Avatar: The Last Airbender

Does The Last Airbender Casting Have you Worried?

Since the announcement of the primary cast of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender this morning, there has been a lot of mixed reaction.  Not only are people saying negative things about Mr. Shyamalan, but they’re also saying that the creators of Avatar wouldn’t have chosen these particular characters.  They’re also commenting about the color of the characters’ skin as compared to the cartoon.

For those that missed it, here is the cast list:
Aang – Noah Ringer
Sokka – Jackson Rathbone
Katara – Nicola Peltz
Zuko – Jesse McCartney

For those keeping score at home, this is the only casting that has been done so far.  It does not mean that they have finished casting the film (as one slightly ignorant young fan had thought), it just means that they are announcing the first cast members to be signed.

As for the world of Avatar, there are a few things that we must keep in mind.

First: the characters are not all Asian.  I repeat.  The characters in the world of Avatar are not all Asian.  It is set in a fantasy world with fantastical creatures and locations.  The people of that world can be as multicultural as the casting director and creative team want them to be.  This makes for a much larger feeling world, and that’s not a bad thing!

M. Night Shyamalan isn’t doing the casting alone.  There’s a whole team of casting professionals, and there are things that they can see in actors that we tend to miss in our own limited views of the actors.

Let’s give the actors chosen a chance.  I wish them well in bringing our favorite characters to life in this upcoming trilogy, and look forward to seeing the first pictures of them in costume that will inevitably hit the web by next July!

98 Responses to “Does The Last Airbender Casting Have you Worried?”

  1. Storm anderson says:

    I'll say.
    ive already commented about DBZ before.
    but still, this is exactly waht avatar is going to be like (even though im praying to every known diety and god its not) exept in opposite forms.
    all white, and no action

  2. rizzol0219 says:

    I think I found a good Firelord and his loyal subjects

    http://letsgoeverywhere.files.wordpress.com/2006/11/silkysmooth.jpg

  3. Paul Martin Specter says:

    “ok then what about the Dragonball movie? This is not new territory.”

    Again, that's a component of Dragonball, not a remake of the series. Same with Speed Racer. That wasn't a condensed version of the cartoon series either.

  4. the boy with the cookbook on his shelf says:

    Has everyone forgotten about THE JOKER?

    Everyone was PISSED when they announced Heath Ledger for the role…and he turned out to be one of the most amazing characters of all time.

    How about we let the professionals do their job, and us audience do ours.

    Good Luck with production Shyamalan!

  5. SupWitDat says:

    “Everyone was PISSED when they announced Heath Ledger for the role…”

    I don't recall being PISSED off. Guess I am not included in everyone.

  6. Johan says:

    Personally, I think they should've chosen different ethicity people based on nation:

    Air Nation: white people or tibetians
    Fire Nation: Chinese or some form of Asian
    Water Nation: Inuit people
    Earth Nation: Mongolian or Central American people.

  7. Lawl says:

    Can't stop the rage, man.

  8. Infinity. says:

    Lame excuses so far. HILARIOUS.

    http://i34.tinypic.com/2j3s1ds.png

  9. jessie says:

    Wow, yes, epic fail on the casting for Katara (and potential for Sokka). With all the problems minorities have getting roles in HOllywood from there being a lack of roles…:
    http://www.backstage.com/bso/news_reviews/other_news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=100352925
    3

    Two roles that could have gone to minorities if only based on looks…end up going to white people. Right, because there are NOOOOO minority actors/actresses in the world that have acting ability to pull these characters off. Out of hundreds of minority mixed children dreaming of being actors with actual talent, they couldn't find TWO non-white actors for katara and Sokka? REALLY? Methinks they didn't look far enough. (Then again they did hold auditions in Texas…Texas. Ya know where all serious aspiring actors go to launch their acting careers? /sarcasm)

    Thank you Hollywood for once more failing to reflect the diversity in this country.

    One more film in Hollywood with all the leading roles being offered to white people. Because clearly, there are NO minorities that can do a good job in a leading role. (Just good enough for supporting roles. RIGHT…)

    • Shyamalansupporter says:

      the world of avatar is not the same as ours. Why would you expect it to be? nationalities could have evolved differently.
      Dont forget that the director is indian

  10. Saving The World With Postage says:

    While I appreciate your desire to support M. Knight's latest project, the whitewashing of the characters — and possibly the world — of Avatar is not okay.

    If any of you are offended by the decision to cast white actors in the roles of explicitly Asian and Inuit characters who inhabit an explicitly Asian and Inuit world, you can do something about it here:

    http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/646.html

    If you don't understand why people are upset and offended, numerous blogs and essays have already been written on the topic, including:

    http://vejiicakes.livejournal.com/240740.html

    http://glockgal.livejournal.com/375625.html

    http://theangryblackwoman.com/2008/12/10/m-night-say-it-isnt-so

    http://www.angryasianman.com/2008/12/white-cast-of-avatar-last-airbender.html

    http://vagabond-sal.livejournal.com/142204.html

    This kind of thing happens because people let it. Educate yourself, question the status quo, take action to help keep it from happening again.

  11. storm_anderson says:

    If this movie is a flop, who do you think will actualy make a remake?

  12. rizzol0219 says:

    I would like to see some movie shorts made by different directors artists similar to Animatrix except in live action or CG. In my opinion have Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou (Curse of the Golden Flower), Shen Xue Bing Gao Hong (Flyer Daggers) or Feng Xiaogang (The Banqeut or Legend of the Black Scorpion american release), or Rob Minkoff (Forbidden Kingdom)

  13. rizzol0219 says:

    ooops direct it…

  14. holyasiandude says:

    to say that this world is not inhabited by Asians is preposterous. Every one of the extra segments on the DVD show that the creators paid INCREDIBLE attention to the detail of the different aspects of Asian Cultures. Different and ACCURATE dress, martial arts styles, and etc. NOBODY on the show had blonde hair. Their eye colors were indicative of their bending abilities. Believing animated characters are suppose to be western because they have large expressive eyes is indicative of an ignorance in animation techniques and styles. If that wasn't a clue what about the NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS. Most of them are VERBATIM Asian names. I even have a friend named SOKKA, yes his real name and he is Asian. This is amazing. We're not taking the race thing too seriously either, because if we don't our culture will be misrepresented as it has ALWAYS BEEN AND CONTINUES to be by Hollywood.

  15. holyasiandude says:

    you make the assumption that the world is not Asian, or not all populated by Asians. By stating this alone you have already supported what we're trying to say, because all the leads went to white people. So does that mean they're all white. This is what the creator of the show said—”Well, Bryan had worked with Eric Coleman, the head of development at Nickelodeon, and we knew that Nickelodeon was looking for a [particular fantasy] kind of show, so we kind of took that directive and set about creating our own mythology. And we wanted to base it in Asian rather than European background, and use the elements; to use martial arts as kind of the basis for the magic in the show”

    here's the link to this article

    http://www.animationinsider.net/article.php?articleID=841&document=2

  16. kt says:

    Well I think that if you were in his situation you would also produce a small nick film here and there so go to another site ur gonna b hatin!! :angry:

  17. me is cologne says:

    hi

  18. specterisignorant says:

    Your assumptions about the world they inhabited are just that assumptions. If you would read up on how the creators of the show came about storyline and such you wouldn't be saying this thing. You mentioned earlier let's wait till we see them in costume? So did you know most of the costumes of the show weren't just influenced by Asian styles, THEY WERE EXACT COPIES of clothing worn by many Asians TODAY ceremonies, birthdays, weddings and other occasions. If the world was suppose to be SOOOO MULTICULTURAL why were there NO EUROPEAN traits or references throughout the ENTIRE SERIES. Why is RACE a NON issue when only casting movies involving characters of color? RACE IS ALWAYS AN ISSUE when casting Superman, 007, Batman, Spiderman, and so forth. Superman's an alien why can't he be black or Asian. Gotham City is not a real place. It's a made up fantasy world. No one in real life dresses like a bat, but it's pretty evident Bruce Wayne is WHITE! THEY NEVER ACTUALLY SAY IT IN THE COMIC. Do these things sound familiar. It is the same rhetoric your stating on your website about why this cast is all/or mostly white. EARTHSEA, DRAGONBALL, CHARLIE CHAN, Genghis Kahn, Atilla the Hun, are just some of the projects where people of color were automatically made white while Superman, Batman, 007, King Arthur and other traditionally white characters and historical figures have ALWAYS remained the same. That is the source of everybody's anger.

  19. specterisnotignorant says:

    I'm sorry for the tone of my last post. My anger may have been a little too vehement. Listen all we're saying is this. Avatar was the first American cartoon that took the time to study Asian culture and really take great detail in not lumping the entire race into one culture. It was excellent at showing the beauty of eastern society. Regardless of whether or not you believe the actual people of this world are to be Asian, one thing for certain everything else about that world was Asian. It wasn't just influenced it was as evident by the literal buddhist quotes, clothing that was verbatim Korean, Chinese, and Japanese, all the way down to eating utensils. This on top of the fact MOST characters Asian actors get to play are stereotypes, and even those roles are scarce. Did you know the number of Asians in film and tv actually went down from the 70's to the present. On top of all this, the image itself is, in my opinion, a negative image for children of all races to see as it reduces east Asians to nothing but background roles. With all this in play, I hope you can understand some of our anger.

  20. random says:

    i don't like the tone some of you are taking. i am shocked to see people are accusing others of being ignorant and racist.

    how awful.

    🙁

    • Li says:

      I agree. Does everything have to be about race? It’s just as wrong to complain someone got the part because they are white than didn’t because they aren’t. They are both equally ignorant and racist remarks. I understand the argument fully but one doesn’t make the other ok.

      Sad

  21. fires2 says:

    if zuko is played by a caucasian then iroh will have to be played by a caucasian, which makes absolutely no sense. iroh cannot be a caucasian.
    as for katara and sokka, i really don't mind them being caucasian as long as the majority of the water tribe is inuit-esque. in other words, not every in the water tribe needs to be inuit. a couple, like katara and sokka, can be caucasian.
    same with aang and the air nomads. i don't mind if aang is caucasian as long as the majority of the air nomads are asian.
    and obviously the most diversity can be found in earth kingdom. but toph is going to have to be asian. after all, her last name is Bei Fong.
    but again, zuko needs to be asian. and the majority of the fire nation should be asian. but jason isaacs, the voice actor for zhao, should play zhao in the live action movie. i think he would be good for the part.

  22. storm anderson says:

    Someone get M night to F-ing read this S***!

    Can anyone on this site actally get him to read any of this?

  23. rizzol0219 says:

    On fires2 comments 2 above…

    Regarding your casting above, it is a bit problematic when Toph, Aang, Katara, and Sokka go to the fire nation and go undercover. If the majority of the Fire Nation is asian then how do they blend into their environment during that part of the story? Taking that into consideration all the nations should be close to each other in ethnicity in order for this portion of the story to be believable. If Sokka and Katara are white and the rest of the tribe is inuit-esque types were they adopted? Was Katara and Sokka’s father and mother really their parents then? If Aang is Caucasian and the rest of the Air Nomads are asian, was he adopted? Now to be fair, reverse the ethnicities.

    Kudos to holyasiandude and specterisnotignorant for bringing up some valid points with actual logical arguments.

    This link was posted by GotRice in the Airbender Casting Forum…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK5jTZYccT4&feature=channel_page

  24. rizzol0219 says:

    21 the Movie Controversy
    Although the main characters upon which the film 21 is based were Asian-American, studio executives determined that “most of the film's actors would be white, with perhaps an Asian female.”

    Supporters of the decision to cast Jim Sturgess as Ben Campbell claim that producers simply sought the best actor for the job, regardless of race. Ultimately, this meant passing over many Asian-American talents in favor of London-born Jim Sturgess, who required a dialect coach to speak with an American accent.

    Nick Rogers of The Enterprise wrote “The real-life students mostly were Asian-Americans, but 21 whitewashes its cast and disappointingly lumps its only major Asian actors (Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira) into one-note designations as the team's kleptomaniac and a slot-playing “loser.”

    Posters calling the film racist could be seen in New York's Chinatown.

    Jeff Ma, who was the real-life inspiration for the character Ben Campbell, was accused of being a “race traitor” on several blogs. In response, Ma said, “I'm not sure they understand how little control I had in the movie-making process; I didn't get to cast it.” Ma said that the controversy was “overblown” and that the important aspect is that a talented actor would portray him.

  25. David says:

    Here's the thing. Sure the world of Avatar isn't our world. But here's something which destories the argument of those who say casting white people for katara and sokka is ok.
    If there was a cartoon mythology based on african culture and because of the magic, it was clearly not our world, does that mean when you make a movie about it that you'd hire white people to act on the subject matter which is based on african culture? or reverse that. If there was a cartoon mythology based on british culture and history, if you turned it into a movie, would you get africans to play the main characters.
    It think the respectful thing to do is to hire people to play the characters who actually have something to do with the source culture the mythology is based on.

    If someone was going to make a movie about World War II, when the Japanese invaded Pearl Habour, can you imagion if they cast Japanese to play Americans? And Americans to play Japanese?
    That movie would be such a joke.
    It would make no sense.
    The same applies here.

  26. holyasiandude says:

    David you wrote “If there was a cartoon mythology based on british culture and history, if you turned it into a movie, would you get africans to play the main characters.”

    yeah they did this it was called Lord of the Rings and that didn't have ANY recognizable minority people in it at all, and the funny thing is everytime I mention it in any of the forums I have only gotten one response. Some moron said the races of the people were well established in the book, as if the same was not true about tv show. People will pull all kinds of things out of their but to justify their prejudice which is absolutely amazing.

  27. Dr Crowe says:

    We posted a new poll about this over at LastAirbenderFans.com

  28. Megan says:

    I'll give karate boy a chance, I'll give that girl a chance, and I'll even give Twilight guy a chance, but no way I am giving that girly boy Jesse McCartney a chance. No one can tell me he's a good actor, I saw Summerland. I love Night, but I still have to say WTF are the casting directors thinking? Though this is great publicity for it, since any publicity is good publicity. But you shouldn't possibly ruin a movie just for publicity.

  29. Those we don't speak of says:

    I'm sorry to see that so many people are fixated on race that all they saw when they watched Avatar was the skin color, ignoring personality and character. I'm going to give the actors a chance to prove they can convey emotions and portray personality before I bash them.

  30. Ireth says:

    Someone asked if anyone could imagine Elijah Wood as Frodo.

    I say, yes. I saw him in a movie called Ellis Island on TV. He was probably about 9 or so. Not even a year before that, I saw the Animated Lord of the Rings. When I saw Elijah, I told my dad that he was so cute and would make a good Hobbit. Years later, he plays the lead role in the LOTR Trilogy. Yeah. I should be a casting director.

  31. Avatar_Mom says:

    I am responding to this late, so please forgive me. I have a suggestion. Before stating what the characters from the animated series are or are not, please reach out to the creatives who developed the show, and ask them to clarify.

  32. Truth says:

    here's one for y'all colorblind asses. http://glockgal.livejournal.com/375833.html

  33. Stephen Daugherty says:

    First, take a close look at the leads as they are drawn: Do they look explicitly ethnic to begin with? If Aang and the others were drawn that way to start, it might be more of an issue, but in truth, they were not drawn in such a way that emphasized their being non-white.

    Second, consider the need for somebody who can act, first and foremost, and secondly, somebody who can stand up to the rigorous physical demands of all the stuntwork.

    Without the explicit necessity of casting by ethnicity, you're faced with the greater necessity of getting actors who can meet the technical challenges.

  34. Paul Martin Specter says:

    One thing that we have to keep in mind, that many seem to have forgotten, is that the casting directors opened up the role of Aang to all ethnicities. It wasn't like they were doing that, and only going to cast an all-white cast. They were looking for the best candidate for the role. Someone that embodies the character of Aang in a way that isn't merely skin-deep. That is verifiable.

    The rest of the cast is an unknown in that regard, but if we judge the decision based on the method of casting Aang, they must have been looking for the same thing for the rest of the cast. Another thing to keep in mind is, if they cast someone in the role of Katara, they have to cast someone that can realistically be her brother. It would have been strange to have an Asian Sokka, and an American Katara. I have a feeling that, once they had found someone that could pull off either of the roles, they had to look for someone that matched the other in physical appearance, at least as far as siblings are concerned.

  35. Purple Thang says:

    Race matters so much in this movie its not even funny!! If race didn't matter than kids wouldn't b trying to kill who ever casted those ppl!!! I think its a lie saying they cant find any asians i have like 3 asains as like my bffs and they're amazing!! They can act and fight really well!! So screw that lie!!! Also Zuko could b anybody except 4 Jessie M., or Zac E.!!! what were they thinking when they casted these ppl!!! I think racsim has something behind this whole thing u may not c it but its somewhere behind this all!! Oh and if u think racsim not around it is im not tryin to be racist at all but the whole movie seems to b unfair to all races!!Which is why this movie is goin to be a mess!! Good luck M.shamalayn ur goin to need it!! :angry:

  36. RWB says:

    “Do they look explicitly ethnic to begin with?”

    Zuko does to high degree, and Iroh is even more obvious. Katara and Sokka does. Aang does look asian just not as much, and Toph looks chinese(although in her case not as explicit).

    “If Aang and the others were drawn that way to start, it might be more of an issue, but in truth, they were not drawn in such a way that emphasized their being non-white.”

    Yes they were. The one character that seems the most “western” in looks would be Jet… and if you can't see this: [No valid img specified]http://i485.photobucket.com/albums/rr214/aang_aint_white/ep10-88.png[/img]

    Is an asian dude, you need glasses.

  37. Vejiicakes says:

    Here's the thing about encouragement to “stay optimistic” about the casting decisions.

    Anyone who has ANY familiarity with:

    – Hollywood's/American mainstream media's long and shameful historical collusion of racism and commerce
    – the practice of blackface (discontinued today)
    – the practice of yellowface and brownface (somehow not discontinued today)
    – the practice of tightly controlling what it meant in to “look” like a non-white character for past decades in American film (see, for instance, Rita Moreno in “West Side Story”–an actual Puerto Rican actress playing a Puerto Rican character was made to wear “brown” makeup because she didn't look like what studio execs thought Puerto Ricans /should/ look like)
    – the fact that in popular American media, “Avatar” stood ALL alone in embracing a non-Eurocentric culture set and, MOREOVER, treated it as a -norm- rather than a foreign element
    – the knowledge that the point above is very, very, very, VERY rare in popular American media

  38. Vejiicakes says:

    [continued from above]

    – the practice of exoticism and Orientalism (and we assume here that “Avatar” would NOT count as Orientalism because as mentioned, the Asian elements are treated as a norm rather than treated as an “Other” or “exotic”–and if you think it DOES, then that leaves the question of why you believe that to be a pardonable, or preferable, canon)
    – the fact that a vast majority of popular American media is Caucasian/Euro-centric already
    – knowledge that the chances of movie roles not even written for ANY particular ethnicity are stacked against underrepresented minorities being cast, because even for ethnically neutral roles Caucasian or passing-for-Caucasian actors are favored over “other ethnicities” (and they are generally relegated to “others”)

    Anyone who has even an /inkling/ of any number of those points knows that, frankly, we don't exactly have ample reason to be “optimistic”.

  39. Justxn says:

    idk its pretty hard to come up with characters to anime…but i just hope m night jsut doesnt fuck it up bc this could be as big as star wars and can for sure be as big as lord of the rings but for it to do that the director needs the right outlook on how to portray a cartoon series with more plot and story then most people could handle…and m night did come out with some good movies but he specializes in horror which is may more different than an action adventure movie…

  40. zuko says:

    For those who thinks that avatar characters are not asian, take a look at this:
    http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/1007.html

  41. bitBM says:

    Does “Avatar” being in the fantasy genre automatically make it right to strip the characters of what the creators had intended them to be?

    From what I've heard the creators of “Avatar” are NOT happy with the casting and feel that their characters have been disrespected.

  42. Kth says:

    >”Does “Avatar” being in the fantasy genre automatically make it right to strip the characters of what the creators had intended them to be?”

    But of course! Since the creators never *said* they were specifically Asian, and since they're not on this Earth, they should default to normal! 8D

    *sighs, then facepalms*

  43. Shyamalansupporter says:

    what would you think if Appa or Momo are left out of the movie?
    just a thought.

  44. Shyamalansupporter says:

    as long as they get the martial arts right i will be happy with it I dont understand why everybody is whining about what race got picked for what part, thats not what the show was about anyway.
    in fact i dont ever remember any of the characters mentioning race in the intire series.
    am i wrong? If so please tell me because i would like to know. if not however could we just drop the whole “OMG why is Katara white thing?”

  45. michelle says:

    i thought that Dev Patel or something guy was Zuko. Jesse McCartney?? as if.

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