As usual liberal Hollywood is at it again. Last year I blogged about how they whitewashed the film 21. This film was based on a true story in which Asian Americans were the real life leading characters but liberal Hollywood decided to cast white actors in the leading roles instead. Well this time it’s happening to a film that’s directed by an Indian American. According to this article there’s a new film coming out titled The Last Airbender which is directed by M. Night Shyamalan. This film is the live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Columnist Kim Voynar gives a quick rundown of the story from her column, Yellow-facing and White-washing: The Racial Issues Raised by the Casting of The Last Airbender:
Avatar: The Last Airbender, the television series, is heavily Asian-themed. For those who aren’t into Avatar, here’s a quick rundown of the basic story: In the Avatar world, civilization is divided into four separate groups: Earth, Water, Air and Fire, with each nation’s social structure built around its dominant element. Each nation has “benders” who can manipulate their tribe element martial-arts style, and then there is one Avatar each generation who has the ability to bend all four elements, but who has to learn to bend the elements that are not his by birthright (with the element opposite the Avatar’s birthright being the most challenging to learn). There are a lot of Eastern spiritual elements (particulary Hindu) interwoven into the story, including the ability of the Avatar to call on the knowledge of all past Avatars, which resides within him, the opening of chakras, and concepts around reincarnation (really, come to think of it, I’m surprised the religious right hasn’t been all over this show for its “non-Christian” elements).
Despite the fact that this story is heavily Asian themed liberal Hollywood has decided to cast the four leading characters with white actors. The fourth actor has dropped out and replaced by Indian actor Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire. The four original white actors weren’t exactly household names so the casting folks and producers can’t give the lame excuse of they have to hire well known white actors to open a film. Some Asian Americans and hard core Avatar fans are fuming over the casting of this film and I don’t blame them. You mean to tell me liberal Hollywood can’t find an Asian American actor or actress anywhere to cast for the leading roles in this film?
The columnist also mentions this:
I was talking all this over with an Asian-American friend the other day who posited that perhaps Hollywood doesn’t take the concerns Asian-Americans raise about the white-washing of Asian roles seriously because Asians are stereotypically perceived by many white Americans as being submissive, polite and complacent (“Oh sure, they’ll complain on their blogs about it, but no one reads them anyhow except other Asian-Americans … they’ll get over if we toss Bai Ling in there somewhere … have the screenwriter add an evil, sex-crazed hooker into the story.”). She might have a point.
Maybe it’s about time Asian Americans started speaking up.
Hollywood’s a tough business with an eagle eye on the box office bottom line, and the attitude toward race in casting decisions isn’t likely to change until Asian-Americans band together to show Hollywood shirts the financial impact their united weight can bear by boycotting films they feel white-wash Asian parts, and supporting those that do cast Asian actors in lead roles.
It’s 2009, folks. We have an African-American man in the highest elected office of our country. Can’t we have an adaptation of an Asian-themed series with actual Asian actors playing the lead roles?
You can also check out It’s not a post-racial Hollywood at Daily Herald.com which also talks about this film’s casting.