Robot 6

Could The Last Airbender actually turn out to be decent?

This has little to do with comics, beyond those issues of Nickelodeon Magazine, but I’m such a fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series that I couldn’t resist posting the first official teaser for M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation.

The movie has at least three things going against it: the difficulty inherent in making the leap from animation to live action; the casting, at least initially, of white actors in the four central roles; and Shyamalan’s spotty track record.

But I admit that this 1 minute and 41-second teaser looks, well, if not promising then … not awful. I never thought I’d say that.



To be fair, the casting is still racist. If you take a look at , you’ll see that now instead of just plain whitewashing, they’ve cast the villains/antagonists as people of colour and the poor, oppressed heroes are all white. Not to mention the initial problem of casting white actors to play Asian characters, and the racism involved in the casting calls for the roles from the start (

Paramount responded to the concerns MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans) had expressed about the movie, but as can be seen in MANAA’s response to that (, it’s clear that Paramount sadly doesn’t understand the racism behind their casting.

The characters on that show were Asian?

Here’s the thing: the characters of Avatar are NOT Asian. They aren’t Causasian, Latino, or anything else for which we have a term. They are humans, who may or may not look like a certain race from our world. Their culture is mostly inspired by Asian cultures, but they are animated characters. And the only teenage characters who actually have any Asian features are Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Aang.

So how would casting an Asian kid for the sake of casting an Asian kid be any less racist? His skill is much more important than matching his assumed race.

I’m not sure how you’d mistake characters with names like “Zuko” and “Iroh” as anything but Asian. More specifically…The Earth Kingdom seemed to be the equivalent of the Chinese, while the Fire Nation was the equivalent of the Japanese. There really wasn’t any large group of people–that we got to see–that could’ve been mistaken for European.

…So yeah, I normally go out of my way to not to call things racist, but to cast the Katara and Sokka characters as white is not only silly–its just plain offensive. I understand finding actual Eskimos might’ve been difficult, but they could’ve at least hired African Americans. (As opposed to just finding a white guy who thinks he can “get a tan” and it’ll work. LOL. Heh, if the actor for Sokka really said that, he’s got the character’s bad jokes down already.)

Ah well. I’m irritated now, but its not really a big deal. This movie will likely be average to newcomers, and utter crap to fans. The first season of Avatar is 20 episodes long–440 minutes–while the movie will be maybe 90, 120 minutes. There’s really not that much in the way of filler in S1, so they’ll either have to toss out most of it, rework the entire plot and probably make it a lot more generic, or make the movie so rushed the viewers won’t have time to catch their breath.

Let me know when the creators have a cartoon, or even a comic.

@ Avatar fan: But, that assumes that you can’t find someone who resembles the character who can act. Don’t you find that at least, somewhat condescending?

Also, might I ask why you just listed three of the most important characters (Aang and Zuko are the *main* characters, Azula is one of the main villains) in the series as if they were just going to make cameo appearances. And you forgot Toph, and that Katara and Sokka, while not asian, aren’t caucasian either.

“Some believe he is the Star Wars kid…”

I can’t get past the casting and the dismissive attitude of everybody involved in the production.

The important thing about casting a movie is can the actors pull off the roles in a convincing manner. What race the actors are is completely beside the point. Or it should be.

The trailer has generated the appropriate response in my 5-year old daughter, and I am therefore looking forward to the movie next summer.

Stopwatch@, that’s a nice view, but the reality is, Hollywood wants someone who THEY think will sell. And in their view, ASIANS DON’T.

Just stop and read this blog and then come back and say that Hollywood was fair in the casting.

It looks great. Will it be great? No one can really say right now, but if Shayamalan follows the cartoon’s plot and characters, it could be killer.

Racist? Let’s see, an Asian director fills up the principal cast of seven (and I’m looking at the credits from the teaser) with four Asians… how racist!

I guess that South Asians (and Maoris) don’t count as Asians. The non-racists just want to see the what they think are the proper Asians, and figure that Paramount has an obligation to fill the quotas to their liking in this $150 Million affirmative action program.

im really looking forward to this movie…i love the plot and i personally care for the story and as long as its acted well and true to the show…i know im gonna love it!

I agree 100% with Avatar fan…race doesn’t matter…and about the movie itself, I personally cannot wait! I heard that the producers (including Bryan and Micheal…creators and writers of the show) and M Night have been working together to keep the story as true to the cartoon as possible. Also, honestly, I have faith in M Night…he may not be the best WRITER, but he is a superb director and visionary. And this story isn’t HIS…I really trust him and am looking forward to how this all comes together…2010 baby!

In my opinion, Zuko should’ve been East Asian. Supposedly, Noah Ringer looks exactly like Aang. So, if he does look like Aang, who cares what race he is? Sokka and Katara (the cartoon versions) don’t look like any ethnic group at all. I certainly don’t know of any blue-eyed Inuit (Sokka and Katara both have blue eyes in the cartoon). If we are going to cast actors who look the part, then out of the main four characters, only Zuko is lacking… in my opinion.

But the impression I’m getting is that Shyamalan and Paramount are changing the story up a bit (well, the background of the story, anyway). So far, most of the Fire Nation actors are Indian or Middle Eastern. The Earth Kingdom will have all Chinese or Japanese actors. Water Tribe (at least the Southern Water Tribe) will be Caucasian. In a sense, they are making the story more universal. Suddenly, that doesn’t sound so bad.

The whole casting controversy is having the opposite effect on me than what is intended (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), in that its making me MORE curious and intrigued about the movie. Add a kick-ass teaser trailer, and I’m stoked. I understand where everyone is coming from, but let’s be fair. You can’t just put all of the blame on Shyamalan when most of Hollywood is guilty of this. Apparently, the powers that be don’t think that an all Asian cast would make as much of a profit. Hence, the casting. I could go on and on with this, including what would solve the problem (here’s a hint: going to the theaters in large numbers to see movies like Hero and The House of Flying Dagger will show Hollywood that there’s money to be had… Hollywood is nothing if not greedy), but my point is that, if you’re a fan of the show, and you don’t want the ATLA to just end with the series, and would like to see it as a movie, this is it. This is the only chance you are going to get. Hollywood will not revisit this if it fails.

Lastly, to all of the people who are knocking this movie because of Shyamalan is a director, all I can say is “hi hater, hi hater, you see me…”. Shyamalan’s failure are mostly due to his writing. As a technical director he is very good. That trailer only reminds me of how good he is. At least the people complaining about the casting have a legit gripe. The Shyamalan haters are just wasting my time. Count me as someone who is going to see the movie.

My advice, if you liked the teaser, is to go watch the original show. It’s streaming free on Netflix, the Nickelodeon website, and a few other places. The movie is never going to match up to it anyway, so why wait?

Oh, and everything in the Avatar universe is Asian or Inuit. And everyone. It makes no sense suddenly to have Caucasian heroes and push all the people who actually belong to those cultures into the roles of the villains and the background extras.

so the earth realm are villains now?


June 26, 2009 at 1:41 am

IT’S NOT THAT THE CAST IS WHITEWASHED THAT THIS MOVIE IS RACIST. For me, it’s not the fact that whites were cast in an asian-based world. It’s that the casting calls looked something like this:

Aang: “Caucasian or any other ethnicity”
Katara: “Caucasian or any other ethnicity”
Sokka: “Caucasian or any other ethnicity”

Whatever happened to “Any ethnicity”? Now you tell me that singling out a race like that isn’t racism. I’ve nothing against the actors, but I’ve something against THIS. So YES, the people making, or at least charge of, this movie are racist. Not because the cast itself is racist, but the castING was racist.

Lemme see:

The show adopted Asian architecture, traditionally Asian-type costumes, Asian names (Toph BEI FONG… anyone?), Asian martial-arts styles, and oh yeah, they WRITE in CHINESE.

But for the film, they cast all White people in the roles of the brave, oppressed heroes (while still maintaining an Asian cultural background), while making the genocidal villains of completely unrelated yet indeterminate dark-skinned origins (Middle Eastern/East Asian/Latino/African)?

Um… how can you argue this isn’t racist, or at the very least painfully and awkwardly ethnocentric???

Also, M. Night Shyamalan completely blows as a director. He has an awful batting record of good films to bad, and all his good film(s?) were at the beginning of his career. Why would a studio even let him helm a major film after the crap that he’s made?

The creators of Avator are white guys. If they hadn’t invented the series in the first place then you “other ethnicities” wouldn’t have anything to complain about would you? How about YOU create a kick-ass series yourself and then cast it any which way you want to? Noah Ringer looks exactly like Aang, so does Nicola Peltz as Katara and Jackson Rathbone as Sokka. Actually Dev Patel is a bit of a stretch for me as Zuko. I really wish they would have used the actor who did the voice of Zuko in the anime, Dante Basco (who is asian btw). For me Zuko’s voice is the character and I’ll miss Basco’s rather unique voice with Patel. There was a huge casting call put out for these roles and from all of those people these actors were chosen. Perhaps it’s just a simple case of hiring those they felt would do the best job. Ringer is a many times martial arts champion with a black belt and he’s only 12 and he can act. That’s a tall order to follow. Peltz looks most like the character from the anime so if she can act I would have hired her too. BTW how many blue eyed Iniut people do you know? This was a fantasy series built around a lot of differing cultures. This isn’t our world it’s an imaginary one so all this talk of using asian actors is nonsense. Hollywood has done this kind of race switching before you know and it didn’t work. Did you ever see “The Wiz”? It was terrible. I will be taking my teenage daughter to see this movie and after seeing this trailer we are both excited. If you have a prejudice against white folks in the movie then keep your hate at home and don’t go see it. Vote with your feet.

Soo….. M.Night.Shayamalan is a racist white supremacist?….Someone may need to send him a boxed set of the original Chapelle show….

Nicola Peltz as Katara and Jackson Rathbone as Sokka.

Wow, you really think that Jackson Rathbone looks like Sokka? I know this is a subjective opinion and anything, but you lost whatever little credibility you had with that statement.

lol the “characters are not asian, they aren’t anything”

that argument is pretty much the worst comment ever. The fact that the creators of the series did their research on Asian and Native culture and put it in the show pretty much makes “WAHH THEY”RE NOT ASIAN” argument moot.

It’s like covering your ears and going “lalalalala” to the casting baloney.

They are taking away the chinese writing in Avatar.

They are making Toph a BOY

and people will just go to see this for the special effects. Not realizing this isn’t avatar. It will be like a Sci-fi Earthsea with bigger budgeted special effects.


You are absolutely correct. The casting for The Last Airbender isn’t racist. It’s not a long standing practice of institutionalized racism that keeps Asians, African Americans, Native Americans, as well as others out of movies. It’s that well they just don’t make money. I mean yeah the parts were ASIAN, but they don’t test well with the demographic with money.

I certainly hope that beautiful daughter of yours is white or if not lets pray that she has no aspirations of being an actress. Lord forbid she be told they would rather cast the little white girl next door than her. Lets be frank M. Knight has blatantly said that Acting wasn’t a primary concern for his actors as the kid playing Aang only had to be shipped off to acting school for a short while to fit the part. I mean yeah other movies and television shows use a stand ins to do difficult martial arts sequences while the actor actually, oh sheesh what’s that word? OH yeah ACT!!!

But what do I know… You’re absolutely correct. This isn’t racism. They aren’t substituting an entire freaking culture (yes culture Mike and Brian did research on the different cultures around the world placing them in the show. eg. the Inuit that you claim must be white because they have blue eyes, is completely based on Eskimo culture. Aang is based directly on the Shaolin monks. They even use traditional Korean garments for the earth kingdom.) with white people just remember that hey white people did create martial arts, It was a white person who created fireworks and gunpowder, hell two continents were found by white people… Completely uninhabited ya know.

My “hate” stems from a lack of respect and a system built upon hatred. MY “HATE” is the result of years of watching the media present people of color as poor ignorant bastards who can only aspire to be a rapper or a sports star. Growing up the only people that looked like me were on the Cosby show. So yes I’m pissed that Asians can’t play rolls for Asians. I’m pissed that ONCE AGAIN we are replacing Native Americans (Eskimo) with white people. I am ANGRY that a property that I care enough about to share with my entire family has been warped by such a simple decision is now something that I am ashamed of. Caucasians and other ethnicity. Why am I ashamed? Let me ask you this Ney, Why is it that light skinned people are defeating the brown skinned people? This reminds me of freaking BC where you have two white people leading an army of brown people because… what they’re white? I know what it is. This IS institutionalized racism. This is not one person sitting around with a white sheet and a burning cross. It is a system built upon ideals that are unacceptable and an audience that accepts it because they’ve become accustomed to it. Look I love my sister, and she unlike me, is white. I would not cast her as Cleopatra.

Mysti you are awesome

okay I have a question. If any of you watched Transformers 2 then think about the racist twins Skids and Mudflap. Yeah they were funny, but they were racist. I mean they couldn’t read, one had a gold tooth like a pimp and both had black person language. Black people probably felt offended and every other race probably felt as though to make fun of them. What I’m saying is would you think for black people that skids and mudflap shouldn’t be there and not offend black people. Same thing with this but the other way around. I mean we asians are made fun of in every tv show known to man and also get in society. I can’t get through my whole school day without being made fun of my asianess ( which im proud of ). In the last airbender i can think of scenes like the cabbage man ( if they do put it ) that if he was played by asians, I would feel I would be made more fun. I say that the casting is not racist, but there can be tweeks to be made. I mean I would have no asians than an asian putting all the racist stereotypes that all asians are rumored to do and be made fun of even more. If other races do asian stereotypes, we could be like “dude you’re ahole and how would you know that this is what we do first of all you’re not asian,” but if an asian does a stereotype ( I mean full asian), we can’t do anything because that person is our race.

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