Whitewashing Asian America...Again

I've pretty much said everything I've wanted to say about the moral outrage I feel when Hollywood whitewashes Asian America, detailed in my monologue, "21 Reasons Why This Movie Already Sucks." So I don't have much more to add to the discussion about the upcoming movie adaptation of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I will say that it is a rather bizarre situation. Here are some details from the San Francisco Chronicle:
  • Nickelodeon's animated TV series, Avatar, has an "Asian-inspired setting. The core ideas are drawn from Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist philosophy; its character names - Aang, Katara, Toph Bei Fong - incorporate Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian phonemes; and its visual identity is modeled on traditional Asian iconography."
  • "When the core cast of the Avatar movie was revealed, hard-core fans recoiled - not because the actors are mostly unknowns, drawn from open auditions across the country, but because, well, they're white."
  • "Two of the most celebrated Asian American creators in comics - Gene Yang, National Book Award finalist for his graphic novel, American Born Chinese, and Derek Kirk Kim, whose work has won comics' most prestigious laurels, the Xeric, Ignatz, Eisner and Harvey awards" - launched "a protest that's generated torrents of both support and criticism."
  • But the tricky thing is that Avatar was "invented by two white Americans, Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino."
  • And "many of the voice actors for the original series are white as well."
  • On top of that, "the director who chose those [white movie] actors is one of the few top-tier Asian American filmmakers in Hollywood, M. Night Shyamalan."
Read the entire article here.


  1. M Night Shyamalnal is a top-tier director ? I don't think so ...

  2. Thing is: just because the creators of the series are white doesn't mean that they're complicit in the whiteification of this film. It is EXTREMELY obvious that the creators are HUGE fans of manga -- and not just the sort of surfacey fans, but fans of the kind of complex internal-logic-filled-worlds that manga does better than anything else -- and that they INTENDED the characters in the series to be Asian.

    That said: M Night should know better. He ain't exactly white himself. Oh, and he's godawful. He's gonna suck the life out of an excellent little show. I was SUCKED IN to the first 3 seasons when my daughter was into it -- its good. Very good.

  3. The "Dragon Ball" movie is full of white actors as well which really ughed me out as well.

  4. What about Jackson Rathbone's response to the criticism of "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan," ? (Here)

    Clearly that should make everything better?

    Ok maybe not.

    M. Night Shyamalan writing, directing and producing pretty much guarantees I'm not going to see Avatar: TLA. Such a shame, I love the series.

  5. I seem to be in the minority that's more concerned that the movie compliments it's animated counterpart than the actors being Asian. Race was never an issue in Avarar the TV series, and it shouldn't dissuade fans from seeing the movie either.

    Of course, this is just my opinion. Obviously there's a lot of people that disagree.

  6. Has M. Night Shyamalan ever cast an Asian American actor other than himself?

  7. I dunno why this is a big deal. Like Blau mentioned, I never cared about the race on the TV series, that's why it never bothered me. But people making a big deal about this....it's kinda funny and sad. What's funnier about this movie, though, is that all fire nation people are practically Indians, while the water nation are white and earth nation are chinese-looking. It made me wonder what ethnicity the air nation is....