please?

People expressing displeasure with casting decisions may or may not affect the actual casting at all.

They have a right to express their displeasure, though, and explain the reasons why. I don't see how that can possibly hurt M. Night in any way. The movie's still going to get made.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
So after I suggest that the supposed implications of the choice aren't there -- and cite as evidence of this the fact that the director isn't white

You seem to be suffering under the delusion that only white people can be racists. Or the servants of racism.

As I wrote in [url= http://katsaris.livejournal.com/57144.html#cutid1"]my last livejournal post[/url], in retrospect Shyamalan had revealed himself to be a little racist gnome from back the time when he made Lady in the Water, pulled made-up Korean myths out of thin air, and portrayed the Korean lady in that story as even more VARELSE and difficult to communicate with than the actual non-humans.

quote:
"Avatar's claim to fame is that it is American! Let is be American!"
...what bullshit.

Not only you tried to excuse the racism in the casting by usage of *nationalism* (as if that's significantly better), indeed pretty much arguing that it's not the series' quality but its AMERICAN-ness that is its best feature, but you also managed to imply that only white people are real Americans, of course.

Reminds me that McCain ad. Vote for the *American* candidate. Not that black Kenyan guy. "American" as code for white.

Congratulations. You fail.

quote:
"Give it a chance."
No. I shall most definitely not give a chance to racist whitewashing, I will most definitely not reward whitewashed casting by buying cinema tickets or by renting the movie.

This is just like the Earthsea whitewashing except even worse. This is just like the studio wanting to make the "Anansi boys" white. (despite Anansi being an African trickster).

This IS racism. And whoever buys a ticket or rents the DVD, they are rewarding and enabling the racism in the casting.

[ January 30, 2009, 07:43 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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