My kids are fans of a popular anime called Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s popular enough that it’s going to be made into a live-action movie. But the characters won’t look the same: they won’t be Asian and Inuit faces having their East Asian martial arts adventures in a mythos based on Asian and Inuit legends. They will be white actors playing these roles.
This LJ article puts it better than I can manage, in this text that is the suggested template for a letter to the producers.
On December 9th, Entertainment Weekly published an article revealing director M. Night Shyamalan’s hoped-for cast for the film, and I am offended by the decisions he and Paramount Pictures have made.
The Nickelodeon show “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” on which this film is based, featured Asian and Inuit characters in a fantasy setting inspired and informed by a variety of Asian and Inuit cultures. The characters fight with East Asian martial arts, have Asian or Inuit features, dress in Asian or Inuit clothing, and write with Chinese characters. The cast and setting were a refreshing departure from predominantly white American media, and were a large part of the show’s appeal as well as an inspiration to many Asian American children.
I am disappointed to read that the four actors selected to play the lead roles are all white. While the casting is not final, the statement has already been made: this film will take a culturally Asian and Inuit world and populate it with white actors. Orientalism this obvious and this dramatic is inexcusable, and I would urge Shyamalan and Paramount Pictures to reconsider their casting choices. Asian characters in a world built from Asian cultures should be played by Asian actors.