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.)