Sooo …. this is pretty annoying. A few months ago on my old blog I posted about the absolutely atrociously funny casting choices for the Dragonball Z movie, which were wrong on SO MANY LEVELS, not the least of which was the fact that most of them weren’t Asian (dude, Dragonball is as Asian as it gets). But really, I wasn’t worried, because they had Emmy Rossum (ugh ugh UGH) in one of the lead roles, and Jamie Chung (sorry, but girl cannot act) in some other cutesy throwaway role (an attempt, I’m sure, to assuage the inevitable attacks of racism) … pretty much the rest of the cast was white. Seriously. With James Marsters (of Buffy fame) as Lord Piccolo, another hilarious casting choice. But I digress.
I wasn’t worried because even though the casting was racist up the wazoo, I was pretty sure the movie as a whole would suck ass, so really, there wouldn’t be any sort of positive reinforcement from lots of revenue or something. Well as it turned out I was right because I didn’t even remember seeing any commercials for this movie, and I belatedly looked it up to realize that yep, it didn’t do well.
I am hoping that the same thing will happen for Avatar: The Last Airbender, because the casting calls are ridiculous. The main character and his sister are some unknown kids who look pretty damn light-haired in their pictures, and the main villain was originally going to be Jesse McCartney. (WTF) Well they changed that and now it’s Dev Patel (of course he’s the evil dark-skinned bad guy, despite being a Chinese-looking dude in the animated show), but seriously, correct me if I’m wrong—isn’t this a show that’s based primarily off of East Asian and Inuit cultures?? I heard that East Asians and those with East Asian heritage constitute something like 20%+ of the world population. Surely some of these people speak English AND have reasonable acting ability.
The reason why I’m so worried is because this fandom’s following is, I suspect, a lot more forgiving than Dragonball Z’s. Considering how long DBZ went and how hardcore the fans are, I KNEW it was gonna die (seriously? Emmy? ahahahaha) but Avatar fans are like, you know, kids (and some adults as well). They’re less sensitive and newer to the whole racism bit. But maybe I’m just overreacting. I mean, Night Shamalayan is the director.
Still, there are some much better written articles on the subject, which I think bring up some very valid points: Gene Luen Yang and Lowbright. The most damning argument, I think, is this (taken from the latter):
Or let me draw a closer parallel—imagine if someone had made a “fantasy” movie in which the entire world was built around African culture. Everyone is wearing ancient African clothes, African hats, eating traditional African food, writing in an African language, living in African homes, all encompassed in an African landscape…
…but everyone is white.
How offensive, insulting, and disrespectful would that be toward Africans and African Americans? How much more offensive would it be if only the heroes were white and all the villians and background characters were African American? (I wince in fear thinking about “The Last Airbender” suffering from the latter dynamic—which it probably will.)
Well, it looks like part two of that is already coming true. Sigh.