Shyamalan Addresses ‘Last Airbender’ Race-bending Controversy

If you’ve been reading about The Last Airbender over the last year, you know what this is about.  Shyamalan has come forward and addressed the entire controversial issue with something very simple, yet very true:

He states, “The whole point of the movie is that there isn’t any bad or good. The irony is that I’m playing on the exact prejudices that the people who are claiming I’m racist are doing,” and goes on to further defend The Last Airbender as “the most culturally diverse movie series of all time.”

What this is attempting to be is very beautiful, and what he said is no different than what producer Frank Marshall stated over a year ago.  (Last Airbender Producer Frank Marshall Comments on Cast Diversity)

The main actors (the film stars Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone) were simply the best fit for each of their roles, and the other representatives of each of the four ‘nations’ (representing the elements of Air, Water, Earth, and Fire) were then chosen based on the race or appearance of those principle characters, with M. Night making a conscious effort to include all races and ethnicities.

I know that when you start a cause you feel strongly about, you should see it through, but I also know that when that cause can be turned toward the positive and not the negative, you’ll see greater results.  The protest of a film that is so ethnically diverse because a few of the primary actors in this part of the story are cast different than you thought you saw them in the cartoon is not something I would ever take part in.  Here’s the thing: if you’ve seen the entire series, you know that there is still another major cast member to come, that of Toph Bei Fong.  You also know the paths that the current cast members take.  You can’t tell me that the argument of who is hero and who is villain really stands up.  The argument just falls apart as the storyline progresses.  And as the movie series continues, it’s not going to progress in that way because of anything this ‘movement’ has done.  It’s going to progress in that way because that’s how the cartoon went.

Remember: the cartoon is set of a fictional world.  There are fictional creatures like Turtle-Ducks.  It is based on many cultures.  Aang appeared as a young white boy to me.  Sokka and Katara?  They looked tanned, perhaps a little Mediterranean.  Zuko, perhaps Asian, perhaps not.  I’ve known many people who haven’t looked their ethnicity over the years.

Isn’t it time we stopped looking at race?  Just look at Pat Morita in The Karate Kid (1984), as well as the sequel, The Karate Kid: Part II.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Mr. Miyagi.  He was responsible for a new respect for the Martial Arts, which I can guarantee inspired the creation of the character of Uncle Iroh, even if I hadn’t heard it from the mouths of the creators of the show directly.

Miyagi was and is an inspiration to me.  And a world that is color-blind, that celebrates culture over appearance, is a world that I’d like to live in.

-via Hollywood News

(I once said that I would no longer report on the ethics of the film cast.  As the movie is less than a week away, I thought one more was in order.)


  1. So true,
    M. Night has done a great job making this movie so diverse. When the second movie comes out the eastern kingdom will play a huge part, and since they are played by asians this racebending movement will state that they accomplished their mission. But they’re dead wrong. Since this movie was announced those racebenders do nothing but spoiling the fun out of the whole project. I hope they will be silenced when they get to see the movie.
    M. Night is the man…

  2. NOT TRUE!! First and foremost lets be honest with ourselves and the facts here. Hollywood has always used whites in roles in stories whereby the main character and/or the hero/hereon is a person of color. Seriously, would it hurt to actually have Aang be played by an Asian American kid?? Would you still see the movie? I would hope so. I considered myself a huge fan of M. Night even hoping that this movie would bring the haters to silence (those that cant stand M. Night movies). But this nonsense with having ALL the main characters white, is just ridiculous. The one opportunity that we get to see real diversity and it gets whitewashed in all the Hollywood politics. EPIC FAIL! Look, alot of the cartoon series fans fell in love with the cartoon because of the fact that it had characters of ethnic backgrounds you never see in cartoons! Even the creators of the cartoons went to serious lengths to make sure that they portrayed Asian and Inuit cultures in a positive light. Come on! Even they (the creators) are upset with the handling of the casting for this movie. It’s all about the fans here…. Those of us that are upset about the casting are IN LOVE with The Last Airbender and there are others of us who HUGE fans of M. Night Shyamalan! So this movement is NOT based on hate but on fairness, non racist behavior, and equal opportunities for positive representation….On another note I would like to see if there will be an outcry if Spiderman or any one of the other comic book heros is played by a Black man….we shall see peoples true behavior….

    • You state that the creators of the show are upset with the casting. They have said nothing to that regard.

      With casting of a comic book hero:

      Samuel L. Jackson is playing Nick Fury in at least 8 separate Marvel Comics movies. The Nick Fury character had always been white, until that point. Was there an outcry? No. Is that because it’s Sam Jackson? It’s likely, but should decisions like that be made based on the caliber of the actor? Does that make it okay? Yes. If an actor is best for the role, then it’s best for the movie.

      Dean Cain is also mixed-race, being half Japanese I believe, and he played Superman/Clark Kent on Lois and Clark. Did people complain? No, he was right for the part.

      And Aang IS being played by an Asian American. He is mixed race, though, but he looks exactly like Aang.

      • Well, the Nick Fury in the Marvel film Universe is based on the Fury from the Ultimate Marvel Comic Series, who is in turn based on Sam L. Jackson. So there wasn’t much contest there…

        Would have been interesting to see The Hoff re-cast as Fury though..

  3. So glad he’s not requring the new characters coming in to be Asian! Such a relief.

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