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M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S “THE LAST AIRBENDER” WHITEWASHES ASIAN AND INUIT CHARACTERS
Just a few decades ago, in the golden days of old Hollywood, for many directors, screenwriters, and many others in the movie industry, yellowface
was their bread and butter. Never heard of “yellowface”? In short, it is the Asian equivalent of blackface, which was seen most often in minstrel shows (comic and exaggerated performances by white actors who painted their faces black, beginning in the 1830’s and lasting all the way to the 1960’s). If that doesn’t sound right to you, neither should this:
Perhaps you remember the “infamous Dr. FuManchu,” “the yellow peril”? His many movies and TV shows were immensely popular. They also featured white actors
(Warner Oland, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, etc.) who wore prosthetics and makeup to make them appear Asian. This same practice was repeated for decades, even in roles that did not seek to mock or villanize images of Asian characters.
Doesn’t this beg the question, why not simply hire Asian actors in the first place?
Unfortunately, even today, in 2009, we have not yet seen the end of racial discrimination and even yellowface in Hollywood. 2005
. The animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender
aired on Nickelodeon. The show featured heavy cultural and ideological influences from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Inuit cultures, and also incorporated Chinese martial arts and Hindu and Buddist philosophies. Originally aimed at young boys, Avatar’s careful research and sensitive portrayals of its Asian and Inuit heroes made it wildly popular among adults and children alike worldwide. 2008
.Director M. Night Shyamalan, who had purchased the rights to make a live-action film version of Avatar
, announced his cast of heroes. In his version, known officially as “The Last Airbender,” and set for release in 2010, the Inuit brother and sister Sokka and Katara, will each be played by white actors (Jackson Rathbone and Nicola Peltz, respectively). Aang, the titular “Avatar,” whose clothing, philosophy, and entire culture is based upon Tibetan Buddhism, will be played by a 12 year-old Caucasian boy from Texas, Noah Ringer. Put simply, this is WHITEWASHING.
Originally, the part of antagonist Prince Zuko was given to blonde, blue-eyed popstar Jesse McCartney, though that decision was later revised due to McCartney’s “scheduling conflicts.” Instead, the role was given to Indian Slumdog Millionaire
’s Dev Patel. The choice, however, does not excuse Paramount Pictures of blame. Following Patel’s casting, they promptly cast several other Indian, and Iranian actors to play key roles in the villanous Fire Nation. The problem with this?
Paramount has given race a priority in the story in a way it was never meant to be. They have created a situation wherein GOOD WHITE HEROES must overcome their EVIL BROWN FOES.
This is not right.
It’s time we gave children of racial minorities heroes that look like they do.
We don’t want ever want to see this on the screen again:
(Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s(1961))
“If you're Korean, wear a kimono. If you're from Belgium, wear lederhosen.” – DeeDee Ricketts, casting director of “The Last Airbender”
Don’t support racial discrimination.PLEASE BOYCOTT “THE LAST AIRBENDER”!
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for more information!
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