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The Blog of Gene Luen Yang - The Last Airbender Movie
The Last Airbender Movie 
We're just over a month away from the opening of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender movie. Yay. Derek and I did a couple of posts on it last year.

Here's a comic about why I'm not gonna see it, despite being a huge fan of the original animated series:



UPDATE: A couple of people have asked for permission to repost my comic on their Facebook/MySpace/whatever. OF COURSE you have my permission!!! Thank you for sharing my comic with your friends.

Also, Derek asked for a hi-res version because his eyes are as weak as his biceps. So here's a pdf version. Oops. I mean, HERE'S A PDF VERSION, DEREK.

Jeff 
Who in the animated series actually looks Asian to you? I got the Asian influence in some of the content, but none of the characters looks patently Asian.

Aizen 
i just got 1 question. i was happy for a sec when i saw a black person in the film, then i remembered about the airbenders being exterminated. so i thought what exterminate the black people? thats just not right! but i guess seeking equality in a word where green is the color of justice, is a luxury only available to a select few.

But there was a good part in the movie, i farted...

Guanxi 
M.Night Uses Reverse Psychology

The actual genders and races of what the elements represent are in Rodney St.Michael's book, Sync My World: Thief's Honor GA SK. (myconnected.webs.com)

Air = Yellow "race" = Males = Scholars.

Water = Small Browns = Females = Shamans.

Earth = Blacks = Lesbian = Social Ubuntu Business Class.

Fire = Whites = Gays = Military, Militant Business Class.

Ether or Metal = Big Browns = Bisexuals = Working Class, Bi-military
(females & bis go together like Katara & Sokka or brown females and males).

Therefore Aang should be Chinese.

Katara should be a Malay like a Filipina.

The Earth Kingdom should be African.

Zuko should be White like Hitler, Alexander the Gay or Gen. Arthur McArthur.

The Fire Nation's army should be like the fiery Sacred Band of Thebes (an ancient elite gay army that Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell troops would be envious of) or the Sturmabteilung, the much-feared homosexual stormtroopers of Hitler.

And the Slumdog Millionaire (casted as Zuko) should be Sokka.

This film is just as messed up as the movie Angels and Demons. The branding of the priests were incorrect.

But anyway, from the guy who gave you the Sixth Sense, which did not portray childhood schizophrenia accurately or anywhere near the real world, what do you expect?

Bisexuals love horror and terror. They also scam people, just like the Wizard of Oz. The old Oz film which is also about the Elements is understandably all-white because they were ignorant back then. People have higher standards now, and realism is a must.

But M.Night, the Wizard of South Asia also has lessons for everyone after conning them:

1) Clearly, when people don't play roles that fit them, everything is messed up. (e.g. "male" clergy in what should be a female realm, forbidding gays in the military which is their territory)

2) Whites are not fit to play the leading roles of Air and Water in the world scene. Leave that to the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, Korea and South East Asia).

3) Arabs are not necessarily the greatest evil in the world. Occasionally, they float like Ether to the ranks of Water. It is fiery whites that fit the role of Lucifer or Satan.

4) By acquiring objective reviews from leading critics, they have agreed themselves that these are all factual objective realities.

Thus, the Wizard, even if he is a con man, is also an accidental pseudo teacher. Partly, it's called sunyata or "emptiness."



Latest Movies Online 
Its to far for the anime series I didn't like the way they act. The characters are very serious. I miss the personality of the real Anime Aang.

qwerty 
You make too big of a freakin deal. Calm the hell down it's just a movie

filmneye 
This posting by Geoffrey Thorne spells out the issue very eloquently and says it the best:

Saturday, June 26, 2010, 02:13 PM
I agree with your feelings and was never going to see this abomination from the moment I saw the casting.

This film is based on the single greatest cartoon series ever made in the US. Bar none. It is groundbreaking in its use of non-Western themes, rules-breaking in its structure, socially heroic in the world it presented and, damn it, it's just a good yarn.

As a black professional in entertainment I am acutely aware of the basic discriminations that run rampant in this industry. If blacks and latins have had to struggle for equal treatment over the decades (and we have) Asians have struggled just to be SEEN.

Consequently I was not only amazed that AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER got on the air, I was amazed at how iconoclastic and cutting edge it was and remains. It belongs on the shelf with HILL STREET BLUES, THE WIRE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and LOST. It is that groundbreaking and that amazing and, in fact, is superior to at least two of the others on that list.

Taoism and Buddhism in an American toon series? A planet that is composed entirely of Asians of different stripes (educating the ignorant that, in fact Asians come in all shapes and colors like the rest of us. SHOCKING.) A story with a beginning, middle and end in which characters change and grow according to what came before? Hell, put it on the shelf with NARNIA and MIDDLE EARTH.

The live-action treatment of this beautiful, heroic piece of art is a travesty. I will never see it.

Daioshin 
I am not at all surprised by some of the racist apologist comments here, but I am getting quite annoyed by them. It is the same stupid excuses: "but they look white because of their round eyes etc". Someone just explained that round eyes are typical convention in anime and manga/manwa (Asian comics) to better convey emotion. That is all, the rest of their features are obviously non white. The blue eyes of Katara and Sokka are due to Water tribe ancestry just like yellow eyes are due to Fire Nation ancestry etc, though I don't know how you could miss their dark (brown) complexions. And of course the light skin argument is the dumbest! It is obvious to anyone but those who are in serious psychological denial that not only were Aang and his cohorts Asian but to anyone whose seen the cartoon there are NO WHITES present whatsoever. The entire fictional world is Asian/Inuit based. For Paramount to make the heroes white and the villains brown is not only racist but ABSURD. Now what would happen if 'The Lord of the Rings' was cast by Asian actors?? What Paramount did is the absolute equivalent! Racism has always been a factor in Hollywood.

Theo 
@Alice
So instead of actually responding to my charges, you'll just ignore them and ridicule them. How englightened of you.

I can tell you didn't actually read what I wrote since you claim my post was about an "opinion." So being racist is just "an opinion," or rather as you so eloquently put "making a mountain out of a mole hill?" I'm not the one advocating a boycott from a racist position. Again, the assumption by anyone here that Noah Ringer or anyone else in the movie is a certain race simply because "YOU" deem it so, is absolutely and unequivocally racist. Debate me on that, or just act like every other tool here, ignore it, act like it's not true, and avoid the indefensible. Or even excuse it away because the studio is acting poorly.

So since we're arguing about an "opinion," I have one for you: Alice, you are a racist coward.

Alice Draken 
I agree with everyone's comments except for Theo's, when he could have easily just scrolled away or left the website rather than arguing about someone's opinion. First off, it's an opinion...not a law or forced thing. So anyone is allowed to give there view on this without making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Okay, putting that aside...I would really like to know how to join in on this boycott! Is there a way to make this big enough that maybe someone will redo the whole movie, fixing it before the second one comes out? If so, I really want to join in any way I can. After watching other American adaptations on live action animations, I really would rather not see anymore of my favorite shows being ruined by people who don't know what they're doing.

Thanks for listening to me...<3

Theo 
Before I answer Red, I find it really really really interesting that not a single poster has actually had the stones or the where-with-all to refute me. Awesome.

@Red,
I've never defended Paramount, nor will I. I simply point out the hypocrisy of the race-baiters involved.

"No where was it pointed out what Noah Ringer's ethnicity was."

And why should they, Red? BECAUSE you deem it so? You DEMAND to know who is the "correct race?" You then go on and on inferring M. Night and the studio are racist, and the continue to act like a racist yourself.

"If Ringer were half Asian (as it has been rumored but never confirmed)" #1, who started the rumors? #2, WHO THE #$%& CARES?!

"Under normal circumstances, no a persons race really isn't anyone's business. But this isn't normal circumstances."
That's right, because you, the almighty Red and your merry band racists think it is? Only you have the right to suggest what race someone is, and by proxy, what race is eligible to your fanboy notions? You can't even see past your own hypocrisy! "Ringer is playing a character who is ethnically East Asian when he himself is not." Do I have to requote you? I think I will anyway: "a persons race really isn't anyone's business"

Congratulations Red. Your Glenn Beck-like logic is astounding. "Why would they do that when a confirmation/denial would put these claims to rest and thereby allow them to save face?"

"If the president is REALLY an American, why can't he just prove he is by showing us his original birth certificate?"

Embarrassing. Absolutely frickin' embarrassing.

I'm going to the midnight showing tomorrow night. If it blows goats as some critics suggest, fine. But I'm not going to let a racist windbag mired in his/her hypocrisy talk me out making my own decisions.

Administrator (Gene Yang) 
Chris Long! Good to hear from you. Thanks for posting the link!

I've been following the reviews on Twitter. It sounds like a giant dookie log that's yellow on the outside, white on the inside.

Chris Long 
Check this out Mr. Yang!

http://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments ... nderit_is/

Red 
@Theo, there's something that needs to be made very clear.

When the casting was announced and challenged, Paramount went out of it's way to 'prove' that they were not racist. After McCartney dropped out (a wise move, I should say; he probably saved his career in the long run) and they cast Dev Patel (who was SECOND CHOICE), Paramount tried to make it look like the cast was 'ethnically diverse'. They went on and on about how many Asian and mixed actors they had in the crew; nevermind the fact that most of these actors were cast into non-essential, unnamed background roles, side characters and villains. No where was it pointed out what Noah Ringer's ethnicity was.

If Ringer were half Asian (as it has been rumored but never confirmed), Paramount would have stated this early on and taken away criticism. But they haven't. While M. Night stated that Noah had a 'mixed quality to him', that does not automatically mean he IS mixed race, specifically Asian.

Under normal circumstances, no a persons race really isn't anyone's business. But this isn't normal circumstances. The studio is being heavily criticized for hiring Caucasian actors when the characters are Asian and are accused of racial discrimination. Ringer is playing a character who is ethnically East Asian when he himself is not. Paramount has remained silent in that regard.

Why would they do that when a confirmation/denial would put these claims to rest and thereby allow them to save face?

Geoffrey Thorne 
I agree with your feelings and was never going to see this abomination from the moment I saw the casting.

This film is based on the single greatest cartoon series ever made in the US. Bar none. It is groundbreaking in its use of non-Western themes, rules-breaking in its structure, socially heroic in the world it presented and, damn it, it's just a good yarn.

As a black professional in entertainment I am acutely aware of the basic discriminations that run rampant in this industry. If blacks and latins have had to struggle for equal treatment over the decades (and we have) Asians have struggled just to be SEEN.

Consequently I was not only amazed that AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER got on the air, I was amazed at how iconoclastic and cutting edge it was and remains. It belongs on the shelf with HILL STREET BLUES, THE WIRE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and LOST. It is that groundbreaking and that amazing and, in fact, is superior to at least two of the others on that list.

Taoism and Buddhism in an American toon series? A planet that is composed entirely of Asians of different stripes (educating the ignorant that, in fact Asians come in all shapes and colors like the rest of us. SHOCKING.) A story with a beginning, middle and end in which characters change and grow according to what came before? Hell, put it on the shelf with NARNIA and MIDDLE EARTH.

The live-action treatment of this beautiful, heroic piece of art is a travesty. I will never see it.

kosta72 
M. Night Shyamalan is a racist. It's that simple.

Anon 
I can't wait for this movie!!!

Theo 
After my first post May 26, I have been astounded by the knee jerk reaction to anyone who disagrees with the boycott, as well as the inanity spouted by individuals like Baby Ruth and Gui-BR. Some of the dialogue is merely flaming opinion without any sense of civil discourse. I must admit that my first comment carried little effort in the way of dialogue and for that, I apologize.

But the thing that is missing from this entire question is an issue that I deal with on a near daily basis. All of you are presupposing you know Noah Ringer's race. How do you know what race he is? Because the studio didn't clarify his ethnicity in a press release? How arrogant and ultimately racist of you. If you think as glockgirl or bossymarmalade, then you yourself are a proponent of the very racism you CLAIM to battling against. For you to assume to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's white, is wholeheartedly, unabashedly, ignorantly racist.

I speak from experience as a mixed race individual who appears to many people, based on standard convention, to be white. Normally, I don't spout my ethnicity, because frankly, "it's none of your damn business." But I referenced my race in my earlier post to prove a point. I challenge any single one of you to tell me what race Cliff Curtis (Firelord Ozai) is. If you try, you're racist, you're no better than the idiots who spout the "colorblind society" mantra. It's not up to you to determine what race is he is. So far, he's performed as a Maori, Mexican-American, Colombian, Arab, Persian, and Chechen. Race is a self-defined term. If Tiger Woods wants to define himself as a Cablinasian, so be it. It's his choice. How dare you crown yourself as the determiner of ethnicity.

K. Chen 
Avatar: the Last Airbender is not just "Asian." It is quintessentially Asian-American: for example it uses the Western classical elements, not wood-fire-earth-metal-water. Which I guess makes the whole thing even more tragic.

I don't think the Last Airbender casting white actors is necessarily racism or even yellowface - at least not the malicious kind. I'm not offended by it - I'm just disappointed, because it is an example of cowardice. A great opportunity to produce movies that naturally lend themselves to Asian actors if they just have a little faith in the American moviegoer, and they obviously ran screaming from that moment.

Anson Jew 
I forgot to add this: a Dutch interview with Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Pay particular attention to the comments made at 1:45 :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI6uxIN_-HI

Anson Jew 
Somebody here is missing the point. Black people being required to sit on the back of the bus went on unchallenged in the South decades before Rosa Parks came on the scene. Things from the past that seem completely and obviously wrong to us today like segregation, burning witches at the stake, that the world is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth instead of the other way around...were thought of as completely normal and correct in their time and people who thought otherwise were considered kooks and way over the top! I'm suggesting that lightening murals to turn Mexicans white and casting white people as citizens of an Asian land land long ago (pre-colonial, before Europeans and Asians ever met) will be seen the same way.

Lopes 
And on a more sober comment, I'm with Devi here in comments. No Asia, no racism.

Bye.

Lopes 
hell, you people must be thrilled by a black actor playin a norse god in upcoming marvel's Thor, aren't you?

Sorry, man, but this is just bullshit. I'm watching the movie, and I'm hoping this "don't watch the last airbender" thing gets done. I'll have a more silent, confortable movie theatre to go to.

Thanks

Devi 
I haven't read all the comments. It's okay if you don't read mine. But I'd like to draw attention to a few things, particularly for those people who feel they need to be all indignant on here toward anyone who presents an opinion differing from the one presented in the comic:

1. Most cultures prefer to use people of their own ethnicity in movies for identification. I know the US is a melting pot, but I think the point is that the characters in the show have pretty pale skin - I am irritated that the Sokka and Katara casted are SO pale when their cartoon versions are darker in comparison to Aang. But if the kids are good actors, I can overlook this.

2. Dev Patel (Zuko) is not white. And he is a major heroic character, regardless of how his character starts out.

3. By boycotting the film, you're taking away money from the amazing people who made the show and own the rights and get royalties from the film, Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino.

And this is my biggest point:

4. There is no Asia in Avatar: The Last Airbender. There are Asian influences in the show, and yes things are based off Asian cultures. But no actual Asia. There is the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom, the Water Tribes, and the Air Nomads. None of them are Asian because Asia doesn't exist. Draw the parallels all you want, it's still fiction with fictional races. Yes it's a shame the Katara and Sokka they casted don't look EXACTLY like the animated characters, but oh well. I hope they do a good job of portraying the characters I love so much and telling a story that would look fantastic on screen.

I'll be there at the midnight release paying extra to see it on the special screens to make up for your bitching over racism that can't exist when the race doesn't exist in real life.

I'm a fan - I'm going to go watch a movie based on one of my favorite shows. Simple as that.

Peace.

London 
Good article. I am interested in the following: where do you download music and films? I download video and music here.


alichan459 
I don't suppose your update concerning permission to repost your comic (with all the proper citations, of course) extends to EVERYONE, does it? I'll take that as a 'yes'. ^___^

Baby Ruth 
To gen: For your info a**hole there HAVE been more than 'attempts' to whitewash black people from history like having Clint Eastwood play a cowboy who in real life was black and having Elizabeth Taylor playing 'Cleopatra'[rolls eyes!]so get your damn facts straight! Anson Jew you have to be the biggest DUMBA$$ on the damn planet! I highly doubt Rosa Parks was asked 'politely' to move and in case you are too STUPID to know black people were very much BEATEN for not moving when they were told. Contrary to your idea of white people being so f--king 'polite'!

Baby Ruth 
To John and JXN: F##K YOU this doesn't have a DAMN thing to do with black people and you stupid a$$holes are just trying to derail the damn argument!!! Well it won't work pricks and that goes triple for you Anson Jew and to compare this to Rosa Parks is not only VERY stupid but downright insulting! Last time I checked it wasn't BLACK people responsible for the casting or money behind this VERY big pile of dog-doo so who do you a-holes think you are kidding?!! And to the dummy whining about no black people in the 'companies' WHAT?!! Yeah but there WERE black soldiers fighting and vailiantly dying so dumb s**ts like you couls sit here and deny their existence and act like you are the ONLY damn people walking the Earth! Get over YOURSELF hypocrite!

jayjay 
Well, isn't it kind of racist of you not to want to see the movie because the actors are white. I agree that they should have had more Asian actors in the movie but I'm not going to boycott the film because their races are "Wrong."

JJ 
That is a fine comic you've made there. :)

JBH 
Thanks, Gene! I'm a big fan of American Born Chinese. My son's seventh grade class read it this year - and will be forwarding your comic on to his class...his teachers...and linking on Facebook! M. Night Shyamalan really missed a chance to promote fellow Asians.

Mr. B 
Nobody seemed to raise a fuss when the roles in Memoirs of a Geisha were mostly given to Chinese actresses.

Anson Jew 
Within the context of the many terrible things going on in the world today, purchasing a ticket for a movie with racist overtones made with racist hiring practices is, I agree, something of a small thing.

I will submit however, that within the context of it's time, a black woman not getting a seat at the front of the bus was also a small thing. People at that time probably wondered "What's the big deal? Nobody always gets to sit where they want on a bus at some time." Remember that for Americans of the time, this had long been a way of life. It's just the way things were. It wasn't like the cops would beat down a black person for sitting at the front of the bus; the driver would just politely ask you to give up your seat. The civil suits and boycotts and civil disobedience that were to come later on must have seemed excessive to the vast majority of people.

As the mural example illustrates, as well as Arizona's immigration and education policies, and recent comments by Rand Paul, and recent actions by Virginia's Governor and Attorney General, much of this stuff never really went away. We were just distracted.

Anson Jew 
Oops I meant to write:

Looks like Steve Blair and M. Night Shyamalan are birds of a feather.

Administrator (Gene Yang) 
Again, thank you to everyone for sharing your thoughts on this!

Anson, great to hear from you! I agree that discrimination is a deeply important issue. That second to last panel was more about... I guess I was just thinking about all the crazy natural disasters this past year and even the recent horrific incidents within the comics community. You have to agree that the whole Airbender thing pales in comparison. I felt like I had to pull my punches a bit in deference to those REAL tragedies where human lives were at stake.

And to be fair, Hollywood has come a long way since the Charlie Chan days, at least off-camera. There are plenty of prominent Asian Americans in key decision-making positions in the entertainment industry. This is a testament to good, courageous people who have worked in Hollywood over the past several decades.

That's what makes the Airbender casting so ridiculous. Yellowface is a racist, outdated practice that should have died out long ago. Now clearly it's not on par with what happened in Montgomery County before 1955. Not even in the same ballpark. And financially, it effects a very small group of Asian American actors. But it is STILL a slap in the face, an unnecessary reminder to Asian Americans that we are thought of as "other." It's not worth rioting over, but it is worth withholding the ten bucks it costs for a movie ticket.

Anson Jew 
Hey look! Racebending at school!

http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/presco ... ghten-chil

Perhaps Steve Blair and are birds of a feather.

MTEVC 
Thanks for your thoughts! I will be skipping the movie too. With so few images of Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics in movies, this is even more icky. The only minority images we usually get in movies are the miserable and tragic. Less Precious and more Airbender (with Asian heros, pleeeez)! Sheesh, I don't even really hate the wretched and goofy Tyler Perry movies. Not my cup of tea, but at least brown people aren't suffering in his movies.

Anonymous 
I support this, this movie is a blight on my pleasant memories of the animated show.

Anson Jew 
Great comic, Gene! Although I would tend to disagree with the statement "And in the grand scheme of things, racism in the casting of a Hollywood popcorn flick, no matter how blatant, really isn't all that important." Actually, it is. Someone getting their preferred seat on a bus or a seat at the sandwich counter of a local dining establishment is no more important in the grand scheme of things, yet people felt it was worth fighting for or even dying for. Because it's the principle of the thing.

Gui-BR 
You are so stupid, man! If you don't want watch the movie, just don't watch, can you don't be ridicullous? make a campaign, this is what the weak make, afraid of having the opnion of itself!

erica 
Aang have no asian eyes either Katara or Sokka. And this is not a traditional anime...not even a manga....! so, shut up...!
not even be made by an asian... com'on...
go do noise to another shit....

Min 
@Ryan

I clicked on the link and I read the whole thing. Great study! Mind if I share?

James 
@ Murph You only further prove my point regarding Kurtz. I was referring to his comments surrounding the backlash from raging supporters. You are clearly in that group.

I do think it's funny that you brought up the merit of his comments. It was as if you felt that you have more merit or something. Which to me, you lost well before you started using internet slang.

Ryan 
All those who are boycotting the film need to stay true to their word.
All those who are debating the film's defenders need to keep it up.
All those that speak out against this gross misrepresentation need to keep their heads up high.
All those who think this is an isolated incident and not at all discriminatory need to read this study:
http://news.illinois.edu/news/10/0421online.html

Murph 
@James

You think Scott Kurtz's privilege fueled false-equivalency has any sort of merit when it comes to the dismissal of asians in lead heoric asian roles? Are you frickin' kidding me?

Weaksauce. Total weaksauce.

Murph 
@Murph

er... note how it looks just like Gene's character

typo! :O

Murph 
@David

Those panels were representing Gene's inner "Devil's Advocate" speaking in defense of the movie, not how it looks just like Gene's character, but Aang-ified. I thought this was very much clear, I'm not sure how you've mistaken that as something else.

Joshua 
Thanks Gene! You're awesome!

tonyspeed 
While I am for boycotting, I do not believe anyone will care. Therefore, if I do go, I plan to go with my face painted yellow in silent protest.

JXN 
@Nomadic Tian
OK, little lady, you have a point. And I am well aware that "Moors" traveled Europe extensively, both as traders and diplomats. BUT, while they were dark skinned people we don't know for certain how many of them were actually black (Northern Europeans had a tendency to call anyone with Dark skin "black". Then again, many Southern Europeans don't consider themselves to be "white". Some Southern Italians for example. And apparently many Northern Italians agree: "Africa begins at Rome," is an old (racist) adage still heard today in Italy.). Or how far they penetrated into Northern Europe to ply their trade.
From what I understand the majority of "Moors" were North African (generally non-black) or non-African Arabs, and while there were undoubtedly black traders, etc., among them it's pretty clear that they would have been extremely thin on the ground. Plus, they wouldn't have been deeply assimilated into European society anyway owing to their religious preferences. They were mostly (think 80%) Muslim therefore most all of them would have been considered outsiders even if their appearance didn't mark them as such.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that there wouldn't have been a colony, country, or state of blacks in Europe back then. In fact, the majority of them would have been just passing through and not permanent citizens of England or Norway or wherever. Thus, their numbers as permanent residents could be seen as virtually nil. So, it would still be somewhat silly and anachronistic to include them as the questing heroes in a European fantasy setting. That goes double for the "Hobbit" movies since they are in league with the bad guys.

Tyler 
I think Gene's wife has the best response to all this:

"Shut up. They're gonna fight again"

Some people need to realize that not all of us base our love for the Avatar series on the fact that Aang is meant to be Asian or that Katara/Sokka are meant to be Inuit. If that's what really matters to you, then go ahead and boycott. But don't judge other people who are going to watch this movie just because they love Avatar for the character interaction, story line, and yes, fight scenes!

James 
@ Sharkman Thank you for this. This is exactly what I'm talking about. What good are you doing throughout this entire comments thread aside from trying to prove everyone else wrong? And doing so poorly at that?

Since I am clearly here only for the debate (Why was that one so hard to figure out?) I will give you the answers you seek, even though they were meant to be obvious in my post.

You wanted to know how I was being sarcastic in my post, but you've already answered that one yourself. Arlene didn't catch the fact that the empty seats was sarcasm, but you did. I don't recall saying the entire post was sarcastic, so I'll give you credit for answering that one.

As for your assessment of Hollywood, I've heard the "Women at the movies" line before. But really, if women go to more movies than men why should Hollywood see a problem with what they are doing? You are saying there's a ton of potential (and by you I mean whatever article you quickly searched on the internet) for Hollywood to grab that market, but at the same time they should further eliminate the ticket sales for men? Maybe you can link us your sources so we can see who this wise guru of marketing is that seems to have it all figured out.

I am truly glad you at least asked the question "What is a better way?". However, you did so sarcastically as if you already have the best way figured out. And this is probably the most frustrating part of this discussion. So many people who support Gene here are arguing with those who don't. Yet the purpose of the comic is only to raise awareness. It even says right in the strip that in the grand scheme of things racist casting is not all that important. Gene isn't trying to shove his views in other peoples faces, so why are you? Why is everyone in here, guns blazing, post flaming, arguing about it?

I'm somewhat glad to hear you gave a speech to your class about this, because, as I mentioned, bringing awareness should be your purpose here. I certainly hope, however, that you didn't turn people off with your speech by ranting as much as you have here.

I never asked for proof that your out there fighting for your cause. Rather, I questioned whether people are here for their cause more than for the debate. Pulling people's posts apart (albeit with lousy quotes and articles pulled from supporting sites and google searches) is done for the sake of the debate. And when it becomes a rant, it no longer supports your cause, and becomes solely a way for you to do battle with people who don't share your views.

The only difference here for me is that I AM here for the debate. Although I do not support racist casting in any way at all, I, like others, think it is a little rediculous that so many people here are jumping on the band wagon for this particular movie when it happens ALL THE TIME in other forms and places and yet no one starts a website or rants for hours. Hate on Kurtz all you want, but he brings up a valid point (perhaps not in Gene's case, but definitely for alot of people here). It's easy to take this movie as an example and boycott it for whitewashing. A little too easy to prove that you hold these anti-racist values for all your movie-going endeavors.


Ms. Robinson 
I was LOL @ your comments to Derek...right up until I clicked the PDF link and realized I NEEDED IT TOO. :)

I shared it with my students. Lively debate, I tell ya! Thanks again, Gene.

David 
Isn't drawing the last airbender supporters looking stupid and wearing Aang costume is an example of discrimination also?

handelsaurus 
Well done Gene! There is something about comics that makes this all the more persuasive. This stuff crossed my mind but I was unaware of the casting call descriptions. That tips it for me. No matter how much I want air conditioning this summer I won't be getting it from Airbender. Kudos, kudos to you

Nomadic Tian 
To JXN:

Kid, history check: there were black people in Medievel times. Once again, the scholars and school systems have kept that vital info from us for decades, hoping to blind us of our history other than swinging with the gorillas in the untamed primitive jungle of Africa in our loincloths.



JXN 
@ John The Hobbit won't have any Black people in it either. Are you going to boycott it? NO you are not. Did you boycott The Lord of the Ring? No? Why? Because The Hobbit is set in a medieval European fantasy world and there weren't any black people in medieval Europe. And since A:TLA is set in an ancient Pan-Asian fantasy world there shouldn't be any in the movie either. Come to think of it, there weren't any black people in airbender until people complained about the casting. And the black people who are the movie are just there as set dressing or worse. None of them are in lead roles, plus, apparently, they aren't important enough to have names and occupy only a small part of the Earth Kingdom. Whoopee, Black people get to be a token minority in a movie that shouldn't have any black people in it to begin with. . . Again. Whoo-Hoo!! What a historical moment! I'm going remember where I was when this happened for the rest of my life. I'm going to be sure to tell my grandchildren I was there when M. Night Syamalan made the most "diverse tent-pole movie ever" by casting people of color in the same roles(as extras, props, villains, and sidekicks) Hollywood always puts them in! It's the dawning of a new day I tell you!

Here's the thing, the people protesting this film aren't doing it because they want to see random people of color randomly tossed into bit parts. They also don't want to see them used as part of the set or just propped up in the background so the studio can claim to have made a diverse movie (something they would not have had to do if they had stuck to the creators' vision). And they don't want white people banned from starring in movies. No, what they wanted was Asians and Inuits and other related peoples to star in a movie based on their cultures. What they got was an all while cast and then later people of color thrown in as the villains and extras. (Yeah, Suki eventually becomes an important part of the team, but, in this movie she's just a glorified extra. And Zuko is still going to be seen a villain by anyone who isn't familiar with the story.) Make no mistake, this is not colorblind casting. Colorblind casting would have lead to them having some people of color as the leads from the beginning.


Sharkman 
@James

Sorry, were you responding to me? Arlene doesn't mention homework in her post, I do. What about your post even says anything sarcastic beyond the opening? I mean, the "more for us" thing doesn't quite matter because it can be achieved just by going to the movie at the right time, or a less popular theater.

Women go to more movies, but they still gear more movies toward men, Hollywood doesn't know anything about how to conduct their business. It's an anachronistic system ruled by nepotism and money and it doesn't give a damn about current social conditions.

What exactly are we supposed to do, though? Support a movie despite moral failings because there's some nebulous, "better" way to forward a cause? What is that "better way?" Dedicate ourselves to fixing the issue by going into the film industry and casting minority actors ourselves, when we might not have the talent, creativity, skills, funds, or desire to successfully do so in a system predisposed toward White actors?

How am I supposed to convince you that I'm also arguing against other movies, by the way? I did a friggin' speech for a class I took on this movie and Prince of Persia, is the burden of proof on me to track down the video they recorded?

I'm here because I do like the debate, and I think it's bull that Gene had to have so many commentators (including Scott Kurtz of all people) trying to drag down what he was saying.

Why are *you* here?

Jessica 
Thanks Gene for your comic. I know several people that still don't understand this boycott, but I think the values based here are honorable and worthy of people's attentions.

I'm not sure that many of the supporters in these comments are handling it quite as well as Gene. This debate becomes very unhealthy when you begin swearing at and insulting each other. I just wanted to ask the supporters to consider this when making their case. Proving you are right is not always the best way to bring someone over to your cause. I can understand that this issue can be very upsetting to some, but I think the best choice here is to keep things friendly. We protest in a boycott by abstaining, not by ranting.

James 
@Arlene I see you do not believe in sarcasm. Do you really think that (A) The Last Airbender movie will have trouble filling seats in theatres, and (B) That half the people voicing their protest in this forum are supporting anti-racism/discrimination by boycotting other films?

You can wave your 'homework' flag all you want. Hollywood knows better than you what will draw in movie-goers, and it is going to be flashy, cheesy effects where 90% of the people don't really even care about who has been casted.

I'm still having a hard time seeing why most of the people in this thread are arguing why their cause is just instead of pointing out better ways to fix the problem. And I'm still not convinced that you guys aren't just here because you love the debate.

Nezumi 
Gene, Thank you VERY MUCH for posting this comic and being awesome in speaking out on this! It is really great to see a comic artist like you tell it like it is!
I'm Japanese-American and an artist-in-training and when the casting happened, I was VERY appalled to see Paramount and M. Night just automatically make the characters we know and LOVED into the default 'white.' The reason I saw Avatar: TLA was because of the Water Tribe siblings, who are not only Inuit but are dark-skinned characters that you rarely see take the lead in anything and can handle everything themselves! Even worse, they go and SAY that 'anime is ambiguous'? I take it, these people have NOT seen a lot of anime or manga, and only the surface of it! I have read A LOT of manga (and seen a lot of anime), from Tezuka Osamu to current ones like Kikuchi Shouta, and in EVERY SINGLE one of them, despite the difference in art-style, the characters in them are all explicitly stated as being 'Japanese,' with certain artistic licenses in even make it OBVIOUS if a character is a foreigner! Even when I read Korean manwha and Chinese manhua respectively, their characters in there ALSO explicitly STATE that they are Korean or Chinese! 'The art-style of a comic should NOT be used as an 'assumption' that characters are the default 'white.' It really irks me to no end when I see people say something like, 'Durrr... Kurosaki Ichigo (of Bleach) looks white to me!' No, he is Japanese! How many white Americans run around with an OBVIOUS Japanese name?!

For the people that come here to tell Gene to 'shut up,' just... wow... So, why the HELL do you people come here for? Let people who voice an opinion express it! That's what the art of 'art' is! If you want to read a comic with no 'political' meaning, go read something in the Sunday papers like Garfield! ><;

PS Loved your American Born Chinese comic too! And, errr.... apologies for turning this into a rant...

Sharkman 
@Sandira

Congratulations, you've used the typical racism defense B-5, possibly B-1 and to an extent, C-7.

>>B. But!

1. POC do XYZ to themselves (so it’s ok that we also do XYZ)
5. POC can discriminate too!

C. Dismissal!

7. Racism has always existed, we can’t fix it, you should stop complaining.<<

The Art of Defending Racism

Thank you for playing.

Isaac 
Oh gosh, usually the people who get easily disgruntled the mention of whitewashing or racebending
are the guys who for some reason see offense as us protesting the notion of an all white cast, and in their eyes see nothing wrong with having Aang and the others played by white actors because of the big anime eyes and all these discrepancies with the anime style.

And are probably the same guys who don't know enough about facing up to their own privilege and ask questions like "DUrrr if there's a Black History Month, how come there's no White History Month" lol

Min 
Great comic! As an Asian myself, I fully understand the extent of whitewashing and yellowfacing in Hollywood. Over time, these practices have become an unfortunate Hollywood tradition. I hope that others who call us racists for finding flaws in casting a White person over an Asian person realize that we're not racists. We're just trying to fix a broken system that's unequal in representation. We're just trying to be equal. I speak for myself when I say that this movie is the best opportunity to really bring whitewashing to the forefront, being that it is a childrens movie being affected. We're speaking for the future!

Isaia 
"One thing I've noticed about Asians who see nothing wrong with this casting is that many of them are pretty much whitewashed themselves. They hold little to no value in their heritage and unconsciously probably don't even associate themselves as being Asian.

Or they're lazy uneducated selfish hipster gits who think we live in a color blind society because they live in an upper middle class neighborhood..."discrimination? whats dat?" "

That may actually be very true, Asa.

you don't have to be non-asian to be ignorant of the disturbing pattern of claiming color blindness and such.


Sandira 
Wow! Your voicing you issues about discrimination with some Hollywood kid movie. Discrimination have been happening everywhere. Come one guys white people are not the only one who discriminate. Aren't China have a long history of discrimination against Tibetan people and it's still goin on until now. And your all ranting because some Asian-American dude did not get a part from a fictional fantasy movie. Come on!



Denny 
I just bought a shirt and I am so ready to burn down paramount whenever you guys are!!!

I've been looking at different articles and facebook groups and youtube videos all week about this. i really wanna just get a crowd of dedicated and supportive people and really take a stand against this!!!

Asa 
One thing I've noticed about Asians who see nothing wrong with this casting is that many of them are pretty much whitewashed themselves. They hold little to no value in their heritage and unconsciously probably don't even associate themselves as being Asian.

Or they're lazy uneducated selfish hipster gits who think we live in a color blind society because they live in an upper middle class neighborhood..."discrimination? whats dat?"

Jerome 
Jesse Benjamin itchon king's comment basically boils down to 'lol, I'm a douchebag, LOL, watch me lol because it's the internet lol'. You're so witty Jesse, that you cross over into the stupid limit.

Gen 
@John, the difference here is that there haven't historically been systematic attempts to erase black people in the media by using almost exclusively Asian characters in Asian settings. (I say almost because it's unlikely the water tribe were supposed

There HAVE been and are systematic attempts to remove Asian people from the media even when Asian settings are used (e.g. Genghis Khan) in favour of white people.

Removing Asian visibility in favour of white people is very different to including Asian people but not black people, baggage-wise.

Not to mention, sequel is too little, too late. It assumes there will be one- not certain yet- and does nothing to soften the blow for people who only sit through the first one.

Dianne 
I'm Asian but I'm still watching this movie. I'm a huge fan of the series and the casting doesn't bothered me. I been dying to see the movie ever since they announce that their will be an adaptation. I love Dev Patel and I hope he gives justice to Zuko.

well, lets just respect each others decision. because we all know that everyone of us (even the racebending.com people or even Gene Yang) discriminate, either by their status symbols, gender, physical appearance, or religion.

John 
Um there weren't any black characters in the source material either, so clearly the cartoon was racist as well, right? I read an interview saying that M. Night actually intends to have black actors in the film. How does this jive with your boycott?

I agree that Hollywood has a frequent bias toward white actors but there are a LOT better examples than this film. Also, I don't think it's fair to judge something that hasn't even been released yet.

Permission 
I agree with the comics 100%.

I just want to ask permission to post this on Facebook.

Please.

Gen 
Well personally, thank you for posting this.

I'm sick and tired of 'colour blind' casting that brings a suspiciously large number of white people to the main parts and PoC to the villains and minor parts.

Anyone who thinks ignoring race (and therefore racism) is OK read this. http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/02/ho ... cist-kids/

Using Asian culture for ~exotic~ flavour but refusing to use the people because they're not as important as white people getting use of their cultures is racist, end of.

Joe H 
To say that Aang is depicted as "white" in Airbender, is like saying Gene Yang is depicting himself as white in this comic. Or that the Japanese characters, who are specifically described as Japanese, in Code Geass are white. It's a complete lack of understanding of how cartooning works, and worse, a disturbing lack of concern of racial issues in our times.

MRCAB 
I'm with your Gene!!!!

Boycott!!!!

[It's hard not to reply to people comments]: "Hollywood isn't out to uphold a racist ideal. Hollywood is out to make money." --And you're okay with this? Profiting off of discrimination and Institutional racism? You're okay with this? You know, you don't have to by this; you don't have to support it, just bcz their goal is to make money.

Lets tell them we're not buying their crap, and maybe next time they will get it right!!!!

Isaia 
I'm sorry that you're getting a lot of complaints from people who won't even look at the blatant casting issue as actual things that hurt people in real life just because it's harshing on their fan squee, Gene.

I have friends who are excited about the movie, not so excited, and heavily against it.

It's like election day, lol.

But this comic portrays exactly how I feel, and I thank you for putting it out there for awareness sakes.

Sharkman 
@Matt:

"Also, I enjoy how it okay for other races to get changed, but when its this movie it must be a horrible wrong against the world and everyone involved should be put in front of a firing squad. Nice Hypocracy."

I really wanna know just what the hell that statement is supposed to mean.

Fine, perhaps I should have phrased something more specifically or relied less on the works of somebody else, but do you realize that race isn't the only thing that Anime/Manga styled drawings depict, right? Large expressive eyes are part of a way to symbolize youth and innocence, it's something that's a part of almost any animation, Japanese or not.

Also, I don't recall saying every Anime/Manga relies on the use of the style to depict race. There are just as many works that support what I said as there are those that don't rely on it.

(Also, Auska from Evangelion was part-Japanese, and using G-Gundam, an Anime almost entirely reliant on ethnic and national stereotypes doesn't exactly work in your favor.)

@James

I take it you haven't even bothered visiting the protest movement's website. You do realize that we've expanded our scope to include things like the recent Prince of Persia and upcoming films like 47 Ronin (starring Keeanu Reeves) or the upcoming Ghengis Khan movie starring Mickey Rourke? How about the very long list of other movies that got white-washed going as recently as 21 and Extraordinary Measures and going as far back as the Charlie Chan movies starring Walter Orland?

Maybe before you rattle off about hypocrisy, you should do your homework.

Also, what exactly is so uniquely Western about these characters? The creators say they based Aang off a young Chinese boy performing in a Shaolin acrobatics show in their artbook. What is so uniquely and "heavily" Western that it completely negates the many Eastern traits of the characters themselves and the world they live in?

How about how you say that most of the boycotters are gonna see the movie in theaters and pay for it anyway? Do you even have a concept of what conviction is?

Arlene C. Harris 
Here's what I don't get, all the people going "there's no Asia in that world so how can they be Asians?"

Newsflash: there's no Europe either, so how can you justify (re)populating the world with peach-skinned, light irised, button nosed Brat Packers without just coming out and saying "Caucasian is the default race, nothing else exists or can exist in a fantasy setting"



Arlene C. Harris 
@James: hope that means you're also going to buy up the tickets that go along with the empty seats? Otherwise, the whole "more for us" thing kind of loses its power. Studios don't care how much you love something, only how many butts they can put into seats and how much repeat business they can get out of you.

You can't claim to support this film unless you're willing to make up for the rest of the lost revenue personally out of your own pocket. You can't pick and choose how much to support this film. You either have to see it over and over and over again to boost the ticket sales, or you're a hypocrite.

Prove *me* wrong. With receipts.

Enjoy your show.

JXN 
@Matt How are your examples relevant? The Airbender protesters are mad because Asian and Inuit characters were whitewashed, not because random people were inserted to make the movie more "diverse".

And just what is your definition of racism? Are you saying it's racist to want movie characters to be the same race as the characters in the show/book/story it's based on? By that reasoning it would be racist to only cast white guys as James Bond (It's not, of course. Why? Because Bond is WHITE!). Maybe you should send a protest letter to UA.

Matt 
No offense shark dude, but only about half of the characters in Code Geass were European if that many, yet facially you can't tell the difference. Facial the only difference of the german character in G Gunbam and Evangelion is a mask and red hair respectively. I don't care what some person said where there is so many inconsistencies in these points in your article. Not to mention most of those are opinion based anyways. Here are some great examples of animes that your quotes don't support.

Evangelion: 02's pilot has red hair and is of german decent (Characters that are Japanese can have red hair).

G Gundam: The German pilot has a mask but appears facially similar to Japanese characters.

Samurai Deeper Kyo: The German character has eye colors that are different colors.

Gundam 00: The Irish pilot looks exactly like all the Japanese people and he clearly from IRELAND AND THEY MAKE IT A HUGE PART OF THE CHARACTERS STORY.

Code Geass: Mostly all the characters look exactly the same and we have an Indian person, British from different parts of the world (South Africa, Britain, America), Japanese, and Chinese.

Also, I enjoy how it okay for other races to get changed, but when its this movie it must be a horrible wrong against the world and everyone involved should be put in front of a firing squad. Nice Hypocracy.


Miranda Salas 
Your comic is very good, and went straight to the point. Long ago I decided I won't be seeing The Last Airbender in theaters although I'm a huge fan of the show as well. I've been spreading this same message to people I know, and I've received comments of how I just should shut up and stop whining. Anyway, I'm very glad to know that actually there's people out there than understand the problems of this film and many others.
Keep the good work!!

Jane 
@JXN I think I dislike posts linking Moff's Law almost as much as I dislike posts that fall victim to it.

I mean really, does Moff need to do all the thinking here? ;)

skeeter 
I swear it was right after reading this post that Jonathan Price in "Miss Saigon" came up on shuffle on my iPod.

JXN 
@GreyWyvern Moff's Law:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... le0gw4lvn5
http://www.racialicious.com/2009/12/21/ ... moffs-law/

James 
I, for one, am very pleased to see that many hypocritical boycotters will not be filling up the seats at this movie! More spots for the rest of us!

I say hypocritical because, as in many boycotting attempts, you can't truly be against something if you are choosy with your boycot. In other words, if you've got a problem with Airbender casting, there's a ton of other movies you should be bringing to people's attentions in your effort to bring racial equality to Hollywood.

This seems to me like a chance for people to vent. If you really care about discrimination in Hollywood, then you should probably give up on watching movies. If you just care that the movie sticks as close to the show as possible, then you need to get over yourselves. ALL characters in the show were HEAVILY influenced by western culture, and though they may be an attempt to reflect specific races/cultures, they are by no means bound to them at all in the show.

Ultimately, I realize that most of the people here who say they will boycott this movie will be watching them in theaters after release. Sadly, this is the most hypocritical part of this discussion. I beg you all to prove me wrong so that I can enjoy this movie without some useless grumbling from the people around me as they consider the color of the actors' skins.

Kira O 
Great comic, Gene, and clearly articulated points. I don't plan on seeing the The Last Airbender movie at all; I refuse to support racism in Hollywood. Although it might not change anything, we have to at least stand up for what we feel is right.

Mal 
Very, very well-put. And I agree completely and am definitely not seeing this racist failfest come July.
Thank you for bringing attention to this madness. The more people who know, the better. :)

Jinian 
Great work. Thanks so much for bringing extra attention to this, and in such style, too!

idontgetit 
How does one get from a fantasy cartoon that these characters are any more Asian than any other fantasy cartoon race? I think there is alot of inference by people who watched the show, but there is nothing that specifically says any race of real life human people was exactly the same race as some flame or air throwing cartoon ones.

skylar 
I totally agree with you. I will not be watching this movie when it comes out. Racebending is wrong.

JXN 
@Tanner Noah Ringer is not half Asian. If he were the studio would have let the world know by now.

Kenneth 
Thank you for giving voice to this issue. Too many people are just ignoring the problem, saying "race shouldn't matter." Well, it does matter, and it needs to be addressed.

So yeah, thanks. :)

Em 
Beautifully eloquent, very witty comic - I particularly enjoyed the panel of your wife hushing you and "But those are made by child labor!"

Boycotting.

mordicai 
I am going to see it. I agree with all the points; heck, I agree that boycotting it is a reasonable response. Frankly, I'm happy for the dialogue. So many other similar situations go by unnoticed, unlamented. I like that there is a teachable opportunity. I like that kids are going "wait, WHAT?" all on their own. I just am not appalled enough to boycott. Appalled enough to write letters & engage in discussion! But I still want to see it. I want to give it a chance.

Carl 
Just wanted to thank you for your comments regarding this issue. It still baffles me that people who claim to be fans of the series think that a kid named Aang dressed like a buddhist monk who spends his time in places like Bao Sing Se, Gyaloing, and Kyoshi who interacts with people named Xin Fu, Toph Bei Fong, Katara, Soko, Zuko, who writes in Chinese character and is drawn in a Japanese Art Style is white.

To not notice the racism or lack of care or concern for this series that almost makes me regret the fact that I could enjoy something that so many oblivious people somehow also enjoy.

geekteachermabbayad 
Ah, this same old thing has been done a number of times.

If you're a fan of Bruce Lee, I'm sure you've heard how he was not given the role of Cain in "Kung Fu" all because the producers believe he is "too Asian." And so they gave the role to David Carradine.

But how reliable are your sources on the Airbender issue?I hope this isn't made up by some frustrated or betrayed person or body.

Jesse Benjamin itchon king 
Lol this must be a joke! Lol I'm so like at lost for words with the Asian community and for sure I'm goingt to see it! This movie is going to be so great its going to be a trilogy and taf will be an Asian girl and ridiculous people like you won't waste you're time to try and Change an industry that already supports the Asian people seriously you think you can make people who own paramount to becomea democracy lol this guy is hilarious and I know were all going to Be hypocrites and see it lord I love America especiall Asian Americans!! Lol amazing I'm crying so hard lol and laughing being of Asian decent mixed. It went from the way the casting script was typed. To now the actors which we haven't seen act at all to see if the characters were done justice lol man people of color make a rise out of any thing i feel ashamed to say I fight for human rights and how we can fit in by being our selves who but we sure can make some noise on a movie that is going to do great and doesn't mean a thing when this is all said and done! Way to go! We got a bunch of people to sign a petition to remake a movie with an all Asian cast! OMG wait I forgot I'm a millionaire and own a movie industry let me toss the millions i put into this movie and marketing to listen to a bunch of people who can spread this word on this movie more when really these people could find a answer to why aren't our other Asian actors pay it forward? HMmmm... i wonder!! The world may never know lol seriously seriously ! Lol

Anna W. 
Thank you so much for this post. By now you've heard from a number of people reciting the same tired excuses for the (indefensible and inexcusable) casting of <i>The Last Airbender</i> as have been recited before, the same arguments trotted out time and again when someone challenges this sort of insidious racism. I hope, very much so, that they will be few in comparison to those thanking you for this and showing their support for the boycott.

I and my family will not be supporting this film in any way whatsoever, for the reasons you have so simply and so eloquently laid out here: to support this film is to support the messages it sends, that the fetishization of Asian and Inuit cultures is a-okay but Asian and Inuit heroes and heroines are not, that it's all right to take a world in which all the characters dress in garments traditional to various Asian cultures and live in houses designed like those traditional to various Asian cultures and write in classical Chinese and eat with chopsticks and a thousand other things all clearly and undeniably evocative of the Asian cultures from which the world of <i>Avatar: the Last Airbender</i> was so carefully derived and to then repopulate that world with white heroes (and dark-skinned villains, natch).

That isn't a-okay. That isn't all right. And that's why I won't be supporting this film.

jane 
Thank you for your continued vocal protest against <em>The Last Airbender</em> .

Jackie 
Thank you so much for making this comic, Gene. I literally lol'd at the panel where you tried to tell your wife about the Fire Nation's parallels to Japan during the Meiji Restoration and she hushed you. I hope that's not how it really happened.

Don't let the pro-movie people and others who excuse the whitewashing of the series get you down. You and everyone else who sees the problems with the casting are right.

Hopefully with the fact that the movie looks to be Avatar: The Last Airbender in name only, Shyamalan's numerous film disappointments, and the bad press the movie is getting, therre won't be any more movies. And someone with the proper love and understanding of the series will do it right in the future.

sailorKa 
I don't think anyone has ever made this connection but you know what? This is exactly why Marjane Satrapi ended up making her comic-adaptation of PERSEPOLIS to the big screen an ANIMATED FILM instead of a live-action one. Producers were "really excited" about "the story" and were willing to pay her big, big bucks for it but from the get-go they were talking about casting BRAD PITT and other such white actors in the movie and she was like, you know? Maybe Brad Pitt would bring in more people than a cartooned movie would but THESE ARE IRANIAN CHARACTERS, and people are bound to forget that if all they're seeing are a bunch of white actors whining about the Iranian Revolution. SO, she decided to politely decline and sat on her work until the opportunity arose to have her movie made into an animated film - with her characters looking like the ethnicities they belonged to in the first place.

Avatar? I am disappoint.

--k

Steve B. 
The idea that little non-Asian kids could never relate to or root for Asian characters is the worst kind of cowardly corporate thinking. It has no basis in human psychology. If people really need race-appropriate heroes to enjoy a movie, then how on earth is Star Wars such a giant phenomenon in Asia? There isn't an Asian face in the entire saga! Don't those non-white audiences realize that they're supposed to be turned off by all those white faces? Apparently not.

I think there's a little bit of racial arrogance at work here. Almost as if the thinking is "well of course those foreign people look up to us, we're superior! But for us to look up to them would be improper."

The act itself might not be a big deal in the cosmic scheme, but the thinking behind it is indeed offensive. Even to a white person like me who isn't supposed to relate to Gene's Asian angst.



Mirai 
Thank you very much for this post!

I could go on and on about this casting, but everyone seems to have said it already, so I'll put it simply: Is it so wrong to want Asian actors to play Asian characters?

I don't think so. If Asian characters were cast in the first place, NO ONE would be complaining about it. The fact that this has become such an issue is proof that something is very, very wrong with this movie.

Sharkman 
@Matt

If you'd bothered to read the article I'd linked you, you might have actually made a point that wasn't already addressed by the author.

Or hell, forget the article, you didn't even bother to read the second paragraph I'd quoted. Here it is again:

>>>>Interestingly, in a manga in which Chinese or European characters are the majority, such as a story set in China or Europe, majority characters are generally drawn exactly as Japanese characters would be drawn in a manga set in Japan, without any racial stereotyping at all. In the context of such a story, the Chinese or European characters are not Other, and markings of Otherness would be superfluous. The artist would make the foreign setting obvious through names, clothing, customs, architecture, and “props,” rather than burdening every character with stereotyped racial features, which would limit her ability to distinguish characters from each other, and would also make it difficult for readers to identify with protagonists. Furthermore, if a Japanese character appears in such a story, she will usually be marked visually as Japanese, although usually only by black hair and eyes. (Readers are often expected to identify with such characters, and more exaggerated markings would interfere with that identification.)<<<<<

Code Geass and Full Metal Alchemist are good examples of that.

So way to go, Mr. Reading Comprehension, you didn't even finish reading half of what I'd said.

As for actors, nobody complained about the Harry Potter cast because J. K. Rowling was involved in the movie's production, including when they found Daniel Radcliffe. The actors were white and British, so were the characters, I don't see much fault, there. Braveheart saw a rise in Scottish *Nationalism* and anti-British sentiments, but the actors they had were pretty much all White, with Western European ancenstry, they could all easily pass as British or Scottish, so the issue of Nationality, not Ethnicity, was the problem.

Inserting a black character here or there in a war movie that's meant to be Historical Fiction isn't a stretch of the imagination, nor is it the same as casting a white actor to play a non-white character.

If we're trying to make something that's fantasy into reality, and it never works, then why does Shyamalan always talk about how he's grounding the series and the characters? Do you realize that the fantasy argument can go both ways? This is a fantasy Asian world, everything says so both within the series and without, why *shouldn't* that extend to the people in it? It's not so unbelievable. It's like how Lord of the Rings was a British fantasy world.

Casting a white kid to play the specifically Japanese Shinji Ikari would also still be a problem, because at the absolute least, it doesn't match the original. If you'd actually cared to take the lesson of the essay I'd linked you to heart, you might have actually learned that there's more to a character than how something like a stylized cartoon depicts them.

And still, Avatar is such a specific fantasy. Every aspect of it is taken from East Asian and Inuit cultures, with specific examples tied in just as often as fantasy ones, so why is it so diffuclt to assume that doesn't also apply to the people's faces? Why does it make sense to say "oh it's just a fantasy" when it's one of the few fantasies created specifically so they could use a non-European framework? (I should add, one of the other fantasies to do this, "A Wizard of Earthsea," by Ursula K. LeGuin, was also whitewashed when it came time for it's live-action adaptation.)

Reality needs an element of fantasy to make our fiction interesting. Fantasy needs an element of reality to keep our fiction believable.

Ignoring race at a time when it still has social implications allows transgressions to slip by.

Karen Krajenbrink 
I just wanted to write in support of your comic Gene. I'm mixed blood, Indonesian and Dutch, and spent the better part of my childhood being asked WHAT I was (native american, iranian, hispanic, latino, japanese, etc).

Here's the kicker, when the casting call went out, the casting director's words were probably the most hilarious of them all:

"We want you to dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire," [Deedee Rickets, the casting director for the film] said. "If you're Korean, wear a kimono."

Mm. Oh and if you're Belgian, wear lederhosen.

Brilliant words.

The biggest problem with Hollywood is that movies are ruled by executives and marketing departments (the reason all you Avatar fans don't have a Katara or Toph action figure? Because marketing departments have determined that action figures are strictly for boys and girls want dolls not action figures). All these folks calling you out over "It's not racist!" need to get over themselves. Racism is alive and well. And the only way to combat it is not supporting those types of companies, movies, and people.

To the comments that state that all the voice actors for Avatar were white, I'd point out Dante Basco and Mako Iwamatsu. If you don't know who they are, you're definitely not a fan of Avatar.

Cheers Gene. You've got my support! :)
-Karen

John 
Great comic Gene, but sadly many Avatar fans (and quite a few non-fans) are too stubborn to see the issue and thus will do anything to cover their ears to our arguments. They desperately want an Avatar: The Last Airbender movie and they don't want us "ruining their fun" by protesting the movie and trying to make it bomb. Due to all these people, chances are low that our protest will cause this movie to bomb, but fortunately, this movie looks to headed into the direction of suckiness. Many of those fans who support this movie now will be soon bashing M. Night and this movie for sucking and being a poor adaption. As for people who are not fans of the show, well, they'll hear word of how awful this movie is and will not bother with it. Also, can't forgot the people who have already given up on M. Night.

Emilee 
Excellent post on the issue.

Honestly, this doesn't just speak volumes about the way Hollywood sees minorities (which has been discussed by people far more eloquent and educated on the issue than I am), but also the way it sees the white moviegoer, who they seem to think is their main source of income. If they cast whites because they're "more marketable," then it just goes to show that Hollywood actually believes that the majority of white people will only see a movie if it stars people who look just like them. This complete lack of faith in their audience's intelligence and empathy extends to the point of completely rewriting characters that originally <i>had</i> their own distinct non-white identity. If you don't want to perpetuate Hollywood's belief that most of us Caucasians are too stupid and racist to identify with a character of another race, please, boycott this movie and others like it.

Racism aside, it seems like Shyamalan and I don't see eye-to-eye on what the show is actually about. Avatar could be serious at times, but nearly everything I've heard from the man's interviews demonstrates that he doesn't think a story is worth telling unless all lightheartedness is brutally stripped from it until it's an unrecognizable shell of its former self. He's so focused on making this franchise his own Star Wars or Harry Potter that it's no longer the Avatar I love, and, as such, I see no reason to support a misguided and racist mockery of an excellent work.

JXN 
@Andrew

First: you've hit every invalid talking point used by the supporters of this movie. Allow me to present our rebuttals:
http://glockgal.livejournal.com/375625.html
http://bossymarmalade.livejournal.com/473759.html

Second: Yes, Noah Ringer was chosen because he sent in a video of himself showing off his taekwondo and karate skills. But, he was also chosen (mostly) because he had light skin, shaved his head and kind of looked like Aang to the casting person(s). Of course, any cute, thin, light skinned 12 year-old would look like Aang if you shaved his head. The fact that he was chosen for his martial arts skills above other kids talented in Kung Fu just proves part of what the protesters have been saying, i.e., the people who made the movie have no respect for the original. Why? The martial art Aang uses in A:TLA is bagua zhang. It's an art that uses circular movements, open hands and few kicks. It's perfectly suited for airbending. Noah Ringer practices taekwondo which is more about kicking. Most Bending (especially air) is done with the hands. Ringer's training did not give him the skills needed to do Aang justice. In fact, he apparently wasn't able to do all the moves required. If the movie makers had done any research at all the would have been looking for a kid who knew Kung Fu and could at least fake the bagua zhang. Instead they hired a kid, without the appropriate skills, mostly for his looks.

BTW, in the end they had to hire a stunt person to do most (maybe as much as 80%) of Ringer's fight work for him. I'm not even talking about the dangerous stuff. She had to sub for some of his "beauty" shots too. The really funny part of it is that the person they hired to be martial arts Aang is Asian American. Her name is Jade Quon. Look her up. They used CGI to put Ringer's face on her body so people wouldn't notice. Looking at the trailers it doesn't quite work. Oh, and if you're thinking, "Of course they hired a stunt person!! He's a kid!", that doesn't fly. Chloë Grace Moretz, Hit Girl from the film Kick-Ass, wasn't a martial artist, but, she still did almost all of her own fight work and all but the most dangerous bits of Hit Girl's biggest stunts. Ringer can barely pretend to throw air at someone.

Third: In case you're one of those people who falls back on, "They got the best actor", let me just say this: They didn't. Ringer had no acting experience or training before he was cast as Aang. Even M. Night Shyamalan himself admits that Ringer needed acting lessons. Most people who have seen the test screenings of Airbender say that none of the three leads are good and Ringer is the worst of the bunch. Yep, they really got the most talented actors there, eh?

Arlene C. Harris 
Thank you for pointing out the stupidest in a long line of stupid counterarguments that have been thrown at anyone even considering that there might be a problem with the movie casting:

"Don't you want to live in a colorblind society?"

FUCK no! I want to see the colors. I want to see ALL of them! Even the ones not in my chapter of the Pantone Swatch Book. Who the hell wants to see LESS of the world?

People get all wrapped up in the "color" part of the phrase and forget the whole "blind" part. Why not go all the way and put forks in your eyes? That'll show 'em!

Seriously, wtf.

Rock on, Mr. Yang, rock on.

Lotje 
Thank you. Baby steps to a better future, right? People who don't get it will see the light and your comic rocks.

Definitely not seeing this movie.

Matt 
I think that everyone that is boycotting this movie on race is ridiculous and racist. No one complained when Braveheart was racial incorrect. No one complained when war movies are cast with black people that for a fact weren't in the companies that are in the film, or asians, or indians, or french people. When you watch a movie you are supposed to suspend disbelief and all the concept of realism so that a movie that is a FICTIONAL STORY can immurse you into it's world, story, concepts and beliefs. You people are taking a story and trying to turn it real, which never works. I don't you people raging about that cast of Harry Potter and the like! I don't see people complaining that Black Widow was played by a valley girl!

Here are two important snippets:

> It should come as no surprise, then, that Japanese readers should have no trouble accepting the stylized characters in manga, with their small jaws, all but nonexistent noses, and famously enormous eyes as “Japanese.” Unless the characters are clearly identified as foreign, Japanese readers see them as Japanese, and it would never occur to most readers that they might be otherwise, regardless of whether non-Japanese observers think the characters look Japanese or not.

When non-Japanese characters appear in a manga in which most characters are Japanese, that character will be differentiated from the others with stereotyped racial markers of some kind. For example, a character of African descent may be shown with pronounced lips, frizzy hair, and shaded skin. A European character may be shown with a pronounced nose and jutting jaw.

I read this and Mountain Dew shot out of my nose. I suggest you watch the show Code Geass for one, maybe two, episodes and explain how I can tell that the main character, Leleouch, is not japanese by look. He looks like every other popular manga/anime character that you said is "japanese" by knowledge when the story of the show explicitly states he is a prince of BRITIAN.

Just so you know people like you guys that make me hope that a Evangeleon movie never comes out because the poop-storm of racial bigotry that is going to fly out of your mouths when Shinji is played by a white kid that looks like the character in the anime.

Final thought: Watch the movie with a suspension of disbelief and see if it is good. Ignore race for 2 hours and maybe, just maybe, the movie could surprise you.

GreyWyvern 
"Then I question your taste in movies."

Unlike some people, I don't always stop at the theatre doors and mull over whether I will find a movie intellectually stimulating before deciding to purchase a ticket.

Sometimes I just want to be entertained, or check out what passes for state-of-the art wrt motion picture special effects these days. Heck, I went and saw Cameron's Avatar too! Can you believe it?

Murph 
"That being said, I will probably watch the movie just to see the special effects. At least those look like they are staying true to the animated series."

Then I question your taste in movies.

"Hollywood will always be like this" is not an acceptable answer.

I want more.

I. Want. More.

Murph 
"The actor playing Aang is half-asian."

No he isn't. Stop spreading nonsensical net rumors.

If that was even a possibility it would have been mentioned in the producers' months-delayed response letter to MANAA in which they rattled off how 'diverse' the secondary, background characters, and extras were.

Stop.

GreyWyvern 
You can pitch two kinds of films in Hollywood: those designed to make money, and those designed to become (cult) classics. Which do you think studio execs are going to be more likely to turn down?

The target audience for TLA is children, and if you start doing things that push a film into "classic" territory, such as hiring actors racially consistent with the source material or introducing an emotionally complex storyline, etc. then kids just aren't going to get it, or like it, or pay for it. Kids want to see fight scenes and Sokka getting slobbered on by Appa.

The only reason it worked in the original series was because the writers had the opportunity to spread out the delicious complexity, which captivated so many adults, over a much longer amount of time, interspersed with heavy comic relief to keep the kiddies occupied.

It's sad but true, but anyone who thought that a live-action TLA was destined to become anything other than a cookie-cutter FRANCHISE has been fooling themselves since the series ended.

That being said, I will probably watch the movie just to see the special effects. At least those look like they are staying true to the animated series.

Tanner 
The actor playing Aang is half-asian.

It's a little racist to just assume he's white, just because he looks it, no?

Bing 
Thank you for this.

Jason 
White guy here. Just wanted to say I agree with you 100% and will not be spending my money on the movie despite being a fan of the show.

That is all.

Kuhnsy 
The idea of "Piratebending" was floated on the blog to which I contribute. Piratebending is an economic protest in which you torrent, stream, or borrow a film, book, etc. that you would have normally bought. It's not strictly morally clean, but if you want to fight dirty it's definitely a spit in the eye.

Administrator (Gene Yang) 
"I agree with the sentiments of many who disagree with me about this."

Eesh. That just reads like a dumb sentence. What I mean is, I can see where a lot of you who disagree with me are coming from.

Administrator (Gene Yang) 
Like I said in the last panel, thank you for hearing me out. I appreciate you reading my comic and sharing your thoughts.

I agree with the sentiments of many who disagree with me about this. In an ideal world, race shouldn't matter. Unfortunately, the casting decisions behind The Last Airbender movie show that it does. Actors of Asian descent are the most obvious choice for Asian characters. By stating a preference for white actors from the get-go, Paramount displayed a bias against Asian-American actors.

This sort of Yellowface has a long history in Hollywood, from Charlie Chan to Breakfast at Tiffany's to David Carradine in Kung-Fu. In each of these instances, white actors were cast in Asian roles because Asian-American actors were deemed inadequate for American audiences.

I am saddened that it still happens today. I chose to speak out about The Last Airbender movie because I'm a fan, but there are plenty of other modern-day examples of Yellowface. There's the 2003 movie Bulletproof Monk, the 2008 movie 21, the 2009 Dragonball Evolution movie.

Extaordinary Measures, to be released later this year, is yet another example. This movie is based on a real-life event where a Taiwanese American scientist by the name of Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen developed the Pompe cure. In the movie, however, his name is changed to Dr. Robert Stonehill and he is played by Harrison Ford. This is like casting Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead in a George Washington Carver biopic. The only difference is, in the George Washington Carver example, people would actually care and the movie would never be made.

Nick Marino 
Look, to all the naysayers calling out Gene for taking a stand against this movie -- sure, there are lots of arguments you could make against him that basically amount to him being hypocritical. But the fact remains that the producers behind this film took a multi-ethnic, culturally complex animated epic and turned it into a white-versus-brown blockbuster movie. The actors portraying the Fire Nation aren't all Indian or all Middle Eastern or all anything... the only thing they have in common is that they're brown. And that wouldn't have even happened if the original casting choice for Zuko had stayed on-board. And the cultural insensitivity that this film was made with doesn't just apply to the main casting decisions. There were newspaper articles that ran quotes from the extras casting director saying ridiculously ignorant things. Even Shyamalan himself has said stupid stuff in regards to his casting choices (just check out his i09 interview for examples). This movie is not the same Avatar: The Last Airbender I fell in love with when it was an animated series. Instead, it's like some bizarre and terrible theatrical adaption that distorts the reality of the story... just like the one the characters go to see themselves in Book 3, Chapter 17 (Ember Island Players). I hope this movie bombs and the franchise gets cut off early. Avatar: The Last Airbender is probably my favorite animated series of all time, if not my favorite series of all time, and the fascinating world it inhabits deserves to be treated with more respect if it's going to become a live-action film series.

Allie 
A simple, effective laying-out off the issue. Thank you! I've long been an admirer of your work.

I really hope to convince everyone I know to give this film a pass. I don't understand why people (see DTH, there) find it so hard to wrap their heads around.

I encourage anyone who thinks that characters in ATLA "look white," or who think this does not matter, to visit racebending.com before you become defensive. They lay the details of the issue out comprehensively and answer the questions and challenges you may be inclined to throw around. Try to keep an open mind.

CbC 
Like most people posting comments here, I love the series. It has a rare depth, consistency and detail to it that few shows ever achieve. But I'm very disappointed in the direction the film has taken and I will be boycotting.

I'll admit, being of Asian descent I felt a certain pride that a lot of the writing and action is based on Asian culture, philosophy and martial arts. What hurts is the implication that no matter how great or wonderful or beautiful something is, North American audiences can't/won't accept it, or relate to it, without a white face. How are we non-whites supposed to feel about that? How are we supposed to be part of a culture that doesn't want to see us?

It's just a movie to some, but it means a whole lot more to others.

Andrew 
I mean no offense, but this could just as easily be turned around on you: You are boycotting a film because the characters are being portrayed by actors who are not the race you preferred. Honestly, that's no different. The thing is, race SHOULDN'T be an issue at all. It shouldn't have been an issue for them, but it also shouldn't be an issue for you.

Anyway, I honestly think it's not such a big deal. These are fictional cultures. Furthermore, I think you're completely misinterpreting "Caucasian or any other ethnicity". This entire comment seems designed to show "oh, and we DON'T just want white guys". In the end, Noah Ringer was cast because of his martial arts prowess, not his skin color.

Plus, neither Aang, Sokka nor Katara in the cartoon look Asian or Inuit at all. In fact, despite his culture, Aang looks Caucasian. In fact, Noah Ringer LOOKS like the cartoon character of Aang. The skin color change for Sokka and Katara bothers me a bit, but considering the members of the other water tribe have been predominantly cast as people of color, and the fact that I've seen Jackson Rathbone blow acting vets out of the water by how good he is, I'm willing to give it he benefit of the doubt.

machinegunfunk_lite 
"But as has been mentioned, you're railing against an Asian inspired American cartoon turned movie written by white people and directed by an Asian."

Cool strawman bro. Hell, if you want to go down that route, I have a choice quote for you:

"It’s been a huge disappointment to hear about the casting for Avatar’s live-action movie. The show was heavily influenced by Asian culture, some of the characters were even modeled after Asian members of the crew. But now, with the pre-dominantly white cast, it feels like all the Asian/Eastern influences, origins, what have you, were just a backdrop for these characters. But I always believed they were Asian, or even mixed Asian. And that belief added a little extra pride in working on such a great show. The appreciation Mike & Bryan had for Asian culture, the interest it generated in the fans, gave ME greater appreciation for my own culture.

"So it’s just hard to believe they couldn’t find one Asian actor to hold any of the lead protagonist parts. Not one? This film is going to feel like some other Avatar story."
- Dao Le, Animatic Editor, Avatar: The Last Airbender

"Get over it."

How empathic of you.

Theo 
So you're claiming an ambiguous fictional character who could just as easily be Hmong, who were often white, should be portrayed solely as YOU see him. I get where you're going with this, but c'mon, bro. You're like the Avatards screaming about the catpeople's monogamy and how they would accept the dude's playboy past as a human. I saw this argument online, I shit you not. http://bit.ly/db5DUR

I am a HUGE fan of the series, and as a mixed race member of a much maligned minority (I see your slighted Asian and raise you my subjugated Cherokee) who has lived and traveled in East Asia extensively. But as has been mentioned, you're railing against an Asian inspired American cartoon turned movie written by white people and directed by an Asian. Get over it. Seriously. I'm going to see the movie, I'm going to love it, and I'm excited to see Parts 2 and 3.

Sharkman 
The characters weren't "drawn white," they were drawn generic, since that's a hallmark of design for Anime. Even so, despite this, a number of characters don't have Caucasian features, including Monk Gyatso, and Katara and Sokka's father and grandmother (and they themselves if you count their skin color.)

Matt Thorn did a nice essay on why characters look "White" in Anime and Manga: Do Manga Characters Look "White"? - The Face of the Other

Here are two important snippets:

> It should come as no surprise, then, that Japanese readers should have no trouble accepting the stylized characters in manga, with their small jaws, all but nonexistent noses, and famously enormous eyes as “Japanese.” Unless the characters are clearly identified as foreign, Japanese readers see them as Japanese, and it would never occur to most readers that they might be otherwise, regardless of whether non-Japanese observers think the characters look Japanese or not.

When non-Japanese characters appear in a manga in which most characters are Japanese, that character will be differentiated from the others with stereotyped racial markers of some kind. For example, a character of African descent may be shown with pronounced lips, frizzy hair, and shaded skin. A European character may be shown with a pronounced nose and jutting jaw.



****

Interestingly, in a manga in which Chinese or European characters are the majority, such as a story set in China or Europe, majority characters are generally drawn exactly as Japanese characters would be drawn in a manga set in Japan, without any racial stereotyping at all. In the context of such a story, the Chinese or European characters are not Other, and markings of Otherness would be superfluous. The artist would make the foreign setting obvious through names, clothing, customs, architecture, and “props,” rather than burdening every character with stereotyped racial features, which would limit her ability to distinguish characters from each other, and would also make it difficult for readers to identify with protagonists. Furthermore, if a Japanese character appears in such a story, she will usually be marked visually as Japanese, although usually only by black hair and eyes. (Readers are often expected to identify with such characters, and more exaggerated markings would interfere with that identification.)<


Aside from that, regarding the eye color, that's a tenant of the fantasy world, people tend to have eye color based on their element (Air - typically grey, Water - typically blue, Fire - typically Gold, Earth - typically Green.) At the same time, eye colors aren't exclusively Caucasian, one potentially Caucasian trait shouldn't overwrite every last cultural marker these characters have. Every last aspect about them is taken from East Asian or Inuit cultures, it shouldn't take a genius to figure that probably extends to their faces as well.

And don't give me anything about how the voice actors were white. If the look of the VA honestly mattered, then Bart Simpson wouldn't be voiced by a grown woman, Cleveland Brown wouldn't be voiced by a white guy and Samurai Jack wouldn't be voiced by a black guy. Voice acting is an expression of language, not what you actually look like, and racial discrimination among VAs practically *can't* exist. Even then, when the show managed to get some clout when success came by, they started hiring on Asian VAs and worked closely with the East West Players, a group partially founded by Iroh's VA and one which Zuko's VA was a part of.

(By the way, in regards to the comment about the play...it's hard to be pissed about race if everybody in your fantasy world shares their ethnic features with East Asians and Inuits. It's the same thing that makes a lot of the plot points possible like pretending to be Earth Kingdom peasants, sneaking into Ba Sing Se, or hiding in the Fire Nation.)

Sorry for cluttering up the comments.

Keep up the good work, Gene, I loved Secret Identities!

The History Follower 
Here let's throw in another topic. I heard from one of the voice actors from the video game based on the movie that they had to go back and redub a lot of lines. What lines? Ones where they said the Aang's name cause they pronounced it like it was in the show. Apparently they prounounce it differently in the movie.

Now while this isn't really such a big thing it does add to the sense that the movie company doesn't care about the source material.

machinegunfunk_lite 
Whole lotta dumb and white privilege in these comments.

I don't understand why people would come to gene's blog just to razz him for a polite and well thought out request. Reminds me of the scene in the Simpsons where everyone in the audience at the "We're Number Two!" concert bought tickets just to boo them off the stage.

Whole lotta dumb.

Jason 
The logic by some who have commented that race doesn't matter in the avatar world is flawed. Historically, Asians have been invisible to Hollywood and to accept the status quo ignores the sacrifices that pioneers like Anna May Wong and Bruce Lee tried to pave for Asian actors today. Those who believe issues of race do not pertain to avatar or other movies/TV shows will continue to find themselves missing from mainstream media.

chingchongchinaman 
Not going to watch it in the theatres....gonna torrent it instead. :D

Evan 
You do realize that all of the voice actors from the original show were caucasian as well, don't you?

Bad Idea 
To the people who are making the argument that if they wanted them to be portrayed Asian, they should have added more stereotypical "Asiany" features to the drawing, I would point out that Gene's drawing OF HIMSELF on this very page lacks any such overt features...and yet we all understand that if Hollywood bought the rights to The Gene Luen Yang Story, it would be a slap in the face to cast a white guy.

Artists don't need to conform to a set of already-fairly-racist signifiers in order to indicate a character's race.

Mike 
I get the argument, but here's the problem:

Hollywood isn't out to uphold a racist ideal. Hollywood is out to make money.

Airbender is a children's movie, and children are naturally predisposed to identify best with a character that they "look like." They're appealing to their biggest demographic going with white kids.

Hollywood is a 'problem' in perpetuating this, yes, but more than anything it's unfortunate aspect of human nature they are capitalizing on. And that's something you can't change with a boycott.

Meredith 
I enjoyed the animated series. Sadly, most live-action adaptations end up sucking (like Dragonball Z), and the previews I've seen don't look that great. This is the primary reason I will skip the movie. However, I agree with the assessment that there was no excuse not to cast Asian characters in this film. Maybe it will make a few more bucks, I dunno. But I consider the director a sellout. The more films that are cast with minority characters, the more that will become the norm.

I'm white, btw, and I would love to see more diversity up on the screen and in my books. The world is a colorful place, it's time for movies (and comics) to reflect that.

Nelson 
Thank you! Like you I love the Avatar series. It was well written and intelligent through and through. I was concerned when I heard about the Avatar movie. Hollywood has lost the ability and desire to be artful and original and Avatar is yet another proof.

I will not bother to see the movie when it comes out.

joe c 
Yet the fact that almost all the characters sport that "round-eyed" American style copied from Disney many years back so prevalent in manga and anime gets not a peep out of you because you probably don't even notice anymore or maybe just write it off to a style thing.

Your heart's in the right place, but I think you've overreacting.

The Jasmine Dragon 
DNMR: Touché! Though again, the point was that the characters were misrepresented by how they were portrayed, not by what race or even gender they were. Thanks for pointing that out!

Puhleaaaase 
You're boycotting it because you're a little whiner who insists on connecting real-world races with a fictional story; worry about story accuracy more than something as arbitrary as race.

I'm seeing the movie, IN THEATERS, because I like the franchise and the world the story occurs in, the stories and the characters, I could care less how the actors appear, only whether they portray the characters personalities well.

DNMR 
Jasmine Dragon, your statement goes against the whole presentation of the "play" episode. From start to finish, it was explicitly shown that the performers were misunderstanding what little they knew of the Avatar's journey, and mis-representing almost every element. The reactions of Aang et al (minus Toph) demonstrate without any ambiguity that the main cast was offended and embarrassed by their portrayal- even Sokka, who had a mostly positive reaction, still felt the need to take the actor playing him aside and correct his portrayal.

Itsuhiro Nakahima 
Dude, I am japanese born and live in US. And all this is crap. If they cast an afro american for his taent you will whine again, but if so they might call you a racist.

Please drop this line of whining about being black white, asian, latin american and all... Go to watch the story that this asian-american guy is doing. It's just his vision, please save me all this bullshit

The Jasmine Dragon 
This is stupid, I don't mix politics with my love for Avatar! A die-hard fan won't care about who plays their favorite character. I see it like the episode where Aang and crew sit in on the Fire Nation play which depicted their heroics. Aang was played by a woman! Aang could be played by a woman for all I care! Go to an anime convention sometime and see the range of ethnic roles that characters from Avatar take on! Who is to tell some child whose skin is not white that he can't dress up as Aang, or some kid who is paler than the moon that she can't dress up as Katara becaue her skin isn't dark enough? I kinda hope that in the second movie Toph IS played by a man! We all know that the character would be honored to be depicted in such a way! You can protest and fuss and fight about the ethical treatment of races all you want, but kids of all ages and races are going to go see the movie and love it anyways! Why? Because it is an awesome story no matter how close the characters LOOK to their original counterparts. What truly matters is whether or not they ACT like the characters they are portraying. I have faith that these kids were chosen for their ability to recreate the essence of the characters, and not just the way they look!

tintin 
DTH: "Casting white characters would make sense in those cases. The cartoon may have intended the characters to be Asian and Inuit, similar to how Naruto and Goku are supposed to be Japanese, and like those cartoons, it didn't bother giving many of the characters facial features that reflect their presumed ethnicities.Ang has white skin and blue eyes- saying that it's truer to the vision of the original series to make him look radically different than the way he was drawn seems silly."


Ignorant statement. You're reading 'Caucasian' into a common cartoon image. Because Caucasion is supposed to be the default and, say, Asians have 'slanty' eyes? News for you, Asians don't seem themselves as "slanty-eyed". Or yellow. That tone of digital color you identify as "white" can stand for any ethnicity. It's a pale, vaguely fleshlike color. Even if Ang WERE white, what about the white characters of the movie replacing the "brown" characters of the cartoon? Cuz if Ang ain't white, his two companions sure aren't

CyberSkull 
I think the characters that you could make the strongest caucasian argument for would be Zuko and his family, with their local equivalent being eurasian.

When I learned about the "whitewashing" of the casting, I decided to not watch the film in principle.

anise 
I hate the argument that they look white in the animated series or in manga, because this clearly shows a lack of how cartooning operates.

Characters, especially in manga, are given ambiguous facial features in order to create a sense of visual identification. Scott McCloud calls this process, in contrast to detailed backgrounds, objects and bodies, "masking". The characters don't look like anything, and the fact that they are then presumed to be white is racist because that it assumes that the normal is white and everything else needs to be identified.

The fact that these characters are played by white actors is ridiculous. It shows a lack of respect for how the story is told in favour of what they believe it should look like.

DTH 
From what I've seen, quite a few of the Last Airbender characters seem to be drawn with Caucasian features, including the lead. Casting white characters would make sense in those cases. The cartoon may have intended the characters to be Asian and Inuit, similar to how Naruto and Goku are supposed to be Japanese, and like those cartoons, it didn't bother giving many of the characters facial features that reflect their presumed ethnicities. Ang has white skin and blue eyes- saying that it's truer to the vision of the original series to make him look radically different than the way he was drawn seems silly. Are these casting decisions any more objectionable than the tendency of manga artists to create characters with light skin and European features?

Also, I thought one of the Indian actors from Slumdog Millionaire had a prominent role. Or was that just talk?

Bora 
Thanks for the thoughtful post. Now I have a principled reason for not going to the movies on July 2, rather than the more typical reasons--old age and general fuddy-duddy-ness.

AP 
I feel the same way about the Prince of Persia movie.

Yorick 
I actually wasn't going to see it anyway - don't care for Shamalamadingdong's directorial style. I even re-watched his first three big movies earlier this year to see if I was just being prejudiced by memory, but no, I still don't like it.

but it would be nice not to have "white movie" / "black movie" / "we don't care about any other ethnicity movie" or studio suits that still have their minds in the 1950's.

Fran 
You got it! No Airbender movie for me, even though I'm Dutch!

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