Is 'The Last Airbender' Racist ... or Just Drawn That Way?
By Gary Susman
In the movie, all four characters were initially cast as Caucasian actors: Noah Ringer (Aang), Nicola Peltz (Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), and Jesse McCartney (Zuko). Before shooting began, however, McCartney was replaced by Dev Patel, of 'Slumdog Millionaire' fame. That change did not appease the project's critics, who noted that the heroes were still all white Westerners, while the only Asian in the principal cast was the villain.
The clearinghouse for the protests has been the website Racebending, which is calling for a boycott of the film. "American actors of color rarely get to play the hero, if ever," said Marissa Lee, one of Racebending's co-founders, in a statement. "We're really disappointed. Paramount felt that white actors were better suited to play heroes of color than hardworking, underrepresented actors who are actually of Asian or Inuit descent."
'Airbender' loses something in switch from cartoon to live action
By Ty Burr
I have no idea what Ringer's ethnic makeup is, and it doesn't matter: The kid's pretty good and perfectly believable as a Chosen One in the storyline's pop mulch-up of Tibetan Buddhism. I wish I could say the same for Peltz and Rathbone, whose crime, again, isn't that they are Anglo but just painfully dull.
"Airbender" is actually stolen by Dev Patel (the hero of "Slumdog Millionaire") as the exiled Prince Zuko, a full-on neurotic with a daddy complex who provides the movie with its greatest suspense. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Patel's a strong enough actor to keep us guessing.
Otherwise it's a tossup as to which is worse: the script, which regularly grinds to a halt to Explain Everything until the movie curls up and dies; the shockingly dingy camerawork; or the execrable 3-D.
I love this in the first review: "I walked out of there with a totally new attitude. I feel like thanking the producers for not putting any Asian American actors in this movie. I think it would have set us back five years in seeing Asian Americans' prominence in film improve...because everyone would have blamed the Asian leads for the quality of the movie."
I'm thrilled that there are bad reviews because that will further decrease Paramount's profit. As people mentioned above, I certainly would watch a future remake if it was made with the same care and cultural consideration of the original series.
Yeah. As hypocritical as it might sound, I have the feeling that if Asians were cast, then the audience would be blaming them for a faulty movie instead of M. Night and the producers. So maybe if this film flops, the other sequels are put in indefinite production hell, and there is a reboot with a competent team of producers, writers, and director, "The Last Airbender" won't be remembered as a (potential) disgrace.
[T]his was such a major gaffe by Paramount who didn't learn the Dragonball Z lesson; if you're going to do a movie that has a pre-existing strong fan base; lesson 1--don't p**s them off. It's amazing that such a huge strategic marketing mistake was made. Even if mainstream doesn't review it well, other movies have become "cult classics" due to fan support.
Two of the four main characters should've been Inuit played by Inuit actors. Instead they're played by bland white actors who are "painfully dull."
In other words, the lack of authentic Natives is a major flaw. Instead of a refreshing look into a distinctly different culture, viewers get the same plain vanilla they've seen in a hundred movies, TV shows, video games, and cartoons.
And fans are reacting accordingly: with hate and scorn. Instead of rushing to see Airbender, they're studiously avoiding it. It looks as though the movie will tank at the box office.
Summing it up:
Inauthentic casting and culture => multimillion-dollar flop
Anybody not get the message yet? The Last Airbender is a perfect example of what I've been talking about for years. Twilight has succeeded with Native actors and Airbender has failed without them.
For more on the subject, see Hollywood Doesn't Know Anything and Results Matter in Last Airbender.
Below: Baby-faced white actors pretend to be Inuit.