I’ve been called a lot of things on this site before, but an idiot was never one of them. Granted, I’ve never witnessed the amount of anger that I have seen here. And I’m a fan of the property that is being argued about.
A week ago, I was proud to be among the ranks of fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It seemed to be a popular show that, while it had its’ off episodes, ended properly. This is something that almost never happens in cartoons, let alone on network TV. The send-off was so well executed, it was bittersweet when the credits rolled. It was satisfying, left you wanting more, and sad because you didn’t know if or when you’d be getting more.
The film trilogy was announced prior to much of Book 3 airing, and it set fandom on fire. Everyone was chomping at the bit to get whatever information they could about the film project. Not a week went by, in the last year and a half, that I didn’t get some form of a casting call request for this role or that.
And then it happened. They announced a cast. No sooner had the cast been announced, than it was assumed that it was an all-white cast for a show with Asian characters.
Herd mentality set in, and people started spouting off the same arguments so much, and so fast, it became apparent that even some of the fans of the show didn’t agree on what races should have been cast in which role.
This character is Tibetan, those two are Inuit, and this other one is very clearly Korean. Or is he Japanese? Or Chinese?
What region of the world is Avatar set in? Is it, in fact, in our world? No? Okay, so we agree on one thing. All we know is that the creators intended to base the show in an Asian background, versus a European one. But that can imply both sides, when looked at it from both sides.
Mike: […]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… even though we don’t call it “magic,” it is the supernatural element of the show. (Animation Insider’s interview with Avatar’s creators.)
When it comes to being an Avatar fan today, as opposed to a week ago: now I have hords of people arguing about the races of characters on a cartoon. I have people name-calling. I’ve seen hate-speech and reverse racism.
Now, there are letter writing campaigns to the producers of the film, to try and get the casting reversed.
I am still proud to be a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I am still very much looking forward to see it in live-action. But I am not happy with the treatment that some fans give to other fans. The anger and intolerance has got to stop.
What we need isn’t an excuse for the casting choices that were made, or even a person to point fingers at.
What we need is an explanation from the film studio for the choices that were made. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and am not willing to join the herd mentality that is happening. (Although I should. This is good for the film, as it brings awareness of the project into the mainstream, leading to higher box-office revenues.) I am even happy with some of the casting choices. They are actors that have been in things, performed before, are comfortable in front of a camera, and can act naturally (save for the lead role, who we haven’t seen before… there’s not even a picture of him!).
It comes down to this: fans will not be happy until Paramount gives us an explanation for the thought process that went into the choices for the roles.
But that could take a while. I’m sure, with a movie like this, they’ve already began gathering footage for the behind-the-scenes segments of the inevitable DVD and Blu-ray releases. They may even release web-previews that talk about casting the film, and perhaps show audition tapes that won the cast members their roles.
Let’s wait and see, and if you write to the production, and get a response that includes an explanation of the casting, please contact us. We’d love to share it with all of the fandom.
If you want to write to the producers, here’s a blog that is leading the campaign.