Shyamalan addresses ‘Last Airbender’ race-bending controversy

By Whitney Milam M. Night Shyamalan, director of the upcoming film adaptation of popular Nickelodeon TV show “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, has directly spoken out against accusations of racism in the film’s casting.

Shyamalan responds to repeated criticisms about dark-skinned characters in the television series being light-skinned in the movie, and vice versa, with a simple explanation: the main actors (the film stars Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, 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.

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.”

Whether audiences will agree remains to be seen until the film is released on July 1, but in the meantime, you can catch a glimpse of the film versions of all four of the main characters–Aang, Zuko, Katara, and Sokka–in just-released new clip from the movie.

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  • June 27, 2010 | Permalink |

    Shyamalan is full of crap. I can’t believe he couldn’t find an Asian or Native American to play any of the main characters. I always liked him and his movies but this is absolutely disgraceful and disgusting. He ought to be ashamed. Me and my daughters loved the show and always watched it together. We were super excited about the movie and couldn’t wait to see it. Now, I refuse to pay a red penny for another great white hope cliche.

  • June 27, 2010 | Permalink |


    could not agree MORE!!! Too bad for such a great and diverse series to be completely whitewashed….

  • June 27, 2010 | Permalink |

    You would think he would know better. Way to ruin the chances of actually having Asian actors playing roles that don’t involve them having a fake accent or being the huge computer dork. This could have provided more opportunities for Asian actors. I’m sure there was an Asian actor that was perfect to play one of the main characters.They did this will Dragonball Z and now this. I will NOT be seeing this movie.

  • June 28, 2010 | Permalink |

    Dudes, your idiots.

    You have to take into consideration that in the TV series the ENTIRE world of the Avatar was Asian but Shymalan decided not to take that route and make the entire world mixed races (even going so far to change chinese calligraphy from the series to fictional writing and adding Roman influences to the fireneation).

    At that point the Whitewash argument becomes completely null and void because now all previous races of the characters no longer matter due to the internal cultural structure of the entire world has been altered.

    I repeat that this is NOT whitewashing, this is an alteration in adaption. This is a change the director made to the fantasy of the world

    If Shymalan kept the entire world asian but cast white actors then yes, that would be whitewashing, but he didn’t. He completely changed the cultural demographic of the entire world.

    That being said if you wish that he had kept it all asian instead of mixed, that’s fine, but just don’t go throwing around the word racist and whitewashing without knowing what they really mean.

  • June 28, 2010 | Permalink |

    Whatever happened to working towards a colorblind world and recognizing the universality of the human race? Acting is a job, and the person who will best fill the bill and the theatres should be hired.

  • June 28, 2010 | Permalink |

    Ruz, it wasn’t a colorblind casting call. They stated their preference for white people first, then anyone else.

  • June 29, 2010 | Permalink |

    I, as a Chinese, am glad the movie has changed Fire Nation from East Asian to Persian.

    In the anime, the Chinese-looking Firebenders destroyed and exterminated the Tibetan-inspired Airbender monks. All the annoying hippies insist the story is a parable for the “genocide” of Tibetans by Chinese. That offends me.

    If the movie has cast East Asians as Firebanders, and the movie becomes a box office success, it will undoubtedly unleash a tsunami of discussions and debates over Tibet. The movie will become the biggest propaganda for the Free Tibet movement.

    Now it won’t. The Firebenders in the movie are Persian and Indian instead of Chinese or East Asian. Thank goodness. I won’t have to suffer the Free Tibet nonsense when the movie becomes a hit. Shyamalan has (unintentionally) done Chinese a big favor.

  • June 29, 2010 | Permalink |

    M. Night can make all the claims he wants. The fact remains he hasn’t had a hit film in ages. His last three did badly and people REALLY EXPECT this to be any different?

  • July 1, 2010 | Permalink |

    I actually watch the show on nickoloden and was excited when i first heard the movie was coming out….then i saw the commercial.Every single character is wrong it wouldn’t have been hard to find characters that looked like them in the tv series yes he added in all the races but that doesn’t help that the whole movie is just wrong no one asked him to change it, it was find just the way it was.Lets remember its all based off a CHILDREN series so all the claims and controversy surrounding it are just similarities people have made in their mind to the real world.It was an amazing story now ruined ,ignorance is bliss and everything is fine until adults get in the mix.

  • July 9, 2010 | Permalink |

    I think
    the firebenders should be light golden skinned asians…filipinos/Southeast asians
    the waterbenders should be like tanned latins like brazilians, maybe indians
    the earth benders shouldve been white
    and the air benders shouldve been white/black which is right in the movie
    and they shouldve used golden contacts, green contacts, green and blue for their eyes

  • July 11, 2010 | Permalink |

    I disagree. As a student of WW II history and fan of programs such as Ruroni Kenshin, the Fire Nation is Japanese. The culture and the militaristic aspects and the martial arts style used fits Japan better than anyone else.

    The Earth Nation was China and the characters as well as the culture matched pre-WW II Imperial China.

    The thing about Sokka & Kitara is that if you look closely at their eyes in the TV series, they are blue eyed. The eyes but not the skin color in the movie were a good match.

  • July 12, 2010 | Permalink |

    Love the casting call for xtras by these group of morons….
    “if you’re Korean, wear a Kimono, and if you’re Belgian, wear Lederhosen.”

  • July 27, 2010 | Permalink |

    The movie is just stupid. This is not about racism at all. It’s about the fidelity of the movie to the series.

    M. Knight, please make a movie of street fighters. Ryu is african american, Ken is Thai, Balrog is White, and Dhalsim is Chinese.

  • August 31, 2010 | Permalink |

    I think water tribe is native/white looking. Fire nation is japanese and earth is chinese. The air normads are east asian.

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