I'm not cutting this because this is very important to me.
A couple years ago, my friend M introduced me to this amazing animated show called Avatar: The Last Airbender
. I was visiting him, he showed me the first episode, and I ended up watching something like four or five episodes in a row before we went for dinner.
Why was I hooked? I was 22 years old at the time, and it was the first time I had ever seen an American cartoon that had dark-skinned characters opening the shot, where their skin color was just part of them and not something to be "A special teaching moment for the white kids", and they were hilarious kids who didn't get killed off. Katara and her brother Sokka had me in the first five minutes.
They were heroes, they coded as Eskimo/Inuit/some flavor of First Nations and their fantasy world drew me in. Aang is a young boy trapped in the ice, they rescue him, and I saw him and was all "jfaojra he's adorable and he looks like a monk-let!"
This was an amazing world with different cultures that I could see were based on East, South, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, First Nations and Native American Indian, and Pacific Islander cultures. I learned from the community that the (white) creators were dedicated to accurately portraying those parts they drew from, and they didn't exoticize them, and they didn't screw it up
. *_* This was the characters' world and they lived in it and it wasn't like anyone drawing attention to how cool and Asian it was. *__*
It was an animated show NOT, for once, based on Western/European aesthetics and cultures, and wasn't full of wince-worthy crappy kung fu wannabes. This had martial arts styles I (and my friend M) could actually recognize! :D
And then I learned the movie was coming out. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. And here is what the initial casting (not final, I hope hope hope it's not final) looks like.
I just. I can't. This hurts so much to see. They whitewashed the leads. Completely. And it's like a slap to the face. It's already so rare to see people of color on screen, when a role calls for someone of "any race" it always seems to default to white. People of color get to be thugs, Magical Negroes or Mystical Asian/Indian Wise Man, the sidekicks, the token who gets killed off, the sexy native girl who snarks back and resists the Great White Hero but gets won over and falls in love with him anyway, etc. etc. And now this is a chance to have a full of cast of POC, with awesome roles that aren't stereotypical, for a smart show that has already won over kids and 'grownups' of every age, race and ethnicity.
I call bullshit. Complete bullshit on Hollywood, that you have to have a white face to sell to white audiences. First assuming that the only audience that matters is white, which makes me a nonentity, and then condescending to white people that they're so dumb that they won't watch anything with people that *gasp* don't look like them. Like I've been doing ALL MY LIFE.
You know what's really kind of a shock? Shyamalan is Indian, and he got interested in the project because his daughter wanted to dress up as Katara. Think of all the kids who love this show, who are people of color and get to see characters who look at least a little bit like them, and learn that Hollywood is saying, "No. You don't count, you don't matter."
Once the Christmas retail rush calms a little I'm going to be writing a letter as in the link below, believe you me. Please spread this around, it's not "just a kids show," it's about sending a message that we can't stand for this sort of institutional racism. It's going to be yellowface, people! Orientalism at it's finest!
Links with things to read here: The Letter Writing Campaign!Vejiicakes' postTablesaw's postRawles' postAngry Asian Man's postAngry Black Woman's post
(faojra I love her writing)
Personal references during the bloghopping:oyceter's post on films and tv: What These People Need is a HonkySmillaraaq's post on Native American Indians portrayal in mediaETA:
A possibly hopeful note from vagabond_sal
Clearinghouse of info at glockgal's place
and also here
More links and reactions from jbramx2
Racefail bingo on deadbrowalking commLemon Press's reactions and links
old, but an interview with the creators of Avatar