M Night Defends Against Accusations of Racism
Since the first casting calls for The Last Airbender, M Night has been under fire with accusations of Racism for the Casting decisions made in The Last Airbender, lately Night has been a bit more vocal in the defense of his casting choices, and I must say he makes some good points against those who say his casting decisions were racist. (Many so called “Racebenders” arguments are so blatantly ridiculous it’s laughable).
Possibly the most outrageous claim from “Racebenders” is that M Night intentionally cast White Skinned people vs Dark Skinned people with Darker Skinned people as the “Villians”. It begs me to question whether these people have actually even WATCHED the show, due to the fact that Zuko and Iroh (SPOILER ALERT) become some of the major heroes in the movie, becoming instrumental in putting an end to a hundred year war fueled by intolerance, hatred, and imagine that racism..
The main message of Avatar is one of tolerance and also of fighting against intolerance and injustice (in a sense fighting against racism). Here is what M Night had to say on the subject.
“Here’s the reality: first of all, the Uncle Iroh character is the Yoda character in the movie, and it would be like saying that Yoda was a villain. So he’s Persian.”
The filmmaker also said that some of the perceived villains in the story are actually the heroes.
“And Dev Patel is the actual hero of the series, and he’s Indian, okay? 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.
“They immediately assume that everyone with dark skin is a villain. That was an incredibly racist assumption which as it turns out is completely incorrect.”
M Night says (And I agree) that people attacking Airbender for racism are completely missing the target:
“Well, you caught me. I’m the face of racism. I’m always surprised at the level of misunderstanding, the sensitivities that exist. As an Asian-American, it bothers me when people take all of their passion and rightful indignation about the subject and then misplace it.”
Shyamalan also discusses his mindset while choosing the characters for the show, and if you stop to think about it, it makes a whole lot of sense.
“There are four nations, and I had to eventually make a decision about what nationality each of them are. What happened was, Noah Ringer walked in the door – and there was no other human being on the planet that could play Aang except for this kid. To me, he felt mixed race with an Asian quality to him. I made all the Air nomads mixed race – some of them are Hispanic, some of them are Korean. Every monk you see in a flashback, in that world, are all mixed race because they’re nomadic. I felt that really worked as a culture. OK, so that’s one-quarter of our world population. The second group is the Fire Nation; when Dev was cast as Zuko, I said, OK, I have to cast an Uncle Iroh that looks like his uncle. We’re going to go from Indian/Persian to Mediterranean, all that group with all its darker colors including Italians.
Moving on to the third group, which is the Earth kingdom (which is the biggest kingdom in this fictional world): I liked a bunch of the people who happened to be Japanese, Korean, Philippine, so I decided to make the Earth kingdom Asians. Now we’re at three-quarters of the world. Now I have the brother and sister left. If you don’t have an edict of “don’t put white people in the movie” then the Water tribe can be European/Caucasian. So that’s how it ended up. So now we’re at one-half of the population of the movie which is not white.”
One thing I think that’s very interesting about the controversy is that Racebenders are angry because there isn’t enough Asians being cast in the show, ironically the Earth Kingdom will be primarily made up of Asian Actors, the Earth Kingdom is the LARGEST NATION in the Avatar World., Toph one of the Main Characters on the same level as Aang, Sokka, Zuko, and Katara is going to be Asian. So for main characters different Ethnicities being represented are Asian, Indian, Caucasian, Phillipino, African, etc.. Sound culturally diverse? That’s because it is. Sound Racist? didn’t think so and that’s because The Last Airbender is probably the farthest movie from being racist that I’ve ever seen. Night sums it up by saying:
“I had complete say in casting. So if you need to point the racist finger, point it at me, and if it doesn’t stick, then be quiet.”
M Night Shyamalan – Quoted from Various Sources (See Below)
Personally I can’t see how The Last Airbender can be construed as Racist in any shape or form, and I applaud M. Night for appreciating a show about Tolerance, Respect, and a healthy appetite for diversity; and turning into a mainstream live action movie.”Â I hope to see my readers in Theaters!
Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject.
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