Critics: 'Airbender' & 'Prince' were 'whitewashed'

Uncool

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NEW YORK - The hopes of many are resting on the shoulders of 12-year-old Aang.

Ever since he first came out of a block of ice in the Nickelodeon cartoon series "Avatar: The Last Airbender," the other tribes in his fictional, Asian-inspired world saw Aang and his power over the elements as their last chance for peace after a century of conflict.

Now Paramount Pictures and director M. Night Shyamalan also have high hopes for Aang: that he will attract audiences to see their big-screen — and big budget — version of "The Last Airbender," opening July 2.

Yet fans of the original TV series say whatever hopes they had for the live-action movie have been dashed by what is known as "whitewashing" — the selection of white actors to fill the main hero roles instead of the people of color they say the source material requires.

"To take this incredibly loved children's series, and really distort not only the ethnicity of the individual characters but the message of acceptance and cultural diversity that the original series advocated, is a huge blow," said Michael Le of Racebending.com , a fan site calling for a boycott of the martial-arts fantasy.

Paramount defends the film's casting, noting more than half of the credited speaking roles were filled by people of color.

"Night's vision of 'The Last Airbender' includes a large and ethnically diverse cast that represents cultures from around the world," Paramount said in a statement.

That doesn't impress the movie's critics, who claim most of that diversity is found among secondary characters and background extras.

They say "Airbender" casting is just the latest example of a long history in Hollywood of demeaning people of color — from having white actors in makeup portray minorities to sidelining them in second-tier roles to replacing them entirely, as they say is the case with "Airbender."

They point to examples like the 2008 film "21," which was based on a book inspired by the true-life story of a mostly Asian American group of card players, yet was cast with mostly white actors in the main roles.

They also note this weekend's release of "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," a live-action adaptation of a video game that stars white actor Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role instead of an actor with a Middle Eastern background.

"This part really needed to go to someone who's Persian," said Jehanzeb Dar, a blogger and independent filmmaker who is a fan of the video game but has no intention of supporting the movie.

"It's not only insulting to Persians, it's also insulting to white people. It's saying white people can't enjoy movies unless the protagonist is white," he said.

Disney did not return an e-mail asking for comment on the casting.

"It becomes very clear that it's part of the historical pattern of Hollywood and it's not an isolated incident and it's not because they happen to be fictional characters," Le said. "It's because this is the standard procedure for Hollywood films, and it really shouldn't be. It's 2010."

But 2010 is also a time of huge stakes in the movie business — when only a small fraction of the films that are released make the vast majority of the industry's profits, said economics professor Arthur De Vany, author or "Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry."

Because of the financial risk, studios try to control anything that goes into a movie before its release in an effort to maximize box office receipts — from the storyline to the cast to the marketing, De Vany explained.

"They're trying to control the initial conditions of a chaotic process," he said. "There's only so much room at the top."

During the era of segregation in this country, Hollywood routinely considered race when making and releasing a film. For example, actress Lena Horne, who died May 9 at 92, saw her parts in movies cut out when those films were shown in the South.

Over time, "it's what has become habitual practice," said Chon Noriega, professor of cinema and media studies at UCLA. "I think it's the default setting and it takes a conscious choice to change," he said.

"Airbender's" creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, have said they purposely chose to base their cartoon in an Asian-inspired setting as opposed to a European one, incorporating different kinds of martial arts, as well as other cultural elements like Chinese calligraphy. At least some of the main characters were drawn as people of color.

Yet when it came time to cast the movie, unknown Noah Ringer was picked to play Aang. Nicola Peltz was chosen to play Katara, the girl who finds Aang in the ice, and "Twilight" actor Jackson Rathbone was named for the role of Sokka, Katara's brother. Jesse McCartney was originally slated to play the anti-hero Zuko, but dropped out due to scheduling reasons and was replaced by Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire."

That the initial casting had four white actors in the main roles, and that the three heroes are still all played by whites, is an outrage, said Guy Aoki of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.

"It speaks volumes when the initial casting decision was to cast four white leads," he said. "For them to be comfortable with that ... it's embarrassing, it says a lot about their attitudes."

Le said Racebending.com has organized a letter-writing campaign to Paramount, but has received no response. Aoki said his organization had sent a letter asking for a meeting, but was ignored until filming had already started. The group met later with Paramount president Adam Goodman, who offered a prescreening.

But that hasn't happened yet, Aoki said, even though Paramount has expressed confidence that people will embrace the film once they see it.

"The filmmaker's interpretation reflects the myriad qualities that have made this series a global phenomenon," Paramount said in its statement. "We believe fans of the original and new audiences alike will respond positively once they see it."

Yet Harvard journalism instructor Martha Nichols said that while there are times when the case can be made for a movie to change something from the source material, this isn't one of them. She's the mother of an adopted 8-year-old Asian boy who is a big fan of the cartoon series, in part because of its homage to Asian cultures and characters.

The moviemakers "seem to have no clue that there's this huge fan base of young Asian-Americans who were delighted to see themselves" on screen," said Nichols, who blogs at Athena's Head.

She said her son would have loved to see a hero on screen who looked like him. "It could have really been groundbreaking. That's what is so sad about this."
http://movies.yahoo.com/news/movies.ap.org/critics-airbender-prince-were-whitewashed-ap

IDW about you but this is just sad.
 

dondidit

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Its no secret that any character from games or movies of foreign origin is white. Dragon ball goku was suppose to be japanese.... its hollywood anything significant has to be of white origin. thats why I like manga and cartoons anything goes.
 
Aug 22, 2006
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#4
Foreign horror remakes suffer from this the most.
Watch REC then watch Quarantine its pretty much a exact copy except the American remake is mostly white people.
Also replacing Asians with white people in Asian horror movies.

[QUOTE="dondidit, post: 0]Its no secret that any character from games or movies of foreign origin is white. Dragon ball goku was suppose to be japanese.... its hollywood anything significant has to be of white origin. thats why I like manga and cartoons anything goes.[/quote]
Last i checked Goku is an alien not Japanese.
It really didnt matter if a white or asian person played him.
 

dondidit

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[QUOTE="HellsJester, post: 0]Foreign horror remakes suffer from this the most.
Watch REC then watch Quarantine its pretty much a exact copy except the American remake is mostly white people.
Also replacing Asians with white people in Asian horror movies.


Last i checked Goku is an alien not Japanese.
It really didnt matter if a white or asian person played him.[/quote]

Last I checked he was still a japanese alien created by japanese anime writers so before you check again make sure you are accurate lol.
 

Chaos2313

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Jul 25, 2008
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they got an indian and I repeat INDIAN princess played by a white british actress while the role of the persian hero to a gay white american cowboy with a fake british accent..... its like the 1940s or something.
 

Chaos2313

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I guess the next time they need a villian or terrorist they will hire middle eastern actor...

but if its the hero the white man is there for the rescue....

God forbid a man of colour ever saving the day, huh? <_<
 

dondidit

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[QUOTE="Chaos2313, post: 0]I guess the next time they need a villian or terrorist they will hire middle eastern actor...

but if its the hero the white man is there for the rescue....

God forbid a man of colour ever saving the day, huh? <_<[/quote]

Its hollywood lol anything powerful or heaven sent has to be white and anything evil is foreign or black lol. this is why I love foreign films to see other cultures portray their origins of acting and not seeing somebody painted up to act another race. I mean there are some good actors and actresses around the world to put in movies to please everybody why hollywood lol.
 
Jan 29, 2007
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This isn't a black and white issue. I sympathize with some things and others are just ******** PR crap to get attention.

First and foremost... the DIRECTOR of The Last Airbender is M. Night Shayamalan. He's born in friggin India. Before we all start attacking to the industry the director still makes those decisions too.

Now I do sympathize with parts of the "The Last Airbender" argument. I thought Katara could be played by someone with actual color than a clearly american girl. However, both Aang and Zuko both look white. In the series they aren't colored. Hell Zuko has more color in the movie than in the TV show and Aang LOOKS asian... whether he's played by an american or not. I do see their frustration with Zuko's previously planned actor, Jesse McCarthey. If that had actually happened I would've **** a brick. Dev Patel was a MUCH better choice for that role.

One thing they need to realize is this is a Nickelodeon cartoon with an adapted movie that made for the American crowd. If they were expecting them to put in some asian actors that have big accents (i.e. Jackie Chan) they were kidding themselves to begin with. You don't see Asian movies using Hollywood actors.

More importantly, the cultures in "The Last Airbender" and themes had nothing to do with specific real life cultures. It's about people righting their wrongs and believing in certain things. The only time they ever represent chinese culture is when Aang and the crew infiltrate and live amongst the fire nation for a few days. And even at that, I doubt China will want to look like the Totalitarian system that is depicted in those episodes, along with the fact that Aang tries to break them free of that. I understand that the architecture and the writings are of Asian orient but all the characters speak english and they look vaguely asian so that everyone can relate to the characters, not just young asian kids. I think Aang's actor represents it well enough. The only one (so far) that I agree with this article on is Katara.

That goes for "21" too. Ok, the original story involved asian characters but the american version has american actors. It's made for the american audience, not Japan or China.

I also sympathize with the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal is an American playing a Persian in Prince of Persia and it's quite obvious. I suppose it comes down to the bias that I'm not a fan of Gyllenhaal, but still we all recognize that it's an American actor playing a middle eastern role which hurts the believability.
 

Chaos2313

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Jul 25, 2008
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I actually think its important for Hollywood to cast coloured people in the right roles, its not fair to see them sidelined or given stereotypical villainous roles while the hero of the movie is always played by a white guy.

At the end of the day it does matter, because it shows how full of prejudice Hollywood still is towards coloured leading actors....

Asian films don't cast Hollywood actors mainly cos the roles are about asians to begin with, so why should they? when they have a white role, it usually goes to a white actor. Its not as if people are complaining; O James Bond is being played by a white actor (ITS A WHITE ROLE) people are pissed that the PERSIAN PRINCE is being played by an American actor... with a crappy British accent for some odd reason.
 

SpyroViper

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Hollywood just systematically butchers everything good and churns it out as doggy doo doo. Is it really hard to cast actors of the proper color / race?

Prince of Persia was just fail imo, Ancient Persia didn't speak English either..
 
#12
Heh, F'in Hollywood.
I saw Prince of Persia last night.
I really hate how Hollywood thinks anyone in a time period over 500 years old should have a british accent, haha. It always bugs me!
I actually never got around to playing the games but always wanted to.
I really did enjoy the movie. I expected it to be really lame, but it was pretty fun to watch, had a video game feeling to it.
I agree, should have had proper actors and accents, haha. Wont lie, the actress that played the princess was gorgeous.
I took the movie for what it was. Im no critic. I enjoyed watching it, and now I really want to play the games. It wasnt a BAD movie even if there were things wrong with it.

I cant say anything about Airbender since I never watched the cartoon. It look like it could be fun to watch.



As far as race and being offended by a white man playing other race roles... Takes away from the reality but I dont think its malicious. If I saw a movie I knew originally involved a white character but the actor was black, asian, middle eastern, native american, hispanic, anything, I cant say Id be offended! Its just a movie. I just prefer the role to be believable.


"This part really needed to go to someone who's Persian," said Jehanzeb Dar, a blogger and independent filmmaker who is a fan of the video game but has no intention of supporting the movie.

"It's not only insulting to Persians, it's also insulting to white people. It's saying white people can't enjoy movies unless the protagonist is white," he said.
If I EVER met a person who said they prefer the Prince being white than middle eastern because of some racist view, Id punch them in the mouth.
It would have been better realistically, yes, if he was Persian. If the reason they chose the actor they did because they thought people would rather see a white man, Id be disgusted, truly. I dont think it says that, maybe they have a reason for choosing who they did. I dont see why theyd feel he should be white because people want to see that. Its a video game movie, come on. I sure hope to hell that isnt why.
 

stay-puft

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Useless subject matter here, it's a Hollywood production and they can do whatever they want just like Asian productions can do whatever they want. These guys complaining are all hypocrits and their supporter numbers are decreasing more and more because it's a complete joke. They don't even get their facts right. Guys like that should get shot. In the animated there aren't even races and they don't even look like full asians. It's fantasy,it's a fantasy world. The Cast: http://img249.imageshack.us/img249/7034/105773576.jpg Yep it looks like a typical hollywood cast
As for Prince of Persia I also don't see a problem. Gyllenhaal is half jewish and radically seen he wouldn't even be considered clean white. And a large part of ancient persia had "white" people. Nowadays the definition of a persian is quite unclear because we do not know how much they are "mixed". But Jake looks like the prince to me so I don't see a problem. People need to open their eyes especially asian people. They should be the last talking about these subjects
 

Bio

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People want more accuracy with character appearances, and there's nothing wrong with that...especially when it seems to be within hollywood's ability to do so. I think Gyllenhaal is fine, though. He seems a little more racially ambiguous when they "Persian-ized" him. Avatar, on the other hand, I can understand. Those two supporting characters that have been complained about were obviously not supposed to be caucasian.

Hollywood is stuck in its old ways in this regard, I think. Dinosaur trends slip through the cracks, but then again that's how it is in all things and until it's fought against it won't go away like it needs to.

Naysayers to this thread will probably say "it's no big deal". But to them I ask this question: if movie productions go through painstaking efforts to make incredible special effects, bloated writing, accuracy in storytelling/presentation, and elaborate scenes in hard-to-reach locales, why does selecting ethnically understandable actors suddenly become "too hard" or "pointless", especially if the decision to not do it threatens racial ignorance undertones?
 
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[QUOTE="Bio, post: 0]Naysayers to this thread will probably say "it's no big deal". But to them I ask this question: if movie productions go through painstaking efforts to make incredible special effects, bloated writing, accuracy in storytelling/presentation, and elaborate scenes in hard-to-reach locales, why does selecting ethnically understandable actors suddenly become "too hard" or "pointless", especially if the decision to not do it threatens racial ignorance undertones?[/quote]Actors are the hardest part of the production. Special effects, writing, and locations don't have the complications that actors bring.

Go look at TF3. Megan Fox just quit the movie for personal reasons. You won't see Bumblebee doing that. Unless the voice actor does.. but again that's the actor.
 

Cyn

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Why do you think Aang is Asian exactly? He aint

Seriously, how tight arsed are you people sometimes. Oh noes they is ruinings our cultures. Except they're not really our cultures
 

stay-puft

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the actor portraying aang actually looks asian, I think he is half asian or something.

[QUOTE="RedDragon7, post: 0]Actors are the hardest part of the production. Special effects, writing, and locations don't have the complications that actors bring.

Go look at TF3. Megan Fox just quit the movie for personal reasons. You won't see Bumblebee doing that. Unless the voice actor does.. but again that's the actor.[/quote]

Wait, the Megan Fox character also was CGI no?
 

dondidit

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[QUOTE="Cyn, post: 0]Why do you think Aang is Asian exactly? He aint

Seriously, how tight arsed are you people sometimes. Oh noes they is ruinings our cultures. Except they're not really our cultures[/quote]

AAng clearly isnt white so gag at that mister lol. listen to the name it is of asian decent fool lmao!
 

Cyn

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[QUOTE="dondidit, post: 0]AAng clearly isnt white so gag at that mister lol. listen to the name it is of asian decent fool lmao![/quote]
Don't be thick. If you want to get into specifics this is a fictional world so no he clearly aint Asian. You used the false logic that because Goku was from a Japanese anime, he must be a Japanese alien. So according to this false logic, Aang is American and could well be white

But hey, here's a thought, who gives a ****? When a character's race is ambiguous at best then how is it a big deal? If Aang was a darker than dark black kid and was being played by a white person then sure, complain. But that isn't the case.
 

dondidit

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[QUOTE="Cyn, post: 0]Don't be thick. If you want to get into specifics this is a fictional world so no he clearly aint Asian. You used the false logic that because Goku was from a Japanese anime, he must be a Japanese alien. So according to this false logic, Aang is American and could well be white

But hey, here's a thought, who gives a ****? When a character's race is ambiguous at best then how is it a big deal? If Aang was a darker than dark black kid and was being played by a white person then sure, complain. But that isn't the case.[/quote]

I cant be thick i an not corn starch mixed with water but I do have a s** load of white blood cells flowing throw my body. he is not white nor black its no brainer that hollywood turn foreign characters into white superheros. Prince of persia, 300, Troy, dragonball, avatar. I can go on and on but its pointless what is thick is these good graphical movies but I prefer to see actors and actresses of their origin and not white that is all. I cant be a racist cause my boyfriend *yes dare I say boyfriend is white now gag!*
 
Jan 29, 2007
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[QUOTE="stay-puft, post: 0]the actor portraying aang actually looks asian, I think he is half asian or something.[/quote]Probably asian-american which fits the bill perfectly.
Wait, the Megan Fox character also was CGI no?
Are you joking?
[QUOTE="dondidit, post: 0]AAng clearly isnt white so gag at that mister lol. listen to the name it is of asian decent fool lmao![/quote]And he's not 100% asian either. He has white skin, speaks english, he's not part of an anime, and created through Nickelodeon which is American. So far he sounds 75% american which is why an asian-american actor is perfect. The only thing that's asian about the character himself is the facial structure.
[QUOTE="dondidit, post: 0]I cant be thick i an not corn starch mixed with water but I do have a s** load of white blood cells flowing throw my body. he is not white nor black its no brainer that hollywood turn foreign characters into white superheros. Prince of persia, 300, Troy, dragonball, avatar. I can go on and on but its pointless what is thick is these good graphical movies but I prefer to see actors and actresses of their origin and not white that is all. I cant be a racist cause my boyfriend *yes dare I say boyfriend is white now gag!*[/quote]WHoa there... Prince of Persia sure, Troy... well there's multiple issues with that movie aside from Pitt. 300 was based off a graphic novel that wasn't a historically accurate account of the event. So using american actors is really a moot point anyway. And Avatar? James Cameron's Avatar? Or this Avatar?
 

Uncool

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This bald baby..insert photo here:

Has been trained in marital arts to his credit with that said that could have done so much better on proper casting and not to many pretty faces (look into the imdb for all the eye candy of the actress). They should have taken the story in stride and stuck with primarily an Asian cast. I'm alright with Patel as Zuko for the most part but others....not so much.





 
Jan 29, 2007
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[QUOTE="SnowHawk, post: 0]Anng doesn't look asian.

[/quote]It's funny cause I was trying to find a screen or pic that shows him having some subtle hints of looking asian but there isn't anything that shows it. I just think that he looks slightly and I mean very subtly more asian than american. So I'm happy with the actor they chose for him.

However, if you look at the rest too like Zuko, Katara, and Sokka... they all look neutral. The only difference is that Katara and Sokka have more color in the TV series. So I would've like some actors that more color than the ones they chose (Indian ethnicity or not).
 

dondidit

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#27
[QUOTE="Chaos2313, post: 0]I don't think some whites will get this, cos there not use to being singled out by the media....[/quote]

exactly its like they dont understand it. Its like we all know Egypt was in Africa and africa was of black people, but any queen, or king had to be white hence the 10 commandments.
 

the_End

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I'm not expecting much out of either move but Prince flopped big time. Considering it's a big budget action adventure, $9.5M on Friday is terrible.
 

dondidit

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[QUOTE="the_End, post: 0]I'm not expecting much out of either move but Prince flopped big time. Considering it's a big budget action adventure, $9.5M on Friday is terrible.[/quote]


lol a flop indeed. dam