Whitewashing Avatar: The Last Airbender - Open Thread

About three months back, Shaker Seraph gave us a superb introduction to the excellent American animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, with a world based in various Asian(-ish) traditions. The names and the clothes and the kung fu styles and the architecture are Asian (well, Asian and Inuit*), all of it.

Which just makes it that much weirder that when they came to put together a live-action version of the show, they near-totally whitewashed it. Derek Kim, a superb Asian-American artist in his own right, put that post together, and I think he outlines really well the reasons why this is a problem. This was an opportunity for Hollywood to actually put together a show that would put a tiny little dent in the white stranglehold on good roles.

Spoiler warning: Below the jump, spoilers have been, spoilers are, spoilers will be. Please also watch out for sky bison droppings. Appa's not housebroken.

Instead, we get Katara and Sokka - two Inuit-based characters - played by two people who may well be fine actors, but who are, unfortunately, a lot more Scandinavian-looking than Inuit-looking. They look like they should be waving goodbye to Erik the Red, not the matriarch of their Inuit village.

We get Aang - the title role, a 12-year-old monk - played by a white kid. We do get one POC in one major role: Zuko is to be played by an English-born actor of Indian background (Dev Patel). I somehow doubt it's a coincidence that he's one of the "bad guys".

Here's the actor playing Sokka, on playing an Inuit tribesman:
"I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan," he said of the transformation he'll go through to look more like Sokka. "It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."
So...basically, playing it in yellowface.


Gee, how...modern.

I don't think I can improve on that. Have at it, Shakers, but please remember the guidelines for commenting on threads here: check your privilege at the door, and recognize that people - particularly POC - have a right to be angry about this. Trolls of any stripe will be mercilessly mocked, used as cover models for encephalic enema kits, quite likely banned...and then mocked some more.

Also, please enjoy this link to a bingo card , specially made for this particular racefail.

Edit: Some excellent links from Shaker Socchan, which I thought worth bringing into the post.

Racebending on Livejournal / Racebending the website

Aang Ain't White on LJ: home of a letter-writing campaign.

* Inuit, not Eskimo, per the preferences of the Inuit themselves. Please respect their right to their own name in the comment thread.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus