M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by Miana Kenobi, Dec 10, 2008.

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  1. leia_naberrie Jedi Master

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  2. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

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    Ouch. Surely Shyamalan, an Indian-American, does not feel that the only people who "matter" are whites. The casting is a cynical money-grab, but it's not purposefully hateful.
  3. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    As I think I've pointed out before, that would only seem to be in keeping with the look of the series, generally speaking.

    o_O
  4. StarDude Jedi Grand Master

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    Looks like everyone can calm down a bit:
    Slumdog's Patel Cast in The Last Airbender
    Source: Variety February 2, 2009


    Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel has joined the cast of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, the Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Films live-action film based on the Nick TV series, reports Variety.

    Patel will be featured alongside newcomer Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone and Jessica Jade Andres. Production begins in mid-March in Greenland.

    In casting Patel and Ringer, a director accustomed to delivering plot twists to audiences got some surprises of his own. Ringer is a complete unknown who was tapped for the title role off an Internet audition. Patel, meanwhile, steps into a role that Jesse McCartney had all but locked up until the actor's second career as a musician got in the way.

    Ringer will play Aang, the film's lead, who is the last of a race of people who can manipulate the elements of air.

    Ringer, a 12-year-old from Texas, landed the part after demonstrating his martial arts skills in an Internet video that he posted to a website Shyamalan set up for open virtual auditions.

    Patel will play Zuko, a member of the Fire Nation. Peltz plays the Water Tribe rep Katara, while Andres is the Earth Kingdom's representative, Suki.

    Paramount is set to release "Airbender on July 2, 2010. Shyamalan said he is planning a three-picture story arc.


    I don't know who here has seen Slumdog Millionaire, but it's excellent and so is Patel.

    Woe ye of little faith.



    Oh, and everyone here realizes that M. Night Shyamalan isn't white, right?
  5. Miana Kenobi Costuming & Props Mod - Retired Admin

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    I wonder if Jesse's career really got in the way or if this is Shyamalan going "my bad."

    And Suki's been cast! I'm glad to hear that. :D



    And a preemptive :oops: because someone in the world now will complain that Zuko isn't supposed to be Indian.
  6. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    Yeah, that's a little better. But doesn't make anymore sense than casting McCartney. None what-so-ever.

    The only unambiguously Indian character in the entire cartoon was the Guru that was helping Aang open his chakras.
  7. leia_naberrie Jedi Master

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    I can't speak for M Night. I have no idea what might be going through his mind. On the one hand, he could put his money where his mouth is and walk away from the project he got interested in because his little girl wanted to dress up as Katara for Halloween. (I hope she's saved money for white face paint to go with that costume come 2010). On the other hand, if he walks away and is replaced by someone more appropriate (read White), the movie might be whitewashed further. How that is possible, I don't know but I don't want to know either.

    "Cynical money-grab" and "not purposely hateful" are not mutually exclusive concepts.


    If you mean by "generally": "background characters who play supporting roles should look ethnic but keep the heroes White as White can be". Otherwise there's no way a White Katara, a White Sokka and a White Aang is in keeping with the look of the series.

    If the recasting news is true, then I am pleased that the fans who spoke out are obviously making a difference. (Scheduling conflicts? Tell me another one. [face_laugh] Take my word for it: it was not the power of passive but positive thinking or the inertia of the fans who had no problem with the casting in the first place that made that possible. And no, don't expect the good doggies to jump at the bone they've thrown. [face_plain]



    Gosh, all those pesky PoCs. So hard to please. As opposed to say, Rowling who insisted on a British Harry Potter, because she wanted the movies to be "authentic". /sarcasm
  8. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    Again, you seem to think that this wasn't true of the animated series. Background people and some minor characters tend to look overtly Asian while the main cast do not. Zuko, Azula and Mai look Eurasian at most. Sokka and Katara look like white kids with a heavy tan, and Aang, Ty Lee and Suki just look white with no qualifiers.
  9. StarDude Jedi Grand Master

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    "I would never cast anybody as an agenda. If I could find the right balance, it would be cool. I've talked about it a bunch of times, whether it is feasible to bring in some of the stars from India, cast them in some roles. I have a difficult time casting any actor with an accent, if I am not using that accent. I've done it before, where I've asked a British actor to do an American accent, and I find it very constraining as a director. The actor in such situations tends to lose some of his arsenal, his skills; he is so busy getting the accent right he reduces the bandwidth he has for performing by 10 per cent or 20 per cent. Or he exaggerates the accent a hair too much in trying to hold on to it, and I have a tough time with all of that, so that is one of the reasons I would hesitate -- it is difficult for me, whether it is a Spanish actress or a British or even Indian actor."
    --M. Night
  10. Miana Kenobi Costuming & Props Mod - Retired Admin

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    Sokka and Katara look more Inuit than just kids with a tan. And I'll agree that Suki and Ty Lee definitely look the most "white", but we now have an Asian Suki.
  11. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    Assuming those Inuit have a whole lot of white people in their ancestry.
  12. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    It's totally illogical to suggest characters like Azula or Zuko are "white" when their parents and uncle are clearly East Asian. Same with Toph.

    And while there are elements of Inuit culture to the Souther Water Tribe... quite frankly, appearance wise, most of them still look East Asian.

    Honestly, if the adults, including parents of the main characters, look like our(non-Asian people) typical conception of East Asian people and the children do not... is it logical to assume that the children are thus not East Asian? Or is it logical to chalk up their appearance to the same convention that Japanese anime and manga artists use for their characters when they are nearly always assumed to be Japanese unless there is some identifier that indicates otherwise? Which includes blond, purple, pink and blue-haired(and eyed many times) characters.


    Here is Katara's grandmother when she was younger. Check out the elder to our right(her left)... I've never seen an Inuit grow a beard like that. Let alone the hair-do... that's a very Asian topnot situation going on there. But also take note of the younger kids in the picture, large expressive eyes.
    [image=http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Image:Kana_002.jpg]

    The same deal with Aang. Check out this picture of Aang with other Air Nomad children and 4 Air Nomad women.
    [image=http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Image:East_air_002.jpg]

    While I can understand to a certain degree the impression of "they don't have slanted eyes they must be white," that's a completely illogical conclusion to come to considering the rest of the world they live in. Thus, the casting of the movie still sucks big time.

    M. Night should be fired, and they should hire a director and production team that have a clue about how to make a fant-Asia movie... which is what Avatar is an homage to in the first place.
  13. Miana Kenobi Costuming & Props Mod - Retired Admin

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    But there's also the fact that this is a cartoon that's not set in our world, so we can't take everything too literally in trying to compare it our own.
  14. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    Are they? I said Azula and Zuko look Eurasian, as do their relatives.

    Again, disagreed.

    A better question would be why the cast should not resemble the appearances of the animated characters.

    Actually, most of the people in that still look Egyptian.

    Aang has large, expressive eyes. The other children's are about the same size relative to their heads as the woman in the foreground.

    The "world they live in" is essentially a contemporary Western one with steampunk technology and an Asian fantasy aesthetic. Outrage over whether the live-action cast's ethnicities are "accurate" or not is more or less pointless.

    The operative word being "homage". This isn't House of Flying Daggers or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, after all.
  15. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    Exactly.
  16. Mr_Black Jedi Knight

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    My statements on 21 were more concerned with the emphasis on promoting the cultural and ethnic values of a cartoon over a true story centered on real people and events. I don't find the subversion of reality more palatable simply because the racial and ethnic background of the people and plot is less overt than something akin to Avatar. What I'm most disturbed by is my not even being aware the events of the 21 story centered on Asian people until I became involved in the Avatar debate.

    As I've said before, I support the diversification of the movie cast, I would've supported the diversification of the show's casting--because of the voice actor presence, not in spite of it--and, ultimately, people should receive precedence over drawings, because they are real, while drawings are inspired by reality, and I believe there is a fundamental difference between the two, especially if the drawings in question fall firmly within the fantasy genre. Those are my arguments in a nut shell. If you disagree with them, so be it.

    I saw Slumdog and thought it was awesome. Patel has chops, and I'm glad he was chosen over McCartney, more because I don't think the latter has even acted in a movie before. I don't think Zuko's character has any ethnic or cultural Indian background, so I believe accurate representation is still a key issue in choosing the cast for the Avatar movie, but I'd rather have an actor who's been in something I've liked very much over an actor who, to my knowledge, has never acted in a movie before.

    I have to wonder if McCartney's reps got him out of the movie because of this casting debate, especially because Avatar very likely would've been his first big movie, and to be blighted with charges of white-washing is not the best way to come out of the gate. The same charges can be leveled at Ringer, Peltz, and Rathbone, of course, yet the first two listed are minors, and their sensitivity to and responsibility for racial representation isn't beholden to the same expectations adults are faced with. Rathbone is just as complicit as McCartney would've been since they're adults. Rathbone is in a sticky situation, but I would argue not to the same degree as someone like McCartney, since Rathbone has an established blockbuster under his belt, and therefore, some industry clout to deflect or evade such accusations. His comments about needing a tan to convincingly portray Sokka bear this out, especially since he has yet to be taken to task for it in mainstream coverage.

    I don't think M. Night got Patel over McCartney because he's being racially sensitive. Slumdog is one of the most buzzed about movies out right now, and he's most likely being pragmatic in choosing an actor whose star is very much on the rise over one who--inside the acting sphere--hasn't even gotten his off the launch pad yet.
  17. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    Has M. Night ever actually cast a non-white actor as a lead in any of his films? Or rather, as a protagonist? The only prominent non-white actor I can remember in any of his films is Samuel L Jackson, and he was the villian.

    Q_M, I'm not even going to bother responding to some of your claims simply because you're off you're rocker. Alot of what you're saying is reaching quite a bit... and reaching beyond the point of rationality, at that. Egyptian? Seriously? I'm beginning to think that your exposure to the vast array of Asians is extremely limited.

    Again, every child's eyes in the show are distinct from those of their elders. The principle cast have even larger eyes for exaggerated expression simply because they are the principle cast. So in the Air Nomad children and women shot, Aang's child-like eyes are emphasized more than the others, but their eyes are clearly larger than the adults. Which is a motif of manga and anime, in which the audience that the manga or anime was made for assumes they are Japanese unless there is a clear indicator otherwise.
  18. Mr_Black Jedi Knight

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    Has M. Night ever actually cast a non-white actor as a lead in any of his films? Or rather, as a protagonist? The only prominent non-white actor I can remember in any of his films is Samuel L Jackson, and he was the villian.

    I can't think of one, off the top of my head. The caveat I'll add to this is if the movie came out after Signs (Village, Lady, Happening) I either haven't seen it, or disliked it to the point where I've forgotten even basic info about the story, like who or what the villain was, for example.

    A lot of his antagonists are White, also. In fact, all of the ones I'm familiar with, except for Samuel L. Jackson, and the alien in Signs.

    Is it better to have a part as the bad guy or have no part at all? I alternate between thinking it's be better to be employed, even in a limited capacity, so you could keep food on your table (especially with another strike looming) or stand up for your traditions, cultures, and ideals, and endure blacklisting and/or poverty because of it.
  19. leia_naberrie Jedi Master

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    And Our Lord Jesus Christ had blonde hair and blue eyes. Because clearly no one can ever be worthwhile in your world without the possession of the Caucasian gene. =D= =D=



    Harry Potter is not set in ?our? world either. It?s set in fantasy Britain where the magical gene exists, imagined creatures not only exist but also copulate with human beings, and broomsticks fly higher than helicopters. Nowhere in the Harry Potter books are Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley described as Caucasian children. Nowhere. But when they were casting child actors to play this roles, it was so completely taken for granted what their racial ethnicity was, that the issue was not what color their skins will be but what accents their voices would have.

    Now compare Harry Potter (or Lord of the Rings, or the Dark is Rising) to movies like ?Avatar? and ?21? where the race of the principal characters is constantly debated. Or where arguments like ?color-blind? casting have been used when White actors are cast to play PoC roles and never vice versa.

    Do you begin to understand why the fact that we are having this discussion at all are characteristic of White Privilege and racism? Do you understand why they will always be offensive?

    It is one thing not to understand the other person's point of view - you can't know what you've never lived - but a lot of the conversations so far make me wonder if the priveleged class are even interested in the other point of view or just want to hold onto their privelege by whatever means necessary.



    No one should have to make that choice in the first place. But in the US of A, that is a Privilege that is only extended to White Americans. It is never easy to put yourself in another?s shoes. But try to remember that this is a question that your fellow citizens ask themselves ? and have to answer ? every day of their lives. The fact that you are asking it academically is part of your privelege.
  20. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    I'm beginning to think your exposure to rationality is extremely limited. [face_peace]

    Hmm. Define "distinct".

    Katara's eyes are very similar to her mother's, albeit somewhat larger, and the same goes for Sokka and his father. Zuko and and Azula's eyes are again nearly identical to their parents and their uncle, and presumably Aang likewise resembles his parents.

    About the only instance where your assertion really rings true is in the case of Toph.

    And if it was useful to do so in the cartoon, why would not the same hold true of its live-action adaptation?

    Then again, of course, larger eyes are not limited to the regular cast (some of whom have relatively small eyes by comparison) anyway. For example, the eyes of one-shot character Song are quite as huge as Aang's.

    Not really. Their eyes are, again, not significantly larger in relation to their heads than the woman in the foreground.

    Which, again, tends to make the characters look more like white people.

  21. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    Did he? I thought those physical traits were pretty much unheard of among 1st century AD Jews...[face_thinking]

    ;)

    I like you. You're silly. :p

    Which brings up a thought I've been mulling over, and that is that world of Avatar is essentially a modern Western one, albeit with steampunk technology and an Asian fantasy aesthetic, rather than an accurate representation of any historical Asian society. Basically, a white guy's kung-fu fantasy pastiche. That the casting should reflect this isn't really surprising

    Are they? I sort of thought Rowling's redhead fetish, so manifestly present in Ron's family, would be a bit of a give-away... [face_mischief]

    Why, exactly?

    I think Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado About Nothing would like a word with you.

    What privilege? What's offensive? Would you like to explain for the benefit of the unenlightened masses?

    Japan's stance on immigration and non-ethnic Japanese comes to mind.

    Tell me, how do you know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that "Mr_Black" is in fact white, as you seem to automatically assume? If I believed in such things I'd have to say that you're guilty of racial stereotyping. [face_thinking]
  22. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    Forgoing the eye debate, since that is itself inherently racist. Not all Asians, East Asians for that matter look like this - -

    That shouldn't even be a point of contention, considering the anime conventions that the creators have said they followed in their character designs.



    THis on the other hand... I gotta ask: how do you figure it's an essential modern Western world? You've got 3 forms of government depicted here with the requisite social systems. Two monarchies(technically 3 are decpited when you include Omashu), two tribal chieftan-doms, and a monastic "theocracy" similar to Tibet. The only steampunk depiction lay primarily in the Fire Nation, adn that's a result of their Firebending which is based partially on Eastern elemental cosmology and partially on traditional Chinese martial arts... Norther Shaolin kung fu to be exact. The Earth Kingdom's mass transportation system involves earthbending, and that's only in Ba Sing Seh which is almost exactly like the Forbidden City in China. The Earth Kingdom is, actually, a pretty accurate portrayal of Qing dynasty Chinese culture as far as I can tell. The Fire Nation has smatterings of Japan, but there's also a great deal of earlier Chinese dynasties in design and social order.

    Souther Water Tribes obviously don't life an urban lifestyle at all, and are clearly living in very much the same way that traditionally is typical of the Inuit. The Norther Water Tribe is more urban, but yet I saw nothing particularly "modern" and "Western" about their society and lifestyle.

    You're really grasping at straws here Q_M. Especially since they had a cultural consultant work on the show to ensure that they got things right.
  23. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    Racial traits are racist?

    Not obviously, from a visual point of vew.

    Stoned-out hippies, swamp-dwelling stereotypes straight out of The Rescuers, a Prussian-style school system in the Fire Nation, junk food, women in the armed forces, the fact that a tribal primitive like Katara is somehow intimately familiar with a concept like "sexism" and refers to it as such, or that there's any question of whether or not military exansion is ethical or even justifiable... As I said, the trappings are Asian fantasy, obviously styled after this or that culture as you've pointed out, but the attitudes and the assumptions that most of the characters live under seem pretty thoroughly post-modern.
  24. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    The whole question of eyes is not a cop-out. It's a line of thinking that you've limited yourself to because you have to see "slanty eyes" as a racial signifyer despite the fact that many Asians aren't as "slanty eyed" as you might expect. Hell, many Asians are very very fair skinned... to the point that in pre-Civil Rights America an Asian-American petitioned the court that he should have the same rights as whites and what denied because the court said there were other distinguishing features that factored in. This whole line of thinking is inherently racist, and it's not a line of thinking present in anime creators when they give their characters large eyes. Even exceedingly large doe-like eyes. Almost your entire line of argument rests on the issue of eyes, when it's a non-issue when you consider the sources of inspiration for the character designs... and even more so when you realize that the animations are all done in Korea. Yet another place where manhwa(Korean manga) characters are designed according to the same conventions that are found in Japan.

    You do realize that Imperial China had a pretty well organized school system, don't you? Here's a brief statement of this history. http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/education/ From the same site... stuff about the Imperial Examination
    http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/education/ancient1.htm Chinese schooling, at least for urbanites and especially the children of nobles, dates further back than 1600. All because of Confucianism. If you're actually familiar with Chinese history, the Fire Nation schools are traditional Chinese schools. http://www.csupomona.edu/~plin/ls201/confucian2.html

    Of course the cartoon addresses contemporary issues. It's made in a contemporary setting. Modern Chinese film addresses the same questions you are saying are "modern" and "Western" while setting the films in historical China. Hero is itself a question of the morality of military expansion. There's also a long tradition in Chinese martial fantasy(wuxia) literature of addressing the differences between men and women, and sexism. From novels written in more contemporary times, to stories dating back at least as far as the Tang dynasty about swordswomen and how they DON'T conform to the conventions of society. In fact, that's a Taoist tendancy in and of itself.

    By your reasoning, against all other evidence, the world of Naruto and many of the characters of Naruto are thus "white." Which is yet another assertion that makes no sense. And Naruto is far more a contemporary society. "Western" if you will, thought that designation has... I think... lost a great deal of its relevance in modernity.

    And there-in lies the problem of your whole line of thinking, Q_M, you're so Eurocentric that you cannot concieve of some of these things even appearing in other cultures... let alone in other cultures before they ever did in Europe to any significant degree.

    One last thing on t
  25. Quiet_Mandalorian Force Ghost

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    No, dismissing it as racism is.

    Your charming assumptions about exactly how I perceive Asians are irrelevant. The fact remains that epicanthic folds are, I dare say, rather common amongst people of Asian extraction, and thus useful in a broad visual medium such as a cartoon in establishing that, for example, an ethnically Japanese character is meant to be seen as such, and not just as a generic human.

    And? The end result is still that anything that would identify a given character as anything other than a vaguely Caucasian-looking collection of right angles is generally obliterated.

    Yep. To my poor Westernized mind, however, the presentation of the Fire Nation schools seems more geared toward drawing paralels with contemporary American public education, which, again, goes back to my thought that the series is largely Western in Asian clothing, so to speak.

    It doesn't just "address" conteporary issues, it largely submerges itself in a contemporary Western cultural milieu.

    Which drew precisely the opposite conclusion from that which Avatar seemed to endorse, if I recall correctly.

    Which can't really be held accountable for why what is essentially a girl from a hunter-gatherer society would be spouting off thoroughly 20th century buzz-words regarding the division of labour between the sexes.

    Why not, exactly? I've yet to see you offer an explanation.

    I would disagree, naturally.

    Again, your assertions are amusing, if a tad predictable, but hardly relevant to anything I'm trying to argue.

    Looking more or less exactly like any number of Asian or Caucasian babies.
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