The whitewashing continues in Hollywood

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 which also talks about this film’s casting.

11 responses

  1. I guess even Blacks are concerned about this movie too.

  2. I would have been okay with them casting non-Asians in these roles, as long as the actors actually looked like the characters they’re supposed to portray! But none of them do! The Katara looks weak, and simpering, when she should be sturdy, and attractive. The Aang looks sullen, and angry—that’s not Aang. Uncle Iroh is shown as tall, dark and lanky, whereas the actor who plays Zukko has a face long as a horse’s, and no scar to speak of. Admiral Zhao, who should be a big, blustering man, is chubby, with a high-pitched voice—-aaarrgh! Why go on? It’s just terrible! Didn’t Shayamalan actually watch any of the shows? Who was in charge of casting?

    (Oh, yeah, and a homely, caucasian, Princess Azula! Momo, and Appa, were the only characters who looked right!)

  3. I guess some folks will never get it. Race SHOULD NOT have been a matter through out history. People SHOULD have been given the proper credit all along, BUT as you may know, That did not happen. If you ask who invented the light bulb, most people give the credit to T. Edison,but if you know your history, then you know an African American co-invented it. HOWEVER,In most cases ethinics are robbed of their credits for their contributions, and who usually takes the credit.
    Keep the record straight. And yes, people did gripe when Aliyah was chosen to play akasha. If people keep history straight in the begining and stop trying to take the credit from its rigthful owners, then these conversations would not have to take place. Need I point the movie, 911, staring Nick Cage, Directed by, Oli Stone?

  4. ok, why is it such a big deal that they didn’t use an Asian person to play the last role? if you look at the picture of the person they got for it, and compare it to the pictures of the character in the cartoon series, they look dang near identical. who cares what race a person is in a movie? did people gripe when they chose aliyah to play akasha in queen of the damned even though in the books she was described as being a pale marble WHITE color? I know I didn’t because I really do not care…they could choose aliens to play the roles, as long as the acting was done right and the story worked it DOES NOT MATTER.

  5. Jade :Maybe it’s time people quit caring so much about race, and a little more about the quality of the movie.

    The same can be said about hollywood. When ever you try to rob history or try to rob th authenticity of an event, be it an actual event or anime, you do injustice to to that work. It would be like making Superman an Indian or an African american. One should not whitewash history.

  6. Sigh, those of you who are saying that characters in anime look white are way off base. Here’s the deal – Japanese people do not Want to look like white people, they don’t love white people to death (at least, not any more than whites love or want to look like them), and they don’t make anime for westerners, if they did they’d go broke. Why? Because, even though we here in the west buy a lot of anime and it’s related products we don’t be nearly as much of it as Japanese people do and the average Japanese would rather see stories related to Japanese culture and attitudes (Just Like the average person in the west would rather watch a show related to their culture and attitudes). In other words, They make anime for Japanese viewers. “Well, why do the characters look white then?”, I hear you asking. They don’t. The big eyes thing, for example, is a myth. They don’t draw them with big eyes to make them look white. Generally, they draw them with big eyes to make them look like kids. Kids have bigger eyes in proportion to their faces than adults. Aang is a kid therefore he has big eyes. Q.E.D. JUST TO MAKE THIS CLEAR: Kids (and some teens) in cartoons and anime have big eyes.

    It’s not the eyes you should be looking at anyway; it’s the nose, chin, brow, and jaw. On Asians all those features are usually less pronounced than they are on whites. Have any of you ever actually taken a good look at an anime character and compared him/her to a white person or an Asian person? If you exclude the huge eyes, which you won’t find on either whites or Asians, you’ll find that the profiles don’t match. That’s why in almost all anime ( and many newer Western cartoons) Asians are generally drawn with flat brows, small noses with no visible bridge, and small chins, while whites are drawn with a prominent brow, longer, bigger noses with pronounced bridges, and broader broader chins. And it’s why anime characters have flat foreheads and why you can’t see the bridges of their noses. BTW, I’m not Asian and even I’ve noticed that Asians have different facial features than whites.

  7. I would prefer to see diversity too, but I cannot blame Hollywood entirely (although they have come up with some lame excuses). A good look at the Nickelodeon series depicts the characters with Caucasian (or non-Asian) features (most notably the wide eyes). And their language and dialect is decidedly American-esque, with the exception of General Iroh and a few other minor characters. It seems a lot of the popular animes, written by Asian writers, purposely develop characters this way (think Speed Racer, Pokemon) possibly to appeal to the American and Western audiences. Hollywood can legitimately say it is following the lead of the series – but even that isn’t a good excuse.

    With all that said, as a fan of the series, I’m not all that concerned about who plays the characters – just as long as it is well done.

  8. Maybe it’s time people quit caring so much about race, and a little more about the quality of the movie.

  9. It is quite evident that in the show, the air nomads are based on tibetan culture, while the water tribes are inuit, and earth an fire chinese and japanese. Katara and Sokka are obviously dark skinned. It is a shame that, being indian, Mr. Shyamalan, chose to cast caucasians for three of the four nations! I used to admire his work…

  10. I feel that the show might be asian themed and asian inspired but the characters look white. They dont look asian.

  11. I was actually on the movie set yesterday and today. Here is the scoop.

    The entire African Earth nation has just been liberated by the Last Air Bender. So that means this 10 year old little caucasian boy and his two caucaisan friends just save an entire African nation. So I now here the whispering, of 95 percent of the
    ” African Villagers” saying’ What the… where are the BENDERS OF COLOR?” Looks like the Asians and African / Americans just got screwed again by Hollywood. M. Night is just a bad as the rest of .them because he kisses the ass of whoever has the bucks. He will even forfit authenticity for a few more dollars. As was clearly demonstrated here. Kinda what Hollywood did when that made the movie 911. When they put a white police/Military man in as the rescuer instead of a black man who was the real hero, just so they could have a white hero and there by robbing the Black community of their just due. When will Hollywood stop perpetuating racism at will?

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