Whitewashing Avatar
December 23, 2008 11:56 AM   Subscribe

M. Night Shyamalan has decided to cast white actors in the main roles of the upcoming motion picture based on the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. The problem: Avatar featured an Asian world with Asian characters, including Aang, the titular character, and his friends Sokka and Katara.

Some people are pissed, pointing to other instances of whitewashing. There's a letter writing campaign and a Facebook group.

Bingo anyone?
posted by lunit (252 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
WHAT A TWEEST!
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:58 AM on December 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


fuck. I was looking forward to this movie coming out. but now....
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


White actors playing Asians?

WHAT A TWIST!
posted by dunkadunc at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


damn, sticherbeast beat me to it
posted by dunkadunc at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2008


That's disappointing, or at least as disappointing as any news about an upcoming Shyamalan film can be. My ten-year-old daughter loves the cartoons, and she's really looking forward to this. I've tried to gently explain that she shouldn't get her hopes up too much, but y'know.
posted by EarBucket at 12:05 PM on December 23, 2008


Is the movie going to not suck if they cast Asian people in it?
posted by chunking express at 12:05 PM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


I guess M. Night Shyamalan prefers being the only Asian in his films.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 PM on December 23, 2008 [12 favorites]


This post needs the "Shyamalamadingdong" tag.
posted by Dr-Baa at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2008 [17 favorites]


They still let him make movies!!??
posted by Vindaloo at 12:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [17 favorites]


Wait, they're Asian? Aang is from a Tibet-like place, so OK. And the Fire dudes' culture have many Asian overtones. But Sokka and Katara are more Inuit than anything else. And it's been a while, but wasn't that one Waterbender blonde and from the North Pole? Nordic?
posted by DU at 12:12 PM on December 23, 2008


I heard the ghosts in The Sixth Sense were actually played by live people.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:13 PM on December 23, 2008 [18 favorites]


His career was dead the whole time!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:16 PM on December 23, 2008 [73 favorites]


If there was ever any hope that the resulting movie could be 1/100th as good as the series, then I suppose I might be upset about this. As it now stands, M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar simply doesn't exist in my personal universe.
posted by lekvar at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's it. I'm done defending his films. You will never hear me mention how The Village was a clever and subversive metaphor for a post 9/11 America living in fear ever again.
posted by cazoo at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


Jesse McCartney as PRINCE ZUKKO ... argh.
posted by Julnyes at 12:19 PM on December 23, 2008


I remember how disappointed I was when Akira Kurosawa made his version of King Lear with Asian actors.
posted by Dumsnill at 12:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [43 favorites]


cazoo - Surely Lady in the Water would have done the trick?
posted by Artw at 12:20 PM on December 23, 2008


my horror caused me to spell Zuko's name wrong ..
posted by Julnyes at 12:21 PM on December 23, 2008


I'm still waiting for a good hollywood live action movie based on an anime (-styled, in this case) show.

Dragon Ball? The trailer shows Goku fighting near pimped out rides outside a party.
Cowboy Bebop? Keanu Reeves.
Neon Genesis Evangelion? We got some concept art. Four years ago.

Speed Racer? The exception that proves the rule. A movie filled to the brim with awesome campy fun.
posted by Memo at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


THE ASIANS CANT OPEN THE DOOR.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This doesn't bother me as much, because from what I can tell, it's a cartoon that bends more toward generic fantasy and doesn't seem to put oddly/offensively "asian-centric." But my experience with the show is limited so I could be worng. Plus, it's slightly anime-ish which I always kind of find to be a weird case of whitewashing anyway, but that's a tangent.

The whitewashing in the film "21", however, I found rather distasteful; considering that A) it was a true story. B) the book's #1 theme (aside from how to win at casino blackjack) is really more about those characters being Asian in a society that deems them uncool and there's some really nice commentary on that and being caught in between two cultures when they start dominating Vegas. The movie turns it into a geek vs. cool thing... which is rather stupid. Not only that, but plot-wise there was open discussion about how being Asian and being looked-over was really their key to success in the first place. If they were white, it probably wouldn't have worked.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 12:25 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


"M. Night Shyamalan has decided to cast white actors"

Well, not exactly. He decided to cast certain actors, who happen to be white. Right?
posted by niles at 12:25 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Come on, it's a genuine form of culture expression. It's called WASPloitation. There are also a lot of Roman/Greek epics and biblical tales played exclusive by Anglo-Saxon actors since the fifties. It's a whole new genre.

And you know if it were really done with Asian actors, we'd eventually have to do a crappier American remake anyway - we're only skipping a step here.
posted by qvantamon at 12:27 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, not exactly. He decided to cast certain actors, who happen to be white. Right?

Oh, right. That can't possibly be a conscious decision, because white people are raceless.

Wait, what?
posted by lunit at 12:28 PM on December 23, 2008 [16 favorites]


M. Night? M. NO!

Seriously, why do we need a live action film? The animation was quite nice on the series. More importantly, the writing was good, and there were no moments when I wanted to punch someone in the face, unlike every M. Night movie since the first one.

/grumbles

As for the racial thing, whatever the actual "races" of the characters, the whole thing was extremely Asian in tone, from the title fonts onward. But a sort of mixed up, alternate-universe Asian. It would have been a better call to cast Asian actors in the leads, at least, if for no other reason than that they're woefully under-represented in kids (and adult) films.
posted by emjaybee at 12:28 PM on December 23, 2008


The Nickelodeon show "Avatar: The Last Airbender," on which this film is based, featured Asian and Inuit characters in a fantasy setting inspired and informed by a variety of Asian and Inuit cultures. The characters fight with East Asian martial arts, have Asian or Inuit features, dress in Asian or Inuit clothing, and write with Chinese characters.
I mean, I get that, but I don't get the big deal. Is this more over-the-top reactionism?

(honest question from the college kid who appreciates the point of the first black president, but also doesn't see the big deal. I think I'm just young enough that none of this race stuff registers with me)
posted by niles at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2008


"Oh, right. That can't possibly be a conscious decision, because white people are raceless. "

That's my question. Presumably, Shyamalan didn't go around thinking "I need to find a white actor, and if he's a good actor, bonus!" Isn't it more of "oh, hey, Noah Ringer! He's a karate master. Awesome! Let's use him", and, oh, he's white?
posted by niles at 12:34 PM on December 23, 2008


HACK.
posted by cavalier at 12:34 PM on December 23, 2008


OK, I've never seen the show, and judging by the bingo cards, I'm obviously not the first to say this… but these characters have huge blue eyes. Asian actors wouldn't have looked any closer to the drawings than the people they cast.
posted by designbot at 12:36 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shyamalan is proving himself to asshole.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:38 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


DAMMIT. To be an asshole.

Not unlike a certain poster in a monkey suit.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:39 PM on December 23, 2008


Clearly, the twist will be that in the end, all the white actors will pull of their faces, Mission Impossible style, to reveal ASIANS beneath them. Because it turned out, in the end, that they were Asian the whole time! Thus, M. Night will dot the landscape of feature films with yet another brilliant, gotcha-viewer commentary on modern society.

Also, M. Night will pull off his mask to reveal he's been a white guy the whole time.
posted by ORthey at 12:39 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


On one hand, I'm glad we finally have an Avatar thread on the blue. Love the series!

On the other hand... what were Mike and Bryan thinking when they greenlit this? The animated series did so much to step away from its target demographic, while this will only serve to bring it straight back into Disney Channel direct-to-video territory.

Note to directors: live action versions of anything animated, especially video games and anime, do not work.
posted by archagon at 12:40 PM on December 23, 2008


Okay, I'll tell you my secret...
I see pompous, choker necklace-wearing directors who really don't make good films...
only...
they don't *know* they really don't make good films...
And sometimes... it feels like they're there... ALL THE TIME.

posted by miss lynnster at 12:41 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


will pull off his mask to reveal he's been a white guy the whole time

And his given name is Rob Goransky.
posted by everichon at 12:42 PM on December 23, 2008


honestly, don't go see the movie. the only thing that affects change in hollywood is dollars. hit them in the pocketbook. what ultimately frustrates me about things like this is that we all go see the damn movie anyway. I went and saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I have friends telling me it'll be lame if I don't go see Watchmen, but who simultaneously complained about how bad the first hulk was and spider-man 3.

please, resist that weird geek compulsion that I think we all feel to go see a bad adaptation of a product you love.

of course, i've never seen avatar. am i correct in understanding it's for kids? that's the great weakness, i suppose. kids'll go see any dumb thing and not understand that they're making their parents put money in racism's pocket, and parents are too exhausted to research it to find out.
posted by shmegegge at 12:42 PM on December 23, 2008


That's my question. Presumably, Shyamalan didn't go around thinking "I need to find a white actor, and if he's a good actor, bonus!" Isn't it more of "oh, hey, Noah Ringer! He's a karate master. Awesome! Let's use him", and, oh, he's white?

That might be a decent defense except that it _never works the other way around_. Actors of color are very, very infrequently cast based solely on their ability because race is so, well, obvious. And because, when race isn't explicitly mentioned, a lot of people assume white. Casting people of color for parts that are assumed to be white is generally thought to be a risky move, and few people take it.

On the other hand, when parts are specifically ethnic, to cast white people is sometimes to erase an entire piece of their characterization. Even when it's not, it's still a decision that is in the context of a wider trend of whitewashing in casting. To feign ignorance of that trend is, when you're in the business, fairly absurd, I think.

I have a very hard time imagining that the casting of all the main characters as white was anything less than conscious, even if it wasn't intentionally "racist".
posted by lunit at 12:42 PM on December 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


I see white people.
posted by illiad at 12:45 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Cowboy Bebop? Keanu Reeves.

Hey, at least he's asian!
posted by Artw at 12:48 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surprised that Shyamalan not playing them all himself. In yellowface.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:52 PM on December 23, 2008


designbot's got a point: if they hired Asian actors, they'd have to wear blue contact lenses - wouldn't that be worse? Isn't the real whitewashing in the show's artists' choice to draw Asian characters without Asian phenotypes?
posted by nicwolff at 12:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


He went white to save Asian actors the embarrasment.
posted by Dumsnill at 12:54 PM on December 23, 2008


> am i correct in understanding it's for kids?

Supposedly the target demographic is quite young, but the creators said in an interview that they made the series with a broader audience in mind. It's exceptional, IMO, and I know many people my age who think the same.
posted by archagon at 12:55 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is horrifically obnoxious. Oh no, these cartoon characters of ambiguous ethnicity are being cast with actors of the wrong race. The horror!!! Of course, this can't go unnoticed— we need infinite discussions of "white privilege" and other pseudoacademic, purely theraputic concepts. Is anyone going to bring up that "Avatar" was originally created by Whites in imitation of Japanese/Chinese/Korean cultures and animation styles? They do in the "Racefail [sic] Bingo" cards linked at the end, where they also flippantly dismiss counter-arguments people might have, like "who cares" and "all the ethnicities in the show are made up anyways" with such canards as "you don't know what it's like" and "you're racist."
But what else can we expect from a fandom composed of ostensible adults watching children's television? Where I come from, if you watch television like this, you either keep it to yourself or you come up with some other excuse, like "I was high."
Everyone screaming about the race non-issue is really missing the larger problem: somebody gave M. Night Shamalamadingdong the money to make another goddamn movie. That is what really bothers me. He's talentless and his career should be consigned to the ash-bin of history.
The original post was just a big middle finger, but I thought that would get deleted, so I wrote this instead.
posted by Electrius at 12:56 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


fearfulsymmetry - Ha! Sean Connery's make-up is so good that he manages to pass as a japanese fisherman and not appear on that list.
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on December 23, 2008


> Where I come from, if you watch television like this, you either keep it to yourself or you come up with some other excuse, like "I was high."

Um, except it's actually good television. People still read Alice in Wonderland, don't they?
posted by archagon at 12:59 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


THE WHITENING
posted by katillathehun at 1:01 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shamalamadingdong.

Brown people have such long and silly names! Why can't they just be called bob.
posted by chunking express at 1:02 PM on December 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


The problem isn't the white actors, the problem is having it directed by Shyamalan. I just can't juxtapose the cartoon with his style of films (I happen to like both the cartoon and Shyamalan's style, but not all/most of his actual movies). I just don't get it, I don't want a suspenseful, twisty, gray mood Airbender movie set in Philadelphia.

I want an all out, campy, good vs bad guys (who sometimes have moments where they aren't so bad). The style I would have hoped for is something like Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow). The special powers need to almost be characters in the movie, not hinted at (as I'm afraid M. Night will do). There shouldn't be any plot twist, other than maybe the good guys getting in trouble for trying to take moral and ethical short cuts (like the series).

I agree with many others, the way things are shaping up, this film has epic fail written all over it. I could care less about the actual race of the characters, as long as the casting made sense to the overall feel of the series. As many others have said Shyamalan? wtf are they thinking?
posted by forforf at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2008


Brown people have such long and silly names! Why can't they just be called bob.

I hate the man, and I am going to make fun of his name. >:(
posted by Electrius at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, not being super familair with the show but reasonably familiar with the ways of fandom in general I kind of share the suspiscion that this is race being used by fans as leverage to show that Avatar film is serious business.
posted by Artw at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2008


I am sorry this comment isn't directly related to the OP, but that Dragon Ball trailer... I don't want to live in a world with things like that in it.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:05 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The style I would have hoped for is something like Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow).

As I understand it Hollywood has recently decided that actually it would prefer that Stephen Chow DIDN'T direct things for them, presumably because the results wouldn't be cookie cutter garbage. He can play a sidekick though.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


i so knew he was going to fuck this one up. it's almost as if he just goes out of his way to be a douche and fuck up anything good given to him.
posted by liza at 1:09 PM on December 23, 2008


It is actually possible (but rare) for Asians to have blue eyes, green eyes, even blonde hair. My sister is Asian and she has naturally curly hair TRUE STORY.

I'm pretty peeved. But then, as people have pointed out, M. Night at the helm doesn't fill one with much hope anyway.
posted by mooza at 1:09 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Actually Stehen Chow is now "working with Jack Black on a comedy about a superhero". So hopes for a watered down westernised version of Chow to fill out the klater half of his carreer are revivied.
posted by Artw at 1:11 PM on December 23, 2008


(honest question from the college kid who appreciates the point of the first black president, but also doesn't see the big deal. I think I'm just young enough that none of this race stuff registers with me)
posted by niles at 12:31 PM on December 23 [+] [!]


is there an anti-favorite mefi ability?
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:13 PM on December 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


Oops, missed link.
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on December 23, 2008


is there an anti-favorite mefi ability?

Flag as either "noise" or "offensive/sexism/racism". Alternately, ignore it and let it get buried under the better comments that will inevitably be posted by many of the brilliant and entertaining posters on Metafilter.
posted by explosion at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Asians didn't have green eyes, David Lo-Pan would never have overcome the curse of no flesh.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2008 [17 favorites]


Pity that one was sent to the hell of failing to start up a successful movie franchise.

(Hollywood has a lot of hells)
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2008


I can't believe anybody will let him anywhere near a script since The Happening. I mean, if there exists a career-ending movie, that was a shining example.
posted by tehloki at 1:24 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


...about how bad the first hulk was...
posted by shmegegge at 12:42 PM on December 23 [+] [!]


Damnit. The first Hulk is a really good movie. Too serious? Probably. But good? Yes.

... That is all.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:29 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


I liked the Science! bits. Second one was just a bit generic.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2008


Shyamalan, Shyamalan, Shyamalan... that's all I ever hear these days. When are his 15 minutes up? We need to get back to what really matters most: whether Snowzilla and Britney Spears are dating. *turns on E!*
posted by flipyourwig at 1:36 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stupidly wasteful of major interest in the license.

Much of the joy for me in Avatar is the diversity of ethnicities and how their elemental and geographical situations play out in this representation.

Shyamalan is now just another money-grubbing hack.
posted by batmonkey at 1:53 PM on December 23, 2008


Shyamalan is all about substituting white people for nonwhite people. Isn’t that the theme of his first picture (not Sixth Sense)? Has anybody seen that?

I view his œuvre as similar to gay directors who churn out an endless stream of “romantic comedies” featuring nothing but straight people. His Hitchcockian cameos in his own movies always make him seem like the only coloured person in the county.
posted by joeclark at 1:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Anime is for children.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:54 PM on December 23, 2008


Have you even watched the series Electrius? I'm one of those people who enjoyed the series because, oh wow, it had a pretty good story and was entertaining. Every fandom has its weird people, but saying that "it's for kids" doesn't mean it's something subpar. Especially if you watch to the end of the series and see how power hungriness and megalomania drives the villain-turned-allies' sister mad in a really dark way, I honestly was surprised because it seemed way more mature than the probably 7-12 demographic the show initially seems to be intended for. But again it's perceived maturity or immaturity shouldn't be the standard to what's good or not.

And so what if the writers and creators weren't Asian? So people can't be inspired to write things inspired by other cultures? I get it if it was some kind of weird stereotypical, yellow-face, Mr. Yuniyoshi from Breakfast at Tiffany's kind of thing, but that's not really the case here. The writers wanted a variety of cultures and fighting styles to be included in the series, so they took some cues from existing things around them. Let me guess, are you one of those people in the Cowboy Bebop meta thread whinging about how ridiculous Trigun or Cowboy Bebop is because it's American culture filtered through Japanese writers? Who cares? I honestly don't get why anybody's having a problem with this. In fact, Avatar did a pretty decent job of capturing different fighting styles.

It points to why the casting choice is so disappointing for many people. For a lot of Asians, it's the first time they were seeing their culture showcased, not as a sidekick, not as the mystic magic Mr. Miyagi helping the white kid succeed. So the casting hurt a lot of people who found something they could identify with in the media. You can blame those people for believing their perceptions too much if you want, but if you've followed the series including remarks from the series' creators they specifically point out Asian fighting styles and cultures that the series was supposed to emulate. So maybe the characters are not "Asian" in the sense of this earth, but it's not hard to see why some people would believe it to be so considering the evidences provided to them.

And honestly, I find "No Asian actors were cast" to be a red herring. The more correct problem to have with this casting is that it's seems to be heading towards preodminately white actors. The series clearly portrays a variety of different cultures/races/enthnicities/what have you. It doesn't have to be an all Asian cast and clearly some races aren't necessarily East Asian, but to have a (so far) entirely white cast of main characters seems at the very least, worth an eyebrow raise.

For people saying, "Well, it's anime style, isn't all whitewashed anyway?" That's also a red herring. So if a Japanese anime is set in Japan, with character with Japanese names, just because they have round eyes, blond/purple/green hair, and not brown eyes, the writers most certainly meant these people to be caucasian? For those arguing 'I don't see why they HAVE to be Asian, it was never stated that way in the series,' then why do they have to be white? And the whitewashing of anime style doesn't really justify this casting choice. It should be more of a point of reflection or discussion as to why a culture's idealized style is something different from theirs, but any culture's idealization isn't always necessarily the norm. Beauty standards anyone? Women changing how they are naturally to fit a certain idealization? It happens everywhere so it's not an "ah-ha!" gotcha that gives free pass towards not-diverse casting. Also, people who bring up this argument make it sound like, regardless of their intentions, that they expect their Asians to look a certain monolithic way. Again, this series portrayed and emulated variety of cultures such as Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian and Indian. There are a variety of ways Asians can look. So just because the characters are pale (there are pale Asians), don't have Asian features like slanted eyes (not all Asians have that Hong Kong Fooey style eyes) or whatever, doesn't mean they're not supposed to be Asian. You're working from the same a priori assumption that you're accusing the disappointed fans of making.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:07 PM on December 23, 2008 [31 favorites]


AAAARGH!!! Of course, it was going to suck anyway. Incidentally, me and my friends are the biggest avatar dorks ever. (And the stuffed cat being swung on a string is Appa.)

Also, I am half-asian. If one were to cast live action versions of anime based on ethnicity, I would be ideal.

Now I'm all worked up. I guess it's time for a cup of soothing jasmine tea.
posted by snofoam at 2:17 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


To derail, the first Hulk movie featured none of the awesome villains or supporting cast that made the comic awesome.

It did have the Hulk fight his dad and a giant poodle. That's not a comic book plot - with a 30-rack of Coors Lite on the front porch, that's a FARK headline.

The second movie was much better, but too slowly paced, and still no Rick and Marlo.

Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are wonderful jewels of film-making. Everything since is then is a cautionary tale about believing you are anything like your agent's press releases.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]



Avatar; the Last Airbender
Featuring the voices of

Zach Tyler Eisen
Mae Whitman
Jack DeSena
Jessie Flower
Dante Basco
Mako (Season 1-2)
Greg Baldwin (Season 3)
Dee Bradley Baker
Grey DeLisle
Olivia Hack
Cricket Leigh
Clancy Brown
Mark Hamill
Jennie Kwan
Jason Isaacs

One Asian voice actor in the whole cast eh? Where is the outrage? It's a damned cartoon folks. STFU already.
posted by timsteil at 2:21 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, except Unbreakable just kind of peters out and then has it's ending on a title card.

Correct use of what-happened-next title cards: Romantic comedies, stories based on true events, documentaries about the holocaust.
Incorrect use of what-happened-next title cards: Avoiding having the interesting bits to your superhero movie because you are too important and serious.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing for me is that when the reverse happens (Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury . . . even though that is actually based of of the Marvel Ultimate version, or Michael Clark Duncan as the Kingpin) many people get up in arms because its not "true to the character," or Hollywood being PC. With this we get people saying, "but what's the big deal? They were just the best actors for the part." I call bullshit. This is blatant whitewashing. The characters are obviously coming from Asian-style cultures. There is no reason not to cast Asians in the role.
posted by anansi at 2:24 PM on December 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


I guess I just fall into that category of people who generally try to enjoy themselves when they watch entertainment. I'll admit The Happening was bad, reeeeaaaall bad. Signs didn't make sense if you let a fraction of logic seep into your brain while watching. Otherwise I thought all of his other movies were good.
I don't think this show would translate into live action regardless of who you cast or who directed it.
Although making the cast all white isn't really going to help.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:24 PM on December 23, 2008


And to add to my already long-winded comment, because this brings up a pet peeve of mine: Saying that "anime style" is whitewashed is assuming all anime or Asian comics and cartoons look alike. It honestly doesn't. There are a variety of different looks and styles. And honestly, the idealized features don't look Asian per se, but they don't necessarily look caucasian either. They're all stylized ways of drawing. Some terrible examples hardly even look human anyway. I mean for some non Anime examples, then what race/ethnicity/species is Jughead supposed to be? And that's with any comic book style. I see no one looking at Satrapi's Persepolis and arguing none of these Persian characters really look Iranian because it's all black and white so the skin tones are the same and you can only maybe differentiate when a character is obviously blond and or blue eyes. Her characters share a certain style that is theirs (then again, who knows, maybe there are people arguing that point). I think people just need to stop tripping over this style issue.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:27 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


My favorite "hey, we're going to just be straight up racist, folks" moment is mentioned in the "people" link - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Where the writer just said "fuck it 'chall."
“Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project,” Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year.
Of course I think that is ridiculous and outrageous. But really if I was white, I'd be way more pissed! Excuse you! I can recognize and identify with the struggles, failures and triumphs of other human beings, you jackass! I bet M. Night feels similar to this if he hasn't explicitly stated it.

Finally, I can't believe the "it's just a [insert media type here]!" defense of race-related nonsense is still being attempted. Really? Come on man, step your game up. That mess went out with Diadoras.
posted by cashman at 2:31 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why is this dickshit still allowed to do a job that involves not getting shot in the head and buried in a lonely roadside ditch.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:35 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, except Unbreakable just kind of peters out and then has it's ending on a title card.

Except it didn't. It had a climactic ending that wrapped the story up. The exposition at the end was just to tie up any loose questions (and add to the comic book feeling of the movie.)
posted by P.o.B. at 2:36 PM on December 23, 2008


Metafilter: proving himself to asshole.

Sorry.
posted by ob at 2:36 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Damnit. The first Hulk is a really good movie. Too serious? Probably. But good? Yes.

... That is all.


too serious? no no. the problem is that movie was a joke.
posted by shmegegge at 2:37 PM on December 23, 2008


I think people just need to stop tripping over this style issue.

Heh. Well, there are quite clearly anime art styles out there that default to making people look white. It's just one of those things. shouting no-n-no and jumping up and down about it just seems silly.

FWIW this show looks like it's in an art style that makes everyone look vaguely asian, like Teen Titans.
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on December 23, 2008


Except it didn't. It had a climactic ending that wrapped the story up. The exposition at the end was just to tie up any loose questions (and add to the comic book feeling of the movie.)

just to be clear, there were two big reveals in Unbreakable SPOILER ALERT ETC...


1. that bruce willis' secret weakness was water. this is just stupid on the face of things. if a man almost drowns, it's not because he has some antagonistic relationship with water, it's because he still, despite all his other strengths, needs to breathe. that the biggest battle of the movie proceeds to take place at a (dun! dun! dunnnnn!) swimming pool was laughable.

2. that samuel l jackson had spent his life trying to find his heroic antithesis by killing as many people as he possibly could at random. absurd "they called me mister glass!" exposition aside, if you're going to look for someone, you don't do it by derailing random trains in the hopes that the one man in the world who could serve as your protagonist happens to live in that area and happens to travel by that particular train on that particular day. it's stupid. it's so stupid no one would do it, even someone that kids used to call "Mr Glass."

M Night Shyamalan made only one good movie. That the success of that movie has continued to carry him from failure to failure so far is testament to just how good that one movie was.
posted by shmegegge at 2:45 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


That this disposable movie matters to anyone at all is sad. If they cast Jesus Christ, Chairman Mao, Bruce Lee and Norman Bethune in this movie it would still be forgotten in less time than it took to film. Just enjoy the equally disposable animated TV series.
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on December 23, 2008


if they are actors, it shouldn't bother anybody at all. their acting alone could make you see asian where there isn't any. same for female/male roles. i have no problem with a woman playing a man's role, or vice versa...
posted by billybobtoo at 2:55 PM on December 23, 2008


As Tom Lennon recently pointed out:

Guess who gave M. Night Shyamalan the nickname "Night"? That's right, it was M. Night Shyamalan.
posted by anazgnos at 2:56 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Anime is for children.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:54 PM


And you've proven yourself time and time again to be a low life moron. What else is new?
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:08 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I never saw Asian people on television or in movies, so my dreams were somewhat linited. I would dream "Maybe someday I can be an extra on MASH." "Maybe someday I could play Arnold's girlfriend on Happy Days." "Maybe I could play a hooker in something." I'd be looking in the mirror, "Sucky fucky two dolla! Me love you long time!"

Margaret Cho

For "color blind" people asking what the difference is between a white person cast in an Asian role and an Asian person cast in a white role.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:09 PM on December 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


shmegegge,

The water weakness reveal was much earlier in the movie, Glass had told him about it, not when he fell in the pool. Besides, Bruce Willis' storyline has much more to do with his character's failings and his humanistic qualities despite his super abilities. Like I said before the movie is comic book based. Mr. Glass being a twisted villain who does nefarious things is what he does. I'm not saying this makes everything all right, but it does give context to how the story developed (have you seen some of the stupid plot twists in Heroes lately?) and perhaps how you should look at it.

Unbreakable is a great movie. I know this gets in the way of bitching about M. Night but...
posted by P.o.B. at 3:12 PM on December 23, 2008


Anime is for children.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:54 PM


Anime isn't just for children, it's for the overly self-serious, shut-ins and people situated somewhere along the aspergers scale as well!
posted by Artw at 3:13 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Unbreakable is a great movie.

Milage may vary. I definitely left the theatre feeling a bit let down.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on December 23, 2008


Anime is for children.

I've seen some Anime porn that says different.

Dismissing things because "they're for children" is totally lame, dude. Like not watching The Bucket List because it's for old people. Or not reading Jane Austen books because they're for chicks. The Bucket List is a crappy example. My point stands.

As kkokkodalk says:

...perceived maturity or immaturity shouldn't be the standard to what's good or not.

If it is your standard of measurement, well, enjoy watching Battlefield Earth and I'll go back to reading The Hobbit.
posted by mooza at 3:15 PM on December 23, 2008


Tempest meet Teapot, Teapot this is Tempest. I'm sure you two will fit right in here at MetaFilter. Don't forget to stop by the lobby an introduce yourself to Much Ado About Nothing, she's the manager here and she'll show you around and give you your complimentary plates of beans to over think.
posted by MikeMc at 3:21 PM on December 23, 2008


Our single minded devotion to staging an all-white production of Blacula in time for Halloween has caused us to miss some updates. However, we think it's vitally important that someone retells this famous legend in terms more easily understood by our people. Thanks to us, Caucasians finally have a vampire to call their own. His name? Blacula.
posted by straight at 3:25 PM on December 23, 2008


As cartoons go, Avatar is pretty awesome. It deals with pretty complex topics yet manages to be more captivating and funny than most of the stuff that's on TV. That said, it's just a cartoon, my fellow dorks. Let's not be douchey about this. Shambalahayaya might ^H^H^H^ will probably fuck this up, but really - who cares? Life's to short to bitch about it.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:32 PM on December 23, 2008


Anime is for children.

They see me trollin', they hatin' ...
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:32 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Anime isn't just for children, it's for the overly self-serious, shut-ins and people situated somewhere along the aspergers scale as well!

Those people diagnosed themselves online, and then won't stop talking about it.

Also, it really depends what sort of anime you're talking about. Most guys I know who are into fight space robots anime, or "lonely wandering misunderstood martial arts master in a dystopian future world" anime, tend towards the very serious. Slice-of-life anime fans, not so much.

SATA ANDAGIIIIII!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:38 PM on December 23, 2008


but really - who cares?

The real question is WWBTGD*?

*What Would Baki The Grappler Do?
posted by MikeMc at 3:41 PM on December 23, 2008


Have you even watched the series Electrius?

I plead the fifth.

I watch it sometimes and like it but am vaguely ashamed of it
posted by Electrius at 3:53 PM on December 23, 2008


That guy's still allowed to make movies? Go figure.
posted by scarello at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2008


> That said, it's just a cartoon, my fellow dorks. Let's not be douchey about this. Shambalahayaya might ^H^H^H^ will probably fuck this up, but really - who cares? Life's to short to bitch about it.

I don't really think that's a good argument. For instance, why would anyone complain about the LotR movies? I mean, they're "just books", right?
posted by archagon at 3:58 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the only thing that bears saying, at all, is that there's a buttload of anime drawn with people of multiple ethnicities, and often, it's impossible to tell. They don't have blonde people in Japan, but half the anime characters I see end up blonde. And it seems to me that's based on the fact that a lot of scifi anime is set in a post-ethnic world, yo. The Japenese believe that in the future there will be a substantial population of white people living in Japan and speaking fluent Japanese. Takeoffs of that style also tend to draw white people in with the Asians. So...let's cast some white people in those parts if they're good actors. If you can point me to a blatantly Asian character who's been whitewashed, I'll listen. But I ain't see it here.
posted by saysthis at 4:05 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The real question is WWBTGD*?

That's easy, he would use The Eye of the Tiger!
posted by P.o.B. at 4:07 PM on December 23, 2008


Uh, saythis, Prince Zuko (Brother to Azula, nephew to Iro, son of Ozai) has black hair, slanted eyes, used to live in a castle with Imperial Tile roofing, in a kingdom where the dragon is their royal symbol, and his uncle would like nothing more than to retire and have a nice tea shop. The character is voiced by Dante Basco, a Filipino-American. So naturally, the correct casting for this part in the movie is blond, blue-eyed, surfer boy heartthrob Jesse McCartney.

Are you listening now?
posted by headspace at 4:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


That guy's still allowed to make movies?

Considering his movies make a lot of money, of course.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:16 PM on December 23, 2008


Yeah, the only thing that bears saying, at all, is that there's a buttload of anime drawn with people of multiple ethnicities, and often, it's impossible to tell.

Alright, I'll bite: Lucky Star.

Izumi Konata has blue hair and green eyes. Hiiragi Kagami has pink hair and blue eyes. Iwasaki Minami has green hair and blue eyes. This doesn't mean the Japanese believe one day Japan will be populated by blue-haired Comiket devotees. There's this thing called "stylizing" that artists like to use sometimes.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:17 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anime is for children.
posted by Optimus Chyme


As opposed to Transformers.
posted by Snyder at 4:26 PM on December 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


The different colors for hair and eyes are stylistic choices so the characters are immediately recognizable and...different(not all the same). At least that is what I had heard a while ago. Keep in mind this isn't Anime. There have been American made shows with obvious differences in ethnicity.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:29 PM on December 23, 2008


you know, am enjoying the fact that am not the one
bringing up the obvious about race.

carry on :)
posted by liza at 4:29 PM on December 23, 2008


I'm not surprised, considering M. Night Shyamalan is acually Jeff Goldblum with a spray-on tan.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:30 PM on December 23, 2008


If anybody is curious how well M.'s movies do, here is a link.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:33 PM on December 23, 2008


The different colors for hair and eyes are stylistic choices so the characters are immediately recognizable and...different(not all the same).

Very true. Reminds me of one of the first comments I remember people making about Azumanga Daioh - "Wow, almost everyone has black hair!"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:34 PM on December 23, 2008


One Asian voice actor in the whole cast eh?
Just a minor point, but I count 3 in your list (Dante Basco, Mako, Jennie Kwan).
posted by fings at 4:34 PM on December 23, 2008


Are you listening now?

Not really. This sounds too much like a manufactured tempest in a teacup to me. It's M. Night Shyamalan, making a live-action version of a Nickelodeon cartoon series designed to sell toys. He needs attention and buy-in on this one to pull his career out of the Dumpster. Keep in mind that this is the guy who thought faking his own near-death experience to drum up business would be a good idea.

He's made seven commercial films (not counting Praying with Anger.) Of those seven, two went over well (The Sixth Sense and Signs), one performed perfunctorily (The Village) and the remaining four flopped (Wide Awake, Unbreakable, Lady in the Water, and The Happening) at the box office. His last big strike was more than half a decade ago. For him, any attention is good attention at this point.
posted by FormlessOne at 4:41 PM on December 23, 2008


I also wonder who they're going to cast as Toph, and how they're going to handle her blindness. Ironically enough, this is something that I haven't heard being discussed.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:43 PM on December 23, 2008


Sixth Sense was good. Unbreakable failed for me the instant they tied modern comics to hieroglyphics; I couldn't suspend disbelief after that one.

When aliens invade a planet whose surface is the majority of a substance purportedly poisonous to them (the universe must hate them, seeing how water can be pretty damn common), things were getting nutty. After the whole isolated Village bit, I just couldn't continue. I haven't seen one of his movies since... I take it they've gotten worse?
posted by linux at 4:52 PM on December 23, 2008


They still let him make movies!!??

My immediate thought was, Do people still pay hard-earned money to watch his movies? The man is a walking disaster, and I think that "whitewashing" the cast of his latest film pales (so to speak) in comparison to the miserable jokes of his films that my MNS fan-boy friends have coaxed me into watching.
posted by Forktine at 4:52 PM on December 23, 2008


Many of the characters in Avatar aren't terribly Asian; Earthly ethnicities are fairly irrelevant. The main hero is as white as they come, two of the secondary characters are sort of Eskimos, the third's probably Asian, and Prince Zuko is definitely Asian. But that's not the important thing about the characters; it's flavoring, but it doesn't actually matter.

Yes, the series draws a great deal from Japanese culture, but it's not about Japan or Asian people. It's just a very good story set in a vaguely Asian fantasy world. As long as the story comes through intact, it doesn't really matter if the actors are plaid. It's the culture that matters, not what they look like.

By the way, for those who haven't seen it, the series is excellent and deftly handled. It's highly adult-watchable, and I'm hard-pressed to think of an animated series I've enjoyed more. Suspension of disbelief is very easy; the characters are consistent, solid, and extremely well-voiced. The writers stick to their premises and explore interesting ramifications, and they're willing to get fairly dark at times. The overall quality is remarkable, not at all what you'd expect from a children's show on Cartoon Network.

People are reacting strongly to the movie simply because the animated series was so good.
posted by Malor at 4:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a damned cartoon folks. STFU already.

Metafilter seems to have gotten a lot of new troll-types lately. Note to trolls: "STFU" is not an addition to the conversation, and makes you look like an ignorant jerk. Say something useful, or try to learn, or hey, here's an idea, find another thread. This isn't the Youtube comments section.
posted by emjaybee at 5:00 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


So one of my minions used to be M. Night's personal assistant. I spoke with her about some of the casting choices made (they were made after she had left to go to grad school). She had seen many of the audition tapes (the actress eventually cast as Kitara was apparently head and shoulders above the others in terms of ability), but was surprised about the eventual casting.

It's not that the actors are not Asian. The characters they are playing, while existing in an Asian setting, were never Asian in and of themselves. The characters are, however, multiracial. They are (according to a conversation she had with the show's creators) supposed to look like they could be, in theory, members of any number of races.

So casting whitey-mac-white-white to play them is perhaps not the best idea, but they don't need to be Asian. Not Whitebread would be good enough. She suspected that there may be some studio influence here, as this is a time when studios are cutting back and not as willing to shell out big bucks for anything, let alone a big special effect fantasy trilogy. As FormlessOne points out, M. Night's last big hit was years ago and he lacks the cache he used to have. In order to get the cash he needs for the effects he wants to do, he may have had to bow to investors/studio whims.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:06 PM on December 23, 2008


saythis, just so you know, in my classes, I have very few students with black hair. Japanese people believe not in a future with lots of white people who speak Japanese (because a) most people don't want foreigners in their pure country and b) that Japanese is the one true language, which is impossible for outsiders to master), but rather, they believe in hair dye.

As for the absurd hairstyles you see in anime? There are all kinds of hair product out there that guys use. The current style, all spikey and standing up, is straight out of anime.

Back to the topic: the whitewash sucks because, somewhere out there, there are non-white kids (or adults) who watch said show (or any book or cartoon that gets whitewashed) and who think "Hey, this show is about people like me! I never see shows where I'm the hero!" and they feel a bit of positive reinforcement. Then they go to the theater, and they feel tricked.

It ties in with non-white children feeling that white people are beautiful, but their own ethnicity, not so much, simply because all they see on tv, or in movies, is that white people are everywhere, and the children don't see anyone like them. It leads to a lack of a sense of self worth. It's not pretty.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


All that said, my take on things is that if someone claims to be enough of an Avatar superfan that they will boycott this movie, I don't believe them. Most of them will see the movie. That's what being a superfan is all about. Sure, they may say that they're going to mock it and get ammo for a good rant, but still, their butt will be in the seat.

Consider this whole deal fallout from the New Age of Fandom, where every new content immediately gets a horde of superfans, each eager to be the next Big Name Fan (as brought to us by Harry Potter and LotR). This need spurns them towards them towards rants and rending of garments in order to usurp their neighbor and assert their status in the burgeoning INSERT SHOW HERE community.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:12 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


FormlessOne: "making a live-action version of a Nickelodeon cartoon series designed to sell toys."

I'm pretty sure that the series was around before the toys. Sure, they may be milking the popularity by offering the toys, but its not like how the Transformers cartoon was specifically laid out with advertising in mind.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:14 PM on December 23, 2008


The whitewash sucks because, somewhere out there, there are non-white kids (or adults) who watch said show (or any book or cartoon that gets whitewashed) and who think "Hey, this show is about people like me! I never see shows where I'm the hero!" and they feel a bit of positive reinforcement. Then they go to the theater, and they feel tricked.

Here's a related essay. Hattip to Kattullus.
posted by lunit at 5:16 PM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


Probably the most aggravating thing about this whole issue is the white folks who keep insisting that this is not a big deal or important. As one of the folks on the bottom of the heap, it incredibly aggravating to be told by the person standing on top of me to not make a big deal out of his foot on my neck.

If people are not able to conceive of how this whole issue might be disappointing and/or offensive to people of color than there is either some serious disingenuous bullshit going on or some folks completely lack any analytical faculties. At the very least, please quit trying to set the parameters for other folks sensibilities.
posted by anansi at 5:26 PM on December 23, 2008 [23 favorites]


Avatar; the Last Airbender
Featuring the voices of...
(list of names)
Cricket Leigh
(more names)


Alas, if only they'd hired someone named Grasshopper instead, then all would've been right with the world.

BTW, I had never even heard of this game or tv show until I was hired to design the website for it 2 months ago (not launched yet). And that said, I've still never seen the show or played the game... yet I could probably draw the bald arrow-forehead dude in my sleep. (I don't want to, though.)
posted by miss lynnster at 5:29 PM on December 23, 2008


Why anyone has any expectations for any movie coming out of the Hollywood studio system, I have no idea. Before we start worrying about whitewashing and providing more inclusive characters in cinema, maybe we should focus on why 99.9% of Hollywood product (and American movies in general) totally sucks and provides absolutely virtually no redeeming value (like being at least entertaining), including, undoubtedly, Avatar.

It must be odd to be a non-white American going to the cinema, and seeing almost no one on screen who looks like you.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:31 PM on December 23, 2008


I don't have a dog in this fight, but I am worried about Leonardo DiCaprio's upcoming remake of Akira.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:44 PM on December 23, 2008


Are the waterbender yokels who live in the swamp going to be portrayed by Southern hicks?

If not, I am outraged!
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:46 PM on December 23, 2008


Bingo anyone?

Oh look, the internet is weaving strawmen into unwelcome mats.

A real discussion of this topic would involve sorting between currents of supply and demand with a precision and an objectivity that are simply not possible in this format. Even at ~4% of the population, there may be something to be said for a relative dearth of Asian-American stage roles; but, on the side of supply, let's remember that every sub-culture sets forth different models of success and prestige, and there's any number of professions in which Asian-Americans are overrepresented. Consequently, there's bound to be some in which they are not, a subset of which (such as professional sports) will be highly visible. Placing actor and entertainer at the very top of our caste pyramid is a relatively modern and American inversion, but let's not assume that everyone's vales and ambitions must fall into perfect alignment with this.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:46 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, this will do nicely for the spring graduate conference. Thanks, Metafilter!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:53 PM on December 23, 2008


Asians went back in time and remade The Departed and I dont remember seeing any white faces in that
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]



Are the waterbender yokels who live in the swamp going to be portrayed by Southern hicks?

If not, I am outraged!


"Ha ha! from my position of privilege I will mock this! Ha Ha!"

Asshole.


Really, do folks not see the problem with this?
posted by anansi at 5:55 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


anansi, a lot of people are politically blindered when it comes to entertainment and art. They think things are the way they are without any relation to the way they are modeled for us in the media. I do not agree.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:58 PM on December 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


Lunit, that's a fantastic essay. I highly recommend it to everyone who's wondering what the fuss is.

Just to toss this out there, think of Goldberg, the wrestler (this is going with a younger generation. Older people, feel free to think of Sandy Koufax). For a lot of young jewish kids, he was the first, and vaguely only Jewish bad ass who was widely known. Jews on TV are usually the funny, neurotic types. Yet, here's this guy, tall, ridiculously muscled, and beating the crap out of Santa Claus on Leno.

While relying on outside sources of validation isn't the healthiest thing to do, it gets done. Kids identify with their heroes, and if they can't find a hero with the same skin color as they have, being kids, they tend to think there might be something wrong with them. They're too young to understand that the problem lies with the system, the culture, and most assuredly with people who say that "none of this race stuff registers with me" and therefore assume that, because the problem is not one they have to deal with, then the problem must certainly not exist.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:59 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ain't it a pain in the ass that "art imitates life," huh? You're right, but that's what folks need to understand. The reason that this pisses people off is because this is seen as an extension of what goes on in real life.
posted by anansi at 6:01 PM on December 23, 2008


Anansi, histrionically asserting that every White person has their "foot on your neck" is about as racist and entitled as anything else I've seen here.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:01 PM on December 23, 2008


Really, do folks not see the problem with this?

The problem is that Hollywood is incapable of casting Asian people outside of stereotypes.

Avatar is whitewashed simply because Masi Oka would make a horrible Zuko.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:06 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even at ~4% of the population, there may be something to be said for a relative dearth of Asian-American stage roles; but, on the side of supply, let's remember that every sub-culture sets forth different models of success and prestige, and there's any number of professions in which Asian-Americans are overrepresented.

The point is not simply "Asian actors can't get jobs". It's that there are an awful lot of people in the world who are not white while their portrayal in popular culture suggests that there are not that many of them, and most of them work as manual laborers, criminals, or sex workers.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:14 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Heh. Well, there are quite clearly anime art styles out there that default to making people look white. It's just one of those things. shouting no-n-no and jumping up and down about it just seems silly.

I think you entirely missed the point of that comment. It's just not about shouting no no no and jumping up and down. I thought I articulated what my other pet peeve was in the second comment in as short a way as possible. I'm not unaware about how anime looks. It’s just an annoyance that people have a narrow subset of what Asian comics and cartoon styles are meant to look like.

And in fact, because of this diversity in styles as well as the stylized nature of some comic and cartoon art (not just anime/manga, which is why I brought up Satrapi and Archie Comics), I was actually bringing up reasons as to why the 'It's just one of those things' argument, which you repeated up there, based on the fact that anime artwork doesn't look Asian is a weak and easy fakeout.

If you're just using a subset to categorize a whole, that’s problematic in more ways than one, not just from looking at artistic styles, but also reducing people to stereotypical looks, which is what my first comment about. Because the objection I hear, aside of eye color or hair color is the pale skin and round large eyes of anime characters, and that, to me, just panders to some “If this person doesn’t have jet black hair and slanted eyes, they are not Asian” idea that is entirely not true. Walk down a busy street in Seoul or Tokyo and see for yourself. And even then you’re just narrowing in on East Asia, what about the rest of Asia?

I get the weirdness of when you go into obviously Japanese characters that don't look Japanese much territory, but again, let’s forget about Sakura, how about her friend Tomoyo, yea, she looks more Asian right? Long dark hair? Dark eyes? Wait no? Because she has huge eyes? Well how many caucasian or non Asian people do you know have eyes half the area of their face? What about the (gorgeous) artwork in Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond? Is that Asian enough? Yes or no, why? If I were to use the characteristics people say are not Asian in anime, I see it in Vagabond, but they look pretty damn Asian to me. What do people exactly mean by “Asian-looking” when it comes to stylized artwork that’s not photorealistic? Does it have to be a stereotype to be recognized as Asian? Plastic surgery and whatnot is a whole other can of worms, but Asian people dye their hair too. Asian people wear contacts that change their eye color shape too (colored lenses, sure, but actually the use of circle lenses to change the size of your iris is more common).

I mean can't we just say sometimes people draw things a certain way because they like how it looks or it's perceived as looking good? If people want to argue sociology and race relations about how Westernized features are more prized in Asian culture and how that filters through to anime, they can go ahead and discuss that all the day long, but in that case I feel like non-diverse casting of this nature actually should be discussed as a symptom of that issue and not as the issue pardoning the symptom.

Either way, my beef with people jumping on the “Anime looks like white people!” bandwagon is that people seem readily open to accepting that there's some form stylization in other cultures cartoons or comics (even art, hell, if we were to look at Reza Abassi’s miniature’s people could hop on that “looks like this” train to thinking Persia was entirely willowy, vaguely Asian-y people), why's it so hard to see that in Asian comics and cartoons?
posted by kkokkodalk at 6:14 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Margaret Cho

I don't know nothin' 'bout no Airbiscuit, and I quite happily ignore Mr. M. Night, but I will say that I loathe Margaret Cho.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:18 PM on December 23, 2008



I suppose I'd better learn to appreciate it, since it's apparently all you plan to offer.


Now, the liquor I've been drinking tonight urges me to just say, "fuck you!"

However, I'm a bit more eloquent than that. So . . .

If you are not able to understand the frustration that I and many other people of color feel when this type of situation occurs; if you are unable to fathom the type of rage that bubbles up when people in a position of privilege tell you that you are overreacting; if you are completely incapable of figuring out that it is disheartening and demoralizing to see that you and others like you are most often completely written out of popular discourse (except as stereotypical plot devices), then what makes you think that you are in any way qualified to decide if someone's reaction to institutionalized, embedded racism is in any way justified or reasonable? Come back when you have something useful to contribute to the discussion.

You object to the way that I frame the racism that I perceive in the responses in this thread that are basically telling me to "get over it." Yet, I don't see you getting into a huff over the racism itself. Way to pick your battles there, big guy.
posted by anansi at 6:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


Would this be a good time to link back to the previous discussion on white privilege?

I can see that if I were a white dude and I got to see white dudes every time I turned on the TV, and one day some people announced that there was going to be this movie and all the white dudes would be replaced with asian dudes, you might think "Uhhh, OK ... whatever."

But when it's the other way around -- when there aren't many Asian roles, and those that exist are mostly flat out stereotypes, and suddenly Asian people start turning into white people, you might not be so dismissive (Like that 21 movie). You might not realize that to a lot of Asian people, Harold and Kumar was a _big deal_, because it showed Asian dudes as dudes whose Asian-ness was incidental, and not a source of mystic Kung Fu power, or something that white people could save them from.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:20 PM on December 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


Well, they figured all the kids found that sort of thing funny in Tropic Thunder...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:25 PM on December 23, 2008


Shyamalan has yet to produce anything that I didn't spend half of rolling my eyes and thinking of at least a hundred ways it could have been less retarded. That's not to say I didn't enjoy any of it, but all of it requires that you throw a sack over your sense of disbelief and hit it with a bat. The film companies need to keep their projects away from him for a decade or two so he can get over his enormous ego and sense of arrogance, and let other people fix the truly epic stupidity that mars all of his projects (despite the good ideas he frequently has.)

I think he's one of those people who would be invaluable if you had them working on a project, but who will cheerfully run it into the ground rather than take anyone's advice if you put them in command.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:28 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the only thing that bears saying, at all, is that there's a buttload of anime drawn with people of multiple ethnicities, and often, it's impossible to tell. They don't have blonde people in Japan, but half the anime characters I see end up blonde. And it seems to me that's based on the fact that a lot of scifi anime is set in a post-ethnic world, yo. The Japenese believe that in the future there will be a substantial population of white people living in Japan and speaking fluent Japanese. Takeoffs of that style also tend to draw white people in with the Asians. So...let's cast some white people in those parts if they're good actors. If you can point me to a blatantly Asian character who's been whitewashed, I'll listen. But I ain't see it here.

Besides what Ghidorah already said, none of your above arguments really hold water. Here’s a prime example when I talk about the Asian casting and “anime looks Caucasian” red herrings in the Avatar hulabaloo. First and for most, Avatar is not anime. It’s anime style made by Americans. I don’t mean that in a snotty otaku nerd way, but what I mean is you’re talking about the mindset of Japanese anime creators when discussing an issue pertaining to an American movie studio about an American show created by non Japanese people that happens to reference Asian cultures. If you want to talk about the discrepancy of anime characters versus the actual Japanese population, fine, but you’re comparing two different situations. How is what the Japanese people think salient at all to this discussion on an American cartoon series created by non Japanese people (not counting the coloring work done by Korean studios, I mean as in the story writers/directors) besides the fact that the drawing styles look similar-ish?

Second, if there’s a “buttload of anime drawn with people of multiple ethnicities where it’s impossible to tell” then why is the cast predominately white? And what’s so outrageous about people asking for a bit of diversity in the casting? They don’t have blonde people in Japan? Don’t tell that to Ayumi Hamasaki or Gackt, or all the kogals, gyarus and yamanba. Or hell, just Asian people who don’t have jet black hair in general. I guess Korean tv personality No Hong-chul needs to be informed that his Asian card got revoked as soon as he touched that bottle of bleach. I don’t know if anyone told you, but white people all don’t come factory issue blond either.

Third, if it’s post ethnic, again why is it OK for this casting to be predominately white? Wouldn’t post-ethnic mean there’s enough of an intermingling to make all sorts of mixed ethnic backgrounds? In fact, white would then be the minority except for a few hold outs really into keeping the line pure. And again, you’re comparing different situations. If this is a) sci fi b) anime universe c) post –ethnic (not so in Avatar considering there are clear distinctions with both positive and negative baggage amongst the countries’ interactions) the story is set in, fine you’d have a point. But I really don’t see how logically you can compare Avatar to something like Captain Harlock or Irresponsible Captain Tylor in this case.

And finally, as many comments have pointed out, and people seem to be disregarding, is that Avatar is not a blatantly white. The creators of the show themselves have explained where their influences come from. So what's so offensive about people asking for a casting that reflects the story a bit better?
posted by kkokkodalk at 6:28 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


First and foremost, Avatar is not anime. It’s anime style made by Americans.

No, anime refers to the style. To pigeonhole it by national origin, call it Japanimation.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:58 PM on December 23, 2008


And what’s so outrageous about people asking for a bit of diversity in the casting?

Well, given the story and setting, there have been multiple times when the main characters were able to masquerade as members of a different Tribe/Nation/Kingdom without much difficulty. They simply donned the outfits of who they wished to impersonate and were off. This implies a certain amount of uniformity between the societies.

Either that, or characters in the setting don't care about race.

One thing that makes me uncomfortable about how the discussions about the casting of this movie goes is the arguments that actors must be of the "right" race to play a certain part. That sentiment brings something to the show that I don't think is there. Race is not important in the show, so why should it be important in the movie?

Do I think the casting for the movie sucks? Of course I do. But I think it sucks because of teen 'heartthrobs' cast as villains, because of people in their late 20s cast as 15 year olds, and because of the signs of studio meddling, not because the actors are not the 'right' race.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:01 PM on December 23, 2008



Either that, or characters in the setting don't care about race.


That's cool, but then the question remains, why must all of the characters be white? Why is white the default? That is the root of the problem in this story. I'm with the whole "alternate world, race doesn't matter," thing. However, the casting choices in this movie seem to suggest that race does matter.
posted by anansi at 7:09 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


anansi: You object to the way that I frame the racism that I perceive in the responses in this thread that are basically telling me to "get over it."

Anansi, I'm rebuffing you for playing into a common and infantile tactic: holding that some badge of color grants you exclusive and final say over what social privilege is and who holds it, and that any dissenting view can be ushered away with cries of racism and wounded feelings. I don't know if you're doing this on purpose, but I don't think it's helping you get your views across, leastways to me.

hydropsyche: The point is not simply "Asian actors can't get jobs". It's that there are an awful lot of people in the world who are not white while their portrayal in popular culture suggests that there are not that many of them, and most of them work as manual laborers, criminals, or sex workers.

I think it's a good point that the small, insular caste of American celebrity doesn't reflect the world at large. As for the contention that non-Whites are relegated to the roles of criminal and laborer, that doesn't seem to mesh with the last twenty years of American cinema. What exactly are you basing this on?

Comrade_robot: Would this be a good time to link back to the previous discussion on white privilege?

Would this be a good time to challenge ourselves to look deeper than dusting off the old hobgoblin of invisible privilege? Does an orthodoxy balanced on a facile, un-sourced, thirty-year-old blog post deserve to have the ultimate word in every single discussion of race?
posted by kid ichorous at 7:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


That's cool, but then the question remains, why must all of the characters be white? Why is white the default? That is the root of the problem in this story. I'm with the whole "alternate world, race doesn't matter," thing. However, the casting choices in this movie seem to suggest that race does matter.

It's nice to have somebody say this before I could say it. So many people think that if you're discussing race, you're the one "making" it important. "Making it" an issue. It's already there. It's like if the characters are all 3's, 7's, 4's, 5's and 6's, don't go make the cast all 5's and then go "whaaa?" when somebody wonders what just happened.

But let me not stray into analogies because that gets confusing. I think it's pretty clear that people agree that the people in the animated series are not all white. So by picking all white people to portray them - M. Night made race an issue.
posted by cashman at 7:15 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't know nuthin about nuthin, but I suspect that white is the default for the movie's casting because white is the default for Hollywood. If so, that's a fault bigger than a movie based on a cartoon, one that much better minds than I could hope to have have been working on for years and years now. Again, I suspect studio meddling. From what I've heard from my ex-assistant, M. Night is kind of a tragic figure in a way, a victim of his own early success.

I'm only aware of this controversy because I am/was a fan of the show (it was hard to follow long when Nick showed stuff out of order). Were there similar discussions stemming from the casting of Dragon Ball or Speed Racer?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:22 PM on December 23, 2008


Anansi, I'm rebuffing you for playing into a common and infantile tactic: holding that some badge of color grants you exclusive and final say over what social privilege is and who holds it, and that any dissenting view can be ushered away with cries of racism and wounded feelings. I don't know if you're doing this on purpose, but I don't think it's helping you get your views across, leastways to me.

And I'm rebuffing you for the common tactic of "what, I see no racism here," that many folks in a position of privilege either intentionally or inadvertently tend to fall back on when confronted with institutionalized racism. I don't claim to have a final say on what social privilege is, however through personal experience and because of what I have chosen to pursue as a career path, I think that I most definitely have a pretty damn firm grasp of it. And, when someone from a position of privilege decides to dictate the parameters for what is racism and what is not, that is condescending, and pretty much the personification of privilege.

You have chosen to call me out because of the way in which I phrased my irritation toward the indifference and the apathetic cosigning of institutionalized racism that I have seen in this thread. In fact, you have declared my statements as racist (which is truly asinine) when I use a metaphor for the way that it can feel as someone seeing racism being told that it is all just me overreacting.

And truly, if the people with privilege refuse to acknowledge or define it, then who better to point it out than those stuck on the outside who see the benefits of it everyday.
posted by anansi at 7:27 PM on December 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure what everyone else considers a Box Office flop but:

6/13/08 The Happening $64,506,874
7/21/06 Lady in the Water $42,285,169
7/30/04 The Village $114,197,520
8/2/02 Signs $227,966,634
11/22/00 Unbreakable $95,011,339
8/6/99 The Sixth Sense $293,506,292
3/20/98 Wide Awake $282,175

And that's not including the International Gross.
Including Wide Awake, he's had two Box Office flops (Lady in the Water being the other)
In total his films have almost grossed a billion dollars. I wouldn't exactly call this guy a failure.

No, anime refers to the style. To pigeonhole it by national origin, call it Japanimation.

Uhhh, no. By definition Anime is Japanese.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:27 PM on December 23, 2008


I'm only aware of this controversy because I am/was a fan of the show (it was hard to follow long when Nick showed stuff out of order). Were there similar discussions stemming from the casting of Dragon Ball or Speed Racer?

Yeah, or Nacho Libre or any number of other movies?

(Sorry for the double post up above there)
posted by P.o.B. at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2008



I don't know nuthin about nuthin, but I suspect that white is the default for the movie's casting because white is the default for Hollywood.


I think that you are exactly right. But that just makes the issue more irritating. If it was just this one movie, then yeah, M. Night is a dick. But its not him. It is Hollywood. It is our culture. Its always this way. That is why it engenders such an impassioned response.
posted by anansi at 7:32 PM on December 23, 2008


That's the annoying part. See hollywood will then say "but it's the audiences - they won't watch stuff without white people in it - see! Look at these figures! And then audiences say "Hey look, it's hollywood. We go and see all of Will Smith's films, and we adore Samuel Jackson, so don't blame us - we don't watch good films with nonwhites in them because they won't put any in there."

And it just goes around and nothing happens. As annoying as that Obama reference above is, hopefully there will be some kind of wave that tips things and tells executives that people want to see more than just white characters.
posted by cashman at 7:41 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


As an aside, I just want to state (for my own cool points), that I studied (briefly) under the guy that they tapped to consult for general martial arts know-how on the show. Yes, I am that cool.
posted by anansi at 7:41 PM on December 23, 2008


This isn't the Youtube comments section.

Can this be added to the note underneath the comment box?
posted by concrete at 7:43 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can this be added to the note underneath the comment box?

Only if there's a little Sam Wyche graphic to go along with it.
posted by cashman at 7:52 PM on December 23, 2008


anansi: And I'm rebuffing you for the common tactic of "what, I see no racism here," that many folks in a position of privilege either intentionally or inadvertently tend to fall back on when confronted with institutionalized racism.

Failure to share your appetite for heaping bowls of outrage does not make someone White, Privileged, or entitled to a flock of "fuck you" and "asshole." So glad we could get that straight.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:59 PM on December 23, 2008


Would this be a good time to challenge ourselves to look deeper than dusting off the old hobgoblin of invisible privilege? Does an orthodoxy balanced on a facile, un-sourced, thirty-year-old blog post deserve to have the ultimate word in every single discussion of race?

Just because the concept makes you uncomfortable, that doesn't invalidate it. If you want sources discussing white privilege, here ya go:

"Oppression and Privilege: Toward a Relational Conceptualization of Race"
Betsy Lucal
Teaching Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul., 1996), pp. 245-255


"What Should White People Do?"
Linda Martín Alcoff
Hypatia, Vol. 13, No. 3, Border Crossings: Multicultural and Postcolonial Feminist Challenges to Philosophy (Part 2) (Summer, 1998), pp. 6-26


"Disproportionate Representation of African American Students in Special Education: Acknowledging the Role of White Privilege and Racism"
Wanda J. Blanchett
Educational Researcher, Vol. 35, No. 6 (Aug. 1, 2006), pp. 24-28


"Teaching about Race and Ethnicity: Trying to Uncover White Privilege for a White Audience"
Dan J. Pence, J. Arthur Fields
Teaching Sociology, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), pp. 150-158



The point, is that privilege is a perfectly tenable concept. You may disagree, and if you do feel free to post coherent arguments that disprove it. However, simply stating your distaste for a concept doesn't mean that it is non-existent.
posted by anansi at 8:02 PM on December 23, 2008


Why is white the default?

Because the people in Hollywood identify with white actors in exactly the same way you identify with cartoon characters with a perceived ethnicity.

It is not a conspiracy. There is no evil intent in these casting decisions. You do not help your case by being whiny and shrill.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 8:04 PM on December 23, 2008


anansi, don't start citing articles you haven't read. That's just terrible form. And anyway, get the hell out of sociology, we have perfectly incisive texts on the erasure of Asians in American media in Cinema and Media Study.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:06 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Failure to share your appetite for heaping bowls of outrage does not make someone White, Privileged, or entitled to a flock of "fuck you" and "asshole." So glad we could get that straight.

And an almost herculean capacity for obtuseness does not make one correct or morally superior.
posted by anansi at 8:06 PM on December 23, 2008


No, anime refers to the style. To pigeonhole it by national origin, call it Japanimation.

Anime by definition refers Japanese animation/Japanimation. People might've co-opted nowadays to speak about a certain style, but if you go back and read what I wrote I'm not dismissing the use of the term entirely. I specifically said "anime style" because in the context of my comment I said I wasn't splitting hairs in the geekdom defining words sense, but to highlight that Avatar isn't a product of Japan compared to people making arguments based on the assumption that we're talking about animation actually from Japan.
posted by kkokkodalk at 8:12 PM on December 23, 2008


We are reaching virtuosic levels of internecine opprobrium now. Heaping bowls! Herculean! Golly gee!
posted by tss at 8:13 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


anansi, don't start citing articles you haven't read. That's just terrible form. And anyway, get the hell out of sociology, we have perfectly incisive texts on the erasure of Asians in American media in Cinema and Media Study.

I am responding to someone claiming that white privilege is not something that has any sort of citations. I provided a brief listing of citations. I listed those articles because they are searchable on the net. I really don't feel like searching through my own library and transcribing shit.

Secondly, how do you know what I have or have not read? Actually, I do study race, history and anthroplogy. I have a damn good grasp on the concept of white privilege, its usage within the academy and its relevance to the social sciences. Do you really wanna see whose dick is bigger? Just because you may disagree with me does not mean that I have no idea of what I'm talking about.
posted by anansi at 8:15 PM on December 23, 2008


We are reaching virtuosic levels of internecine opprobrium now.

Well in my defense I'm not named after an arachnid Trickster ur-figure, so you can trust me implicitly.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:17 PM on December 23, 2008


> Would this be a good time to link back to the previous discussion on white privilege?

Yes indeedy! Also, I think, an equally good time to link back to the echo chamber reminding us there's no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race. Satisfaction is reflecting that there's such a thing as privilege but no such thing as white.


> The different colors for hair and eyes are stylistic choices so the characters are
> immediately recognizable and...different(not all the same).

It works. I shocked my anime-fan daughter down to her shoes yesterday by identifying this honey without help. Desu!


> Izumi Konata has blue hair and green eyes. Hiiragi Kagami has pink hair and blue
> eyes. Iwasaki Minami has green hair and blue eyes. This doesn't mean the Japanese
> believe one day Japan will be populated by blue-haired Comiket devotees. There's
> this thing called "stylizing" that artists like to use sometimes.

Couldn't be truer. But from whence cometh the style? As a point of interest I can't help noticing a pretty consistent difference between the way the Japanese depict themselves now, after having seen roundeyes, compared to the way they depicted themselves before.
posted by jfuller at 8:17 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where did you get that I disagree with you? You're being irate at just anybody now, it's not cool. And I still don't think citation dumping is very cool and oh ooh ooh I study Asians as represented in Media woo woo big dick over here. If this thread weren't being derailed by your rage, maybe we could get back to discussing that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:20 PM on December 23, 2008


Well in my defense I'm not named after an arachnid Trickster ur-figure, so you can trust me implicitly.

Well, just for that comment, I'm willing to call peace and agree to disagree (it made me laugh, a little).


Ahh, metafilter, even when I disagree with folks, they're still erudite and entertaining.
posted by anansi at 8:21 PM on December 23, 2008


Agreed then, and not a minute too soon, because Ambrosia's inching for the holster and her treatise on Firefly.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:26 PM on December 23, 2008


There is no evil intent in these casting decisions.

M. Night, is that you? Nice try, pal. Your films suck, and you whitewashed the cast. Totally busted, dude! Oh and I completely knew Bruce Willis was dead, so there.
posted by cashman at 8:27 PM on December 23, 2008


Where did you get that I disagree with you?

Uhh. . . "get the hell out of sociology." I'm pretty sure that that's the way that you phrased that. Not, "hey, anansi, I don't think that you should use that tactic."

And, citation listing, when someone claims that there are no citations for something seems to me to be perfectly fine.

I made no special claims of having read, authored or in particular having favorites concerning any of the citations.

Statement: this idea is not supported by evidence or citations.

Response: Actually there are many citations and much evidence, here are a few.

And you started the dick waving with the assertion that I don't know what I'm talking about but you do by virtue of your studies. If that's not the way you intended it, then no harm, no foul. But that's cettainly the way that it came across to me.
posted by anansi at 8:27 PM on December 23, 2008


And, since I cannot spell certainly, I realize that at this point it is time for me to go to bed.
posted by anansi at 8:35 PM on December 23, 2008


One thing that makes me uncomfortable about how the discussions about the casting of this movie goes is the arguments that actors must be of the "right" race to play a certain part. That sentiment brings something to the show that I don't think is there. Race is not important in the show, so why should it be important in the movie?

With all respect, Robocop is Bleeding, before you lump me in with whichever group you are referring to here, you kind of ignored what I said many times that my personal beef isn't with the fact that no one's the right race my point was that so far there doesn't seem to be much of a representation of race period in a series that seems to have with different cultures and looks. I'm not talking about the "right" race I'm saying can't we just have some race? And before you say, "Oh, but it's just these characters, they might cast other more diverse people," again, these are the MAIN characters. You might be uncomfortable with this talk, but I'm uncomfortable with the possibility that yet again not white faces will end up being the teeming masses in the background of some exotic city that our white heroes simply traverse through or get help from. I'm uncomfortable with the fact that if race is not a factor then white is the default. You mentioned it's probably a studio thing to make money or more marketable or whatever, and I don't disagree that is going on, but I don't agree with what they're doing based on what I watched. While we can disagree I don't think discomfort should shut down discussion?

And yea, you had me when you were talking about maybe they don't look different enough for it to be a big deal, and I remember disguises being featured in the series as well. In fact, I agree with your second statement that race probably doesn't matter because there's probably a good mix of different races, so again my question why are the main characters being represented mostly white actors? And again I really just don't get why just saying that is so uncomfortable to discuss that it shouldn't be brought to the table and we should just take what we can get. I'm not pulling this diversity thing out of my ass. I saw it in the series and other people did too. If it doesn't matter so much, why not just make the cast like the cast of the 1997 Cinderella TV movie? I thoroughly enjoyed that when I watched it.

Besides, in the series there seems to be some specific cultures that are more isolated that are easy to pick out but for places like Earth Kingdom or Fire Kingdom, they seem more cosmopolitan and/or trading nations so there seems to be a mix. And on the other hand, I honestly took the disguises to mean they were disguising who they were as in "We're not Aang, Sokka, and Kitara, but random folks." I find it interesting you took it to mean an ethnic/cultural disguise as in "We're not air/water benders, were actually your countrymen." If the rest of the people cast (townspeople, side characters, etc.) are going to be a good mix, wouldn't some white kids stand out even more disguised or not? Unless we're making this all European. Again storywise, it's just bad casting.
posted by kkokkodalk at 8:44 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


And then audiences say "Hey look, it's hollywood. We go and see all of Will Smith's films, and we adore Samuel Jackson, so don't blame us - we don't watch good films with nonwhites in them because they won't put any in there."


Semi-derail: Am I the only one who was disappointed in "I, Robot" because Smith was cast as Elijah Bailey? And Susan Calvin's not supposed to be some hot babe either...
posted by gen at 8:44 PM on December 23, 2008


her treatise on Firefly.

Oh bust that out! I want to see the "Objects in Space" chapter.
posted by cashman at 8:51 PM on December 23, 2008


I don't think that would seem right to Jubal Early.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:56 PM on December 23, 2008


It works. I shocked my anime-fan daughter down to her shoes yesterday by identifying this honey without help. Desu!

I just want to put on my cone-shaped Pedant Hat for a moment to point out that while all the Rozen Maiden speak Japanese, they are, according to the story, made in Germany. And for some reason decide to make one Japanese kid's life a living hell. Poor Jun. But anyway, I'd brought up Lucky Star specifically because the cast are all Japanese, yet with varying hair and eye colors. So just because there may be large-eyed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed people in an anime, this doesn't mean necessarily that the artists were trying to draw white people. Sometimes it really is just stylization.

Thanks for bringing up Rozen Maiden though. I'm going to watch Ouverture again!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:34 PM on December 23, 2008


I remember how disappointed I was when Akira Kurosawa made his version of King Lear with Asian actors.

Good point. However, it's difficult to imagine two directors who are as completely different as Kurosawa and Shyamalan. In fact, the names should probably not appear anywhere near each other, and I'm probably coming dangerously close to some Event Horizon by doing so.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:52 PM on December 23, 2008


It's incredibly sad and predictable how race discussions work.
posted by yeloson at 10:14 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


No, anime refers to the style. To pigeonhole it by national origin, call it Japanimation.

Not to be a stick in the mud but...the term Japanimation, to my knowledge, hasn't been in use (nor should it be) for quite some time. Sure you could call something done in an anime style, but this still calls to light that it isn't Anime. Actually I don't think we're disagreeing here, except for the usage of the term Japanamation. You can use it, but I would rather take the more PC route and just use the term Anime when needed.

Am I the only one who was disappointed in "I, Robot"

No, the movie was terrible. Not because of Will Smiths acting, but because he inevitably is linked to screwing up good stories just so he can insert shirtless workout scenes and pointless chase scenes.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:47 PM on December 23, 2008


Why is white the default?

Because most Americans are white?
posted by MikeMc at 12:16 AM on December 24, 2008


*wince*
posted by stinkycheese at 12:17 AM on December 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


SO! Um, how about that game last night? Helluva game, wasn't it?

Great game.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:21 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


SO! Um, how about that game last night? Helluva game, wasn't it?

Yeah, but I noticed there weren't a lot of Asian-American athletes represented on the football field...

(I keed, I keed)
posted by kid ichorous at 1:13 AM on December 24, 2008


I was talking about the Tijuana Jai-Alai semi-finals, you jingoist yank.

Two can keed at that game!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:19 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


And you've proven yourself time and time again to be a low life moron. What else is new?
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:08 PM on December 23


But you never said that to me until I disparaged anime.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:34 AM on December 24, 2008


In total his films have almost grossed a billion dollars. I wouldn't exactly call this guy a failure.

Because you have to add marketing and other costs on top of production a film is only considered a hit if it pulls in at least 2 to 3 times it's domestic gross

The Happening - $64,506,874, Production cost - $60 m - flop

Lady in the Water $42,285,169, Production cost - $140 m - disaster

7/30/04 The Village $114,197,520, Production cost - $71.6 - break even

8/2/02 Signs $227,966,634, Production cost - $72 million - hit

11/22/00 Unbreakable $95,011,33, Production cost - $73.2 million - flop

8/6/99 The Sixth Sense $293,506,292 , Production cost - $40-million - mega hit

3/20/98 Wide Awake $282,175 Production cost - $7 million - disaster

One reason he still gets projects, despite a patchy record at the box office, is that Shyamalan has a reputation for finishing films on time and to budget... And he's being able to cost on The Sixth Sense, with the studios hoping for another mega-hit, for a long time. Though dropping down to adaptating an existing franchise rather than developing his own script shows his status is dimming somewhat.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:19 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speed Racer? The exception that proves the rule. A movie filled to the brim with awesome campy fun.
posted by Memo


Nice catch - - a ridiculously underrated movie!
posted by fairmettle at 2:45 AM on December 24, 2008


While we can disagree I don't think discomfort should shut down discussion?

I'm with you there. My discomfort has more to do with discussions about this from other parts of the internet, not here on Mefi. There was a lot of OMG YOU MUST BE THIS MAD TO JOIN THIS DISCUSSION going on. I don't like shouty discussions, so would become uncomfortable participating, thus shutting it down, at least for me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:52 AM on December 24, 2008


All that said, my take on things is that if someone claims to be enough of an Avatar superfan that they will boycott this movie, I don't believe them. Most of them will see the movie. That's what being a superfan is all about.

It's possible to boycott a movie -- well, how about prevent a movie from making money -- and still see it. The word for an Avatar superfan is Avatard, by the way, which will most likely be apt in describing the motivations of those who do go out to watch the movie. There are things in this world that are more important than moral outrage, after all. Like will the movie promote Kataang or Zutara?

designbot's got a point: if they hired Asian actors, they'd have to wear blue contact lenses...

I think it would've been enough for a lot of fans if they were just Asian, just like how people go along with Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter because he's British and wears glasses but has got neatly-combed brown hair and blue eyes.
posted by vaghjar at 5:40 AM on December 24, 2008


Okay, if we're talking about the bottom line:

The Happening - $64,506,874, Production cost - $60 m

Well The Happening went on to make over a $160 M in International sales.

7/30/04 The Village $114,197,520, Production cost - $71.6

$140 million worldwide (and $40 Million US Gross isn't exactly break even money.)

11/22/00 Unbreakable $95,011,33, Production cost - $73.2 million

Worldwide Gross $248,099,143 (Again I'm not sure how $20 Million + US Gross equals flop.)

Beyond Wide Awake his movies have made money, flop or not. As some other writer put it, you can't argue with the cash register.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:46 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Again I'm not sure how $20 Million + US Gross equals flop

Well try looking into the economics of the film business then.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:06 AM on December 24, 2008


Would this be a good time to challenge ourselves to look deeper than dusting off the old hobgoblin of invisible privilege? Does an orthodoxy balanced on a facile, un-sourced, thirty-year-old blog post deserve to have the ultimate word in every single discussion of race?

Well, I was more talking about the discussion that followed than the post itself. But, you know, kind of the point I was trying to make back then (and now) is that it's invisible _to you_, so you don't think it's a big deal. And I get that. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist for people who aren't you.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:30 AM on December 24, 2008


Because most Americans are white?

Ha! Just, wow. I mean first of all...you know what, here's my Christmas gift to you. Let me try rebutting like you actually were trying to make an intelligent argument and not a snippy substance lacking one-liner in a knee jerk defensive way after not really having read or taking into account in the discussion that's been going on so far. So hm, let me get this straight: When people who are not white saying the cast should be diverse people can say "It shouldn't matter, the cartoon's not based on this world so why does race matter" but it's more than OK to base the casting on the fact that this world's America has a majority white population. Or are you really trying to say the rest of the population doesn't matter because white people are the majority and they should dictate everything? Your statement doesn't really counter argue the statement I've made because what does majority white have anything to do with casting unless you yourself believe only white people are marketable and should be represented on screen because everyone else doesn't matter. I'd think hard before I tried to answer this because I don't see how you can charitably answer otherwise.
posted by kkokkodalk at 6:30 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]



Because most Americans are white?


So I expect that by 2042, you will be eagerly awaiting your new minority overlords
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:50 AM on December 24, 2008


The main hero is as white as they come, two of the secondary characters are sort of Eskimos, the third's probably Asian, and Prince Zuko is definitely Asian.

Er... Aang is really obviously meant to be Tibetan. (also a blindingly obvious reference to the Dalai Lama) Since when are Tibetans white?

These characters don't "look white" - they're just not being drawn in "yellowface". Our popular entertainment is so overwhelmingly white that we just equate unmarked with white.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:51 AM on December 24, 2008


Well try looking into the economics of the film business then.

Well I did mean Profit and not Gross. And I don't think anybody is sneering at 20 + Million dollars profit. Nonetheless he makes the studios a shit ton of money.

Also Worldwide Gross = International + Domestic
posted by P.o.B. at 7:28 AM on December 24, 2008


Also, I think, an equally good time to link back to the echo chamber reminding us there's no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race ... no such thing as race. Satisfaction is reflecting that there's such a thing as privilege but no such thing as white.

Hey, no offense to you directly, jfuller.

That having been said -- HOLY FUCKING SHIT am I fucking tired to hear someone bring up this pitiful withering wretch of an example. What? "Race doesn't exist?" Okay, great. Let's look at this argument.

Of course not. Is race a scientific concept? Many would say it isn't. 'Race doesn't exist because race is a social construct.' Sure. In what way does this invalidate race and racism as something to be talked about, discussed? Does the presence of a social construct mean that this social construct has no impact or effect whatsoever?

Then what's the issue? Race is something that we made up. But because we believe in that which we made up, this made-up concept has very very real effects, and therefore the specifics of this made-up concepts and the dynamics and effects it generates is very worthwhile in believing in.

Okay? That's pretty simple. Let's not go around saying "there's no such thing as race" and equating it with "there's not such thing as racism" or "race and racism aren't worth talking about". Not that that's necessarily what you're saying -- but if you referenced this argument, then I'm assuming you meant it to function as a response to all the talk in this thread about race.

**

The arguments that you mention as well as as all the other arguments that I've seen take some form of: "race doesn't exist because racial divisions are inherently arbitrary classifications". That's akin to declaring classification and taxonomy as 'nonexistent' because differences within a field are gradual and so classification is inherently inaccurate. But it doesn't even matter if differences on the level of visual appearance and cultural activity exist or not. That the "race doesn't exist" argument seems to equate an arbitrary classification with an absolute meaninglessness. That's a really common fallacy, and probably one of the main reasons that people stumble around and say "X is a social construct!" as if it is any way an existential argument to say that hey man, life is meaningless.

And I guess that's technically true, because it's meaningless if you still belief in the myth of a universal meaning and a universal truth. Within the boundaries of the society/field/discourse that believes in this it's true. Classical logic is only true within the mathematical space of its axioms. Within a society that engages in racism and stratifies people according to a perceived characteristic of race, racism still exists. The fallacy is to denounce a concept based on its lack of universality and lack of a firm foundation under the mantle of accuracy, scientific accuracy -- if the argument says "race doesn't exist because they're not accurate classifications" it's operating under the assumption that there are 'right' classifications, or maybe even that classifications are wrong in the first place. Either way, the assumption behind this argument and whatever justifications that may stand behind it is to confuse the fact that 'the social phenomenon of race and racism is rooted in a belief in classifications of race' with 'an awareness of the classifications of race as arbitrary somehow abolishes the social phenomenon altogether'. There's a hope that scientific classifications somehow correspond with cultural attitudes towards this classification. The tool to use here is not science but psychology and sociology.

Upon re-reading, I realize that I come off a bit sloppy and scattered - sorry.
posted by suedehead at 8:17 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


1. "Most Americans are white" is a myth. Our present day construct of "whiteness" comes straight out of the Nazi/Falangist/Social nationalist playbooks of the last century and sorry to have to go there historically, but 'tis the internet and we're talking about race after all.

In this country neither the Irish, Italian, Greeks (and of course their Jewish, Roma and Muslim versions) or many of the European scourge that washed ashore Ellis Island was considered suitable for "whiteness" by the upper US classes, especially in the north. Just pick up any Edith Wharton novel so you can see what I mean --or read Jacob Riis "How the Other Half Lives", a contemporaneous account of the turn-of-the-century invasion of the European unwashed masses Wharton and Henry James used to mock.

"Whiteness" became a convenient tool of social political control in the north when the "nouvelle vague" of immigrants was too big to be contained. It was a last ditch attempt to hold on to power by the elites when they started losing their economic and political clout and had to contend with the likes of the Al Smiths and later on the Kennedys of the world.

Edit Wharton's "The Custom of the Country" is a fantastic novel that basically shows how these new Europeans bought their way into whiteness and not just because they could easily buy themselves into it. Wharton was very good at showing the decadence of these white elites, the "gentile families" of the north. Her portrayal of them is brutal by describing them as a sort of Louis XVI court of useless upper class twits who just didn't know how to make themselves either useful or solvent.

So no, "white America" is a lie. "White Europe" is a even bigger lie what with all the years of invasions by different Asian and African groups but I'll leave that for another day (or at least until after I start cooking Christmas eve dinner).


2. So now that we see Shamayalan's eagerness to play the race card, i have to ask : What's the Asian (or for that matter, South Asian) equivalent of an Uncle Tom?
posted by liza at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2008


Sorry PoB but you really do not have any idea what you are talking about
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:28 AM on December 24, 2008


Your statement doesn't really counter argue the statement I've made because what does majority white have anything to do with casting unless you yourself believe only white people are marketable and should be represented on screen because everyone else doesn't matter. I'd think hard before I tried to answer this because I don't see how you can charitably answer otherwise.

It doesn't matter what I think. It doesn't matter what you think and it doesn't matter what some whiners on LJ think. It matters what the people making and paying for the film and the general movie going public think. I personally don't give a shit what race the actors in the Avatar movie are as I have never watched more than thirty seconds of it nor do I have any intention of seeing this movie. And personally I think some of the "adults" here are a tad too invested in a live action cartoon adaptation for comfort. Either this is "colorblind" casting or someone thinks a whiter shade of Asian is more bankable. Either way it's their money to lose and their film. Bottom line: Don't like it? Don't go see it. If enough people vote with their wallets maybe the studios will rethink their modus operandi. Then again this movie doesn't have chance in hell of even breaking even much less turning a profit as M. Night Shyamalan is the Typhoid Mary of the cineplex to be avoided at all costs. Oh, and if condescension is what you're doling out for Christmas don't forget to include the gift receipt.



So I expect that by 2042, you will be eagerly awaiting your new minority overlords

Meh. Considering that Milwaukee is already a "majority minority" city I'll be expecting more of the same but on a larger scale.

New New Year's resolution: No more one liners in race threads on MeFi.
posted by MikeMc at 8:41 AM on December 24, 2008


Sorry PoB but you really do not have any idea what you are talking about

Wouldn't be the first time, nor does it stop me. But really everything I've read about the numbers he produces makes me think he's bankable. On top of that he keeps getting picture deals. If you could point me in a direction to illustrate what your talking about I would appreciate it. Or is this more about "Shamalamadingdong SuX0rs n00b"?
posted by P.o.B. at 8:43 AM on December 24, 2008


New New Year's resolution: No more one liners in race threads on MeFi.

I wish more people would make these types of resolutions.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:44 AM on December 24, 2008


I can't believe I read the whole thread....

(said in the voice of "I can't believe I ate the whole thing...")
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on December 24, 2008


MikeMC: No, not any more condescending and dismissive than the sentiment your previous statement was conveying, and because you know, feigned muttering under the breath with small text isn't at all not snarky and condescending either. I just call people out on their bullshit and you're more than welcome to do so, but I'd appreciate it more if you'd do it to my face rather than in asides and stage whispers. What am I? In a Shakesperean play? You're either saying it or you're not, dude. And the "too cool for school for this kid's show, you adults should be ashamed of yourself" attitude is the cherry on top. You seem a bit put out about this but I'm actually enjoying myself. In fact, this thread is like a Christmas miracle. I'm actually having a lot of fun discussing all this stuff. I honestly have no problems at all having people discuss their different ideas, so maybe that's just me.

Unfortuantely as much as you try to state that it doesn't matter what other people think, people operate independently from how you frame your world. Some people care, that's why they are talking about it. Telling people this discussion doesn't matter because "It doesn't matter what I think. It doesn't matter what you think and it doesn't matter what some whiners on LJ think" isn't going to change the fact that it matters to some people and this has brought up some real issues for people, even people who aren't a fan of the show. Not to mention the fact that for some people it isn't just about this show, it's part of an ongoing discussion about representation of minorities in popular culture and media. And not even just in numbers, but how, or when minorities make appearances, and attitudes towards minorities in popular culture. Just because it doesn't matter to you doesn't mean everyone should just shut the hell up because you have spoken and it is the Word.

Some people don't like it and they DO plan on not going to see it. that's not some new revelation. No one's saying they're being forced to go watch it or not. No one's telling the offended parties to fork over 12 bucks, and no one here is talking about keeping anyone planning to see the movie from doing that because of this casting. So what if they want to at least attempt to create change. They're letting the studios know that this is a big problem for them. Boycotting the film or starting a letter campaign, both just seem like different ways of expressing discontent, so I don't get why the former's more OK than the latter. Seems polite actually, giving the studios a heads up about the potential mess they are causing. It might not result in anything this time around, then well, I guess they just will have to hope this instance contributes to greater awareness later and and some change. And maybe just don't go see it or shucks even see it, who knows, whatever they want to do. It's their money. It's the studio's money that they can do what they want with it, doesn't mean everyone has to like what they're doing with their either.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:37 AM on December 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'd like to quadruple-favourite every post kkokkodalk has made in this thread.

To dismiss the larger issue because it is "just" a cartoon, a kids show, or a stupid film made by a crap director is a shortsighted, ignorant approach to this whole thing (and as an aside, dismissing stuff for kids because you're grown up and above it is unbelievable snobbery).

The larger issue is about the representation of minorities and minority cultures in Hollywood, crap film or not. All the arguing here over whether the original TV show's main characters are of Asian descent or white is a load of hair-splitting hooey. And it's a lose-lose situation for all. On the one hand, you can argue the characters are ethnic, in which case casting all-white actors IS whitewashing. On the other hand, if blue eyes and blond hair mean the characters must be cast as white, then there was a whole bunch of cultural appropriation going on in the creation of the original TV program and I don't know which is worse.
posted by mooza at 10:46 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hong Kong Fooey wasn't Asian. He was a dog. A dog voiced by a black jazz musician. Scatman Crothers. Who got murdered by a crazy Jack Nicholson. Also not Asian. But who ironically stared in Chinatown. In wich Fay Dunaway is shot through the eye. Also ironically the same eye that later plastic surgery botched to make her look Asian. But she is not Asian at all. Though she does own a Siamese cat. Which is outrageous.
posted by tkchrist at 11:23 AM on December 24, 2008


You're either saying it or you're not, dude. And the "too cool for school for this kid's show, you adults should be ashamed of yourself" attitude is the cherry on top.

Oh, I'm saying it. And it is a kid's show. It's on Nick for crying out loud. You are not the target demographic. That solid platinum, multi-billion dollar demographic known as "Tween girls" is (hence the possible casting of Jesse McCartney). Who do you think turns inane junk like Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers into a multi-billion dollar industry? If you are a tween girl I apologize.

I'm actually having a lot of fun discussing all this stuff. I honestly have no problems at all having people discuss their different ideas, so maybe that's just me.


As am I, but it's hard to get that across in text. As for the "whiners", well, they seem to be part of the usual crew of perpetually aggrieved LJers for whom their sole purpose for being online is to rant about how PoC are getting screwed again. They are indeed a tiresome lot .

it matters to some people and this has brought up some real issues for people, even people who aren't a fan of the show. Not to mention the fact that for some people it isn't just about this show, it's part of an ongoing discussion about representation of minorities in popular culture and media.


See "perpetually aggrieved" above. It's not that some people have issues about this but rather that it's a constant rehashing of the same old complaints. Content providers keep churning out the same shit because they keep making money from it. How many complaints have we heard over the years about the negative stereotypes portrayed on African-American themed sitcoms? Have we seen any improvement (I'm looking at you Tyler Perry)? No, not really. People love to complain but apparently actually doing anything other than complaining seems to be too much effort. And no, a letter writing campaign isn't "doing something" it's just more complaining. How about writing a script instead? Perhaps pick up a DV camcorder and some film students/drama majors while you're at it (I don't mean you personally).

Just because it doesn't matter to you doesn't mean everyone should just shut the hell up because you have spoken and it is the Word.

And here I thought my word was The Law. Shows how much I know.

Seems polite actually, giving the studios a heads up about the potential mess they are causing.

Mess? What mess? It's just the same people pissing into the wind. Again.

Besides, everyone knows that the only bankable Asian actors in Hollywood are Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat and Lucy Liu and they're all too old for this movie.

(and as an aside, dismissing stuff for kids because you're grown up and above it is unbelievable snobbery).


I disagree. What's next? Deconstructing "Blues Clues"?
posted by MikeMc at 11:26 AM on December 24, 2008


fearfulsymmetry,

I am waiting. Seriously. I never try to come off as a know it all. But I definitely have something to back myself up if I'm telling someone they don't know what they're talking about. Truthfully I'm baffled when people tell me things like Unbreakable was a flop, because I just don't see it. So until you show me these "mysterious numbers" that say different, I'm going to assume you know about as much as I do.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:28 AM on December 24, 2008


Also ironically the same eye that later plastic surgery botched to make her look Asian.

Maybe that was intentional, inspired perhaps by the surgery James Bond had to look more Asian in "You Only Live Twice". Sean Connery - also not Asian.
posted by MikeMc at 11:28 AM on December 24, 2008


So until you show me these "mysterious numbers" that say different, I'm going to assume you know about as much as I do.

Hollywood math is comprised entirely of "mysterious numbers" that enable studios to claim a loss on damn near anything.
posted by MikeMc at 11:32 AM on December 24, 2008


MikeMC: You keep putting forth conflicting messages of "It doesn't matter in the end" and "Well if they don't like it they should shut up and do something about it" and "complainers are just whiners," pick one already. You point out all the flaws of the industry then talk smack about people who only pick out what's wrong and don't do anything. "And here I thought my word was The Law. Shows how much I know." Yea, but you sure seem to love telling people how wrong they are because you got it all figured out.

And basically you're just rehashing your point of "That's the way it is, so what can you do about it?" The "pissing into the wind" comment was particularly delightful in its construction and ability to convey attitude so succinctly. Oh don't worry I did notice your choice of words for "perpetually aggrieved." Once again a fine combination of words to denote futility as well as pitying condescension. Again, all I can really say is that might be fine for you, but it's not to other people, so don't be surprised when people complain. Then again yo which you seem to enjoy doing about persons complaining but other people can't do Some people don't like it the way it is so they're gonna do something about it. I don't get why you seem to be so disgruntled about other people doing something about something that doesn't matter all that much to you. And I'm not disagreeing at all with what you're saying about marketing and tweens. But again, because that's the way it is dosen't mean someone isn't or shouldn't call bullshit on it if what they feel that it is bullshit.
posted by kkokkodalk at 12:11 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I could favorite kkkokkodalk twenty times, I would. "Default" should be questioned. If it's not, it becomes status quo, tradition, and perpetuates the privilege. Avatar enjoyed the undefined. These casting choices are the opposite.
posted by Stynxno at 12:21 PM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


A likely-to-be-substandard adaptation of a Nickolodeon cartoon seems a bit of an unliklely thing to bear the weight of all that though.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reading this thread, I find myself idly wondering at how many of the posters saying the all-white cast is no big deal are the same people who were annoyed at Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, for having Morgan Freeman as a Moor bumming around England? Because I remember a lot of people screaming "Oh no! A black man in Robin Hood, it's just not authentic to the source material!"

Anyway, Not to worry people, the film isn't COMPLETELY whitewashed: I hear they're going to have Uncle Iro played by Samuel L. Jackson. So they have a minority in a speaking role- happy now?
posted by happyroach at 12:38 PM on December 24, 2008


I disagree. What's next? Deconstructing "Blues Clues"?

Sure. Why not? In fact, I think it's already been done. And there are tonnes of stuff written about the impact of Sesame Street on developing minds. Dude. DEVELOPING MINDS. You can't appreciate the importance of well-researched, well constructed programming that educates kids, teaches social values and cultural awareness? Especially in this day and age, when yes, all the tween marketing Hannah Montana crap bombards kids with all manner of useless information, you don't see a point in separating the good from the bad, you'd just prefer to lump them all into one basket? That's what's ignorant. Kids programming is not always just flashing lights and 30 minutes of distraction. When it's well written, well made and thoughtful, it deserves to be promoted and is capable of being appreciated and enjoyed by anyone.

And when there's a show like Avatar, that has a genuine respect for Asian culture and a wish to impart that knowledge and cultural awareness to a young audience, people have every right to get angry when they feel that message is subverted. It's completely ignorant to dismiss the issue just because it's for kids. In fact, we should be more concerned when it's for kids, they're the ones absorbing information way faster than you are.
posted by mooza at 12:47 PM on December 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


You keep putting forth conflicting messages of "It doesn't matter in the end" and "Well if they don't like it they should shut up and do something about it" and "complainers are just whiners," pick one already.

Those don't conflict. The bottom line is simple: stop expecting people who aren't all that concerned about your opinion (beyond your willingness to spend money) to conform their content to your expectations and make your own content (or at least support those who do make content that meets your expectations). If those discontented with the casting of this movie can't punish the studio at the box office than all this letter writing and Facebook whatevering (I don't have a Facebook account so I can't speak to what's going on there) is for naught.

Again, all I can really say is that might be fine for you, but it's not to other people, so don't be surprised when people complain. Then again yo which you seem to enjoy doing about persons complaining but other people can't do Some people don't like it the way it is so they're gonna do something about it. I don't get why you seem to be so disgruntled about other people doing something about something that doesn't matter all that much to you.

But it seems that nobody is "doing" anything. I mean , they are in the literal sense (letter writing etc..) but they are accomplishing the same nothing (or at best a token PoC thrown into the cast at the last minute) as always. Perhaps I'm unclear in differentiating between "actions" and "results". What's that old saw about insanity being doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? That's what this seems like.

Oh don't worry I did notice your choice of words for "perpetually aggrieved." Once again a fine combination of words to denote futility as well as pitying condescension.

What can I say other than "If the shoe fits..." There are those people out there whose purpose in life seems to be getting angry about things. I do pity those people in a way. I have neither the time, energy nor inclination to seek out things to be angry about all of the time and I can't understand how they can sustain that kind of mindset. And mind you this applies to great variety of people and myriad subjects. Having spent some time on LJ I can assure that there are people that post nothing but angry "come see the oppression inherent in the system" content.

This particular FPP caught my eye because I'm boggled by adults who glom on to things intended for children and then get angry when these things don't conform to their adult expectations. Much like the middle aged Harry Potter fans that piss and moan about the books and the movies for example. They weren't meant for you, just because you've invested your precious time and hard earned money into them doesn't change that. STFU and pick up a copy of "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" or something.
posted by MikeMc at 1:17 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can't appreciate the importance of well-researched, well constructed programming that educates kids, teaches social values and cultural awareness?

I can, but kids? Maybe. I watched Sesame Street as a child and so have my children but past a certain age they both ended up watching the same thing. DBZ.

Kids programming is not always just flashing lights and 30 minutes of distraction. When it's well written, well made and thoughtful, it deserves to be promoted and is capable of being appreciated and enjoyed by anyone.

Not it's not, and anyone can certainly appreciate things that are well crafted but I think we as adults project too much of what we want onto things meant for them. Sometimes kids want flashy distraction even if we think it's bad for them.
posted by MikeMc at 1:27 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


comrade_robot: Well, I was more talking about the discussion that followed than the post itself. But, you know, kind of the point I was trying to make back then (and now) is that it's invisible _to you_, so you don't think it's a big deal. And I get that. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist for people who aren't you.

Comrade, the gravitic constant is invisible to me, as is the algebraic transcendence of pi, as is the whir of neutrinos in the furthest dark of spacetime. And yet I have no trouble believing in these things, mostly because the models of reality on which they rest are precisely outlined, internally consistent, and externally predictive.

White Priviege is, at best, a model that attempts to account for some disparities in racial interaction by casting it into pure terms of majority and minority, insider and outsider. But, if it's to be a precise model, it cannot be an amorphous, all-encompassing law of nature, invoked like the Animus Dei whenever questions of race come into play. If you're to call it consistent and predictive, it cannot be something you defend by pointing to the race of the speaker or the invisibility of its ways.

The Privilege model sees a broken window and, seizing on the popularity of Baseball as an American pastime, infers one possible cause. Does this mean we hold in our hands a sufficient model to explain every broken window, or most?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:52 PM on December 24, 2008


I'm sure kids don't walk around going "oh yes, I responded positively to the cultural diversity of the program and strong social message written into that storyline". That stuff resonates at a more subconscious level. Sometimes they might feel it but be unable to articulate it. If you would just ignore the LJ rants you hate so much for a moment, and read the essay that lunit linked to before, you'll read that kids of colour can and are affected by the lack of diversity on screen. As an Vietnamese person I can tell you absolutely that I was affected by it as a kid and I watched a hell of a lot of TV (and I now work in the film and TV industry). I can tell you that in trying to emulate the overwhelming whiteness I saw on screen I refused to speak Vietnamese and engage in the culture. This is a huge - HUGE - source of regret for me now as an adult (and got me into huge trouble as a kid). I can tell you that I had no idea, as a 10 year old, how to articulate this feeling of Otherness.

I think that however crude and whiny you may think people sound on LJ, it doesn't change the fact that this stuff warrants discussion. You may not like the style in which it's being conducted, or think that letter writing and a futile attempt at change. You may feel people are better served actually doing something, like making their own culturally diverse films. Dude, people ARE. You just don't see it happening. It's a slow process, and it's egged on in part by the audiences/fans kicking up a stink about it too (however crappily you think they're doing it).

M. Night should know better, but he sounds like a total douche anyway so whatever dude. The point is that the great positive step forward in making a show like Avatar and all its subtle positive cultural messages just took two giant steps backward once this albeit most-likely-crappy movie got cast.
posted by mooza at 3:00 PM on December 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sorry, my above post was in response to MikeMC if that wasn't clear.
posted by mooza at 3:01 PM on December 24, 2008


jfuller:
As a point of interest I can't help noticing a pretty consistent difference between the way the Japanese depict themselves now, after having seen roundeyes, compared to the way they depicted themselves before.

Please note that even in traditional artwork, the Japanese didn't think that foreign eye shapes were any "different" than Japanese ones. Foreigners were stereotyped with larger noses and more wrinkled faces, but they too were depicted with the same slitty slanted eyes as Japanese subjects.
posted by PsychoKick at 3:10 PM on December 24, 2008


Wow, I didn't have anything better to do on Christmas Eve than read this entire thread? How sad.

At least I enjoyed The Nutcracker while I read this.

Also: do anyone have someplace to watch these cartoons for free online? I don't want to torrent them or anything, but if I could see the first few to see what the fuss is about, that would be appreciated.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:22 PM on December 24, 2008


paisley henosis

I checked Hulu and they have the whole first season linked from the Nickelodeon website.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:00 PM on December 24, 2008


Fantastic, thanks!
posted by paisley henosis at 9:58 PM on December 24, 2008


Well, clicking the links from Hulu gives you a "playlist" with a bunch of weird crap in it, but if you click here, then click "full episodes" then scroll down to the arrow-head kid, then click on him then the three of them that pop up on the side are the three seasons. Picking the first one and then the first one starts episode 1-1.

After 6:49 it goes to commercial, though, and after that it keeps loading the next item in my stupid "playlist" and not the rest of what I was watching.

Nick, if you see this, this set-up sucks.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:24 PM on December 24, 2008


Comrade, the gravitic constant is invisible to me, as is the algebraic transcendence of pi, as is the whir of neutrinos in the furthest dark of spacetime. And yet I have no trouble believing in these things, mostly because the models of reality on which they rest are precisely outlined, internally consistent, and externally predictive.


I saw this movie where this robot comes from outer space and the humans try to explain to him this thing called 'emotions'. Sadly, none of them were able to prove their existence through application of the Poisson-Boltzmann equation, or what have you.

OK, maybe 'white priviledge' is a bad name for what I'm trying to describe. In the last thread, I tried to explain this through analogy: I'm a fairly tall individual. A few years ago, I came across a message board populated by short people. Not, like, midget short, but like guys who were like 5'5". I have never heard so much "If I were tall .." "Women are just more naturally attracted to tall people ..."

And I read this, and I thought, "This is ridiculous! I'm tall, and I'm pretty sure I can't just (as someone said in the Fedora thread) walk into a 7-11 and be all 'LADIES'." But you know, I thought about it, and I realized that, hey, maybe they do have a point, and being a kind of short guy isn't so awesome.

It's not like being tall is extra awesome, and it's not even like tall people get 50% off all entrees at Applebee's. (Well, I guess roller coasters discriminate against short people actively, but ...) I certainly don't feel like I have 'tall privilege'. But in a way I can kind of see how short people might feel that way.

In the same way, if you, as a white person, are all, "Hey, so, Asian people aren't good enough to show up in movies! What's the big deal! Tempest in a teapot!" Sure, I can see that. It's not a huge problem for you, and you probably genuinely don't care. But it seems a bit off to tell people who are "So, uh, what's the deal with the disappearing Asian people" that they are being utterly ridiculous.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:25 PM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Comrade_robot: In the same way, if you, as a white person, are all, "Hey, so, Asian people aren't good enough to show up in movies! What's the big deal!"

But that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm saying that it's nontrivial to sort between a low supply of actors and a low demand for stage roles, especially when talking about around four percent of the population. I'm saying that preemptively laying this at the feet of a hypothetical White audience is about as sensible as is laying it on Asian-American students for not choosing to major in dramaturgy and screenwriting. I'm saying that cultural pressures within a community can sometimes be as strong, or stronger, than pressures without. And I'm saying that, if one really cares about these sorts of social paradoxes, the most effective attitude to take is probably curiosity, not outrage and foregone conclusions.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:25 PM on December 25, 2008


Well ...

I don't actually lay any blame at the feet of a hypothetical White audience. I lay the blame at the feet of people who are making movies who think 'there is no way an audience will identify with people who aren't white'. So you get things like most of the Asian people disappearing from '21'. And actually, I think some of it is laziness too -- it's really _easy_ to write a stereotypical Asian character.

There are plenty of interviews with actors (and even some non-Asian actors) who point out that it's really hard to get a job as an Asian actor. Just for example:

Daniel Dae Kim

APA: How hard is it to break into Hollywood? What is the reality of that?

DDK: Well Asians have a really interesting, particular road to hoe, because one, it's really difficult to break into roles if they're not specifically written for Asian people, and two, we have the privilege of being discriminated against one another. For example, if you're Chinese, they won't read you Japanese. If you're Korean, they won't read you for... etc. Where, if you're European, they don't say "You're French, so you can't read English." But for Asians, there's a lot of that going on. But when it does happen the other way, there's a lot of controversy, like Memoirs of a Geisha, people talk about how they're not Japanese, so you know, any way you slice it, there's difficulties, so it's a very unique position to be in.


On 21

During the talk, Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process--though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film's actors would be white, with perhaps an Asian female. Even as Asian actors are entering more mainstream films, such as "Better Luck Tomorrow" and the upcoming "Memoirs of a Geisha," these stereotypes still exist, Mezrich said.

I really don't think it's as simple as 'Asian people don't want to be actors', especially since there are people who have tried to start an acting career here in the United States, failed, and moved to Asia to strike it big.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:05 PM on December 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Comrade: I really don't think it's as simple as 'Asian people don't want to be actors'

No, it's certainly not that simple. Thanks for the links.

I hope I didn't unintentionally convey that this issue was one-sided, since my whole contention (going back to my first post in the thread) is that no simple model of supply or demand completely suffices for this, nor for most real world cases. Even, for example, at the heights of persecution in the US (and, to a lesser extent, even Germany), entertainers of Jewish ancestry were visible on stage, in film, and in the performance arts.

It would be foolish to discredit the obvious struggles of Asian actors on the periphery of a closed and clannish system; but it would also be blinkered to suggest that, say, Indian-American culture extends to a young man the same respective levels of encouragement for careers in professional sports, theatre, and medicine, as Irish-American culture. It's just not so - every subculture varies in its tolerance for different professions, especially when it comes down to firstborns and males.

Thanks for bearing this out. Too often, the drop of a link to McIntosh spells the end of discussion.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:14 PM on December 25, 2008


In other news:

300 actors not Greek or Iranian
Nick Fury now black
Harvey Dent black, now white again
Munich actors not actually Jewish
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:16 PM on December 26, 2008


In other news:

White people don't have trouble getting on the big screen.

Done and done.
posted by yeloson at 12:16 PM on December 28, 2008


White people don't have trouble getting on the big screen.

Yeah, just like Indian-Americans don't have any trouble getting jobs as doctors, amirite? Because disproportionate representation in some profession is the exact same thing as a free pass, right?

Anyways, I'm off. I'm going to cash in my Whiteness for a starring role on Broadway.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2008


Well Asians have a really interesting, particular road to hoe

If you're hoeing the road, you're doing it wrong.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:12 PM on December 28, 2008



Yeah, just like Indian-Americans don't have any trouble getting jobs as doctors, amirite? Because disproportionate representation in some profession is the exact same thing as a free pass, right?

Anyways, I'm off. I'm going to cash in my Whiteness for a starring role on Broadway.


Kid ichorous, I understand your general argument, but it's completely wrong in this case. Being a doctor is (hopefully) a question of ability and merit independent of appearance. Actors on stage and on film are always typecast on their appearance or race. Unless you want to include 'how one looks' as part of the merit of an actor, your argument doesn't apply.
posted by suedehead at 10:42 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Suede: Even if I accepted the top-down Privilege model wholesale, the correct conclusion would still not be yeloson's "White people don't have trouble getting on the big screen, done and done," since there's infinitely more people (of all backgrounds) vying for positions in that 30-inch space than actually make it. The correct formulation of the Privilege argument would be more like "actors of Asian appearance are rejected for SAG roles at a higher rate than White/Black/Hispanic actors." It would also be premature to call this a strictly "White" Privilege, since other demographics are, as far as we know, still free to be over-represented on the stage.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:27 PM on December 28, 2008


That said, I do concede your point that different variables apply in acting than medicine. The great commonality, however, is ambition; and this is highly sensitive to cultural pressure. Asian-Americans are, after all, underrepresented on the football field too.

As I've said before, I'm not discounting top-down effects. I'm only holding that other significant variables apply.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:39 PM on December 28, 2008


top-down Privilege model

Sorry, are you referring to a specific model or argument? I'm confused.

It would also be premature to call this a strictly "White" Privilege, since other demographics are, as far as we know, still free to be over-represented on the stage.

I have trouble parsing your argument. What do you mean by 'still free to be over-represented'?

To return to an older comment of yours:
I'm saying that it's nontrivial to sort between a low supply of actors and a low demand for stage roles, especially when talking about around four percent of the population. I'm saying that preemptively laying this at the feet of a hypothetical White audience is about as sensible as is laying it on Asian-American students for not choosing to major in dramaturgy and screenwriting. I'm saying that cultural pressures within a community can sometimes be as strong, or stronger, than pressures without. And I'm saying that, if one really cares about these sorts of social paradoxes, the most effective attitude to take is probably curiosity, not outrage and foregone conclusions.

Listen, I'm sincerely interested in hearing what you have to say, but I'm confused by this too. I'm not really sure what you're saying -- there's a series of statements that don't really go anywhere.

In addition, I'm not sure why a supply/demand method of thinking is relevant here. It's an important tool, but such a view obscures what is really the problem. Your argument is "an intersection takes place between the current demand and supply curves for Asian-American actors -- why should you question this intersecting point?" That's probably why you mention a "low demand for stage roles" and the "cultural pressures within a community". Many Asian-Americans lean away from acting/drama, yes, that's true. But are you arguing that Avatar's actors are all white because there aren't any viable Asian-American actors? I don't think so. Then why mention supply issues? Supply has nothing to do with it -- its all about the demand, back to the original question - "why did a big budget movie change clearly non-western characters into Asian-American actors?"

Also. Your argument seems to be that an elimination of privileging and discrimination occurs when the racial demographics of actors on the screen equal the demographic distributions of race in the US as a whole. So, for example, a movie placed in Manhattan would have 2 or 3 black extras for every 10 actors. This is probably why you mention "over-representation" and so on and so forth. It's a popular and convenient argument, but I disagree.

First. In what way is a film required to accurately represent the demographics it works in? This could, at first glance, seem like an argument for whitewashing, but it's an argument against this sort of 'accurate representation', goes both ways -- Who says that the white protagonist (who lives in Maine) doesn't have friends that are predominantly black and hispanic? Most movies are narrow, focused narratives, not sprawling films with ambitions as documentaries.

Second, a particular movie has particular attributes, is set in a specific scene with specific demographics. Let's say that the majority of movies made in the US tend to be set in major metropolitan cities. The overall demographics of the US (including rural areas) becomes an inaccurate criterion against which to rank 'accurate representation'. You've got to take this into account. Saying "well, Asians are less than 4% US-wide, and so Asians should probably also be represented as 4% of on-screen and on-stage roles" is a major fallacy that ignores this point.

How many movies have you seen that takes place in major cities but doesn't show any non-White actors? I enjoyed Synecdoche, New York, but it's a major culprit here. (I saw one black dude in the entire film, even when it takes place in NYC, ostensibly as a simulacrum of the city). If I still wanted to believe in this method of measuring 'accurate representation', then the locations of these cities would be taken into account in generating a weighed demographic according to the weighed demographics of the on-screen US.

Yeloson's comment was a flippant point, and I don't really argue. I will argue, however, that white actors do not face opposition while being cast because of their race. I am not saying something inane like "it's easy to get a role if you're white". I'm saying that being white means that your race is a non-issue in the vast majority of cases.

Asian-Americans are, after all, underrepresented on the football field too.

But see, it's the same argument. Whether someone is a good or bad football player is a question of ability, not of race or appearance. But sports is a heavily merit-based, ability-based system. If you're good enough, you get picked.

There may be some minor issues concerning whether a Asian-American can socialize or interact well with non-Asian-American peers, but these aren't major issues. Coaches aren't going to say "he's Asian-American, he doesn't look good on the field, let's not pick him." My point is that directors and casting directors will. It's called typecasting. It happens a lot, and it's acknowledged to happen a lot. It's based on appearance and thus based on race. Under-representation in football is a supply question of there not being enough good Asian-American actors; under-representation in movies (and this movie, Avatar) is a question of appearance-based selection and thus race/appearance-based privileging.
posted by suedehead at 1:23 AM on December 29, 2008


Whoops. my last sentence should be:

Under-representation in football is a supply question of there not being enough good Asian-American actors football players; under-representation in movies (and this movie, Avatar) is a question of appearance-based selection and thus race/appearance-based privileging.
posted by suedehead at 1:24 AM on December 29, 2008


suedehead: are you arguing that Avatar's actors are all white because there aren't any viable Asian-American actors? I don't think so. Then why mention supply issues? Supply has nothing to do with it -- its all about the demand, back to the original question - "why did a big budget movie change clearly non-western characters into Asian-American actors?"

You're right that I haven't articulated it as cleanly as I could, so let me try again. We're talking about two sets of motives for reaching the same casting decision - one of which includes all the motives we'd flag as free of racist sentiment, and one containing nothing but. They might include:

A: We're talking about a smaller pool of actors on an order of magnitude. Several variables used in casting - membership in this or that guild or union, studio ties and actors with preexisting contracts, costs of hiring celebrity, preference of the director, quality of audition, experience in leading/supporting male roles - only exacerbate the problems of low supply. It will be significantly harder to find a handful of Asian male actors to fit all of the above conditions than a handful of White actors.

B: A financier, in spite of recent history (Unleashed, Harold and Kumar, Crouching Tiger, etc), believes that casting Asian males as warrior monks (or anything) is still too risky and far-fetched for American audiences. A focus-group, for no stated reason, tests badly with snapshots of possible Asian leads. A market survey shows that rentals of films starring Asian leads are low this year. Someone with influence over casting decisions, and unaware of their bias, rejects Asian applicants with greater frequency.

(And there's another reason that I can't easily box in A or B: the idea of crafting a racially consistent, 'believable' film universe. It's possible that casting in such a movie is on an all-or-none basis; if so, it seems to make reasons in both A and B more compelling.)

I don't think we can look at these two sets of forces and claim that the second is clearly the overriding cause. It's true that cinema is a visual medium, and I suppose it's possible that, in Hollywood, questions of race and appearance prevail against the sum of all other motives, but I have a harder time believing in that than believing in a mixed bag. I think there's a number of reasons why the words "we're not going to try for an all-Asian cast" might be uttered during the course of a X-million dollar American project, racism (or anticipated racism) certainly among them.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:24 AM on December 29, 2008


How many movies have you seen that takes place in major cities but doesn't show any non-White actors? I enjoyed Synecdoche, New York, but it's a major culprit here. (I saw one black dude in the entire film, even when it takes place in NYC, ostensibly as a simulacrum of the city). If I still wanted to believe in this method of measuring 'accurate representation', then the locations of these cities would be taken into account in generating a weighed demographic according to the weighed demographics of the on-screen US.

That's a good point, and one that's been made before:

In the past, Allen's films, all of them taking place and this one no different, in a bizarre hinter-Manhattan where the only minorities are Asian delivery boys, were occasionally diverting satires, maps of neurosis and charming for a perceived self-deprecation.

Nonetheless, I'm not sure it has any bearing on the film in question. Casting a group of Asian males as as warrior monks of some fantastical, Eastern idyll sounds like something so rote that we might all be talking about this if it went the other way, too.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:43 AM on December 29, 2008



Thanks for your coherent response. I agree for the most part -- for most movies, for which race isn't even a peripheral issue, a mix of both A and B is what probably happens.

I think there's a number of reasons why the words "we're not going to try for an all-Asian cast" might be uttered during the course of a X-million dollar American project, racism (or anticipated racism) certainly among them.

But the question/problem about Avatar isn't that it's not an "all-Asian cast"; it's that it's the opposite, that it's an all-non-Asian cast. Not only is it a non-Asian cast, it is a non-minority cast -- the cast members are all white.

You're saying "it's understandable how a roll of ten dice would not produce all fives"; the problem here is that these 'dice' don't even have one 5 in the entire lineup.
posted by suedehead at 7:10 AM on December 29, 2008


Harold and Kumar is one of my favourite films, mostly because every minority in the film is interesting and unique, while all the White people in the movie are stupid stereotypes.
posted by chunking express at 8:32 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm.... I don't doubt the whole white privilege thing and the difficulties of getting decent roles thing, but wouldn't having protected roles in films involving made-up Asian mysticism actually be theoposite of progress here?
posted by Artw at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2008


You're saying "it's understandable how a roll of ten dice would not produce all fives"; the problem here is that these 'dice' don't even have one 5 in the entire lineup.

In this case it's a good point. The links in the FPP attribute the decision to Shyamalan himself, rather than to some fluke of the Paramount studio machine. Since he's claimed to have seen the cartoon before, I wonder why he'd have picked three of the leads as he did; however, the last one (Jackson Rathbone) is obviously a concession to the immense popularity of Twilight.

Harold and Kumar is one of my favourite films, mostly because every minority in the film is interesting and unique, while all the White people in the movie are stupid stereotypes.

Cindy Kim didn't represent a stupid stereotype? Seriously? I mean, I wasn't so high as to let a blatant character foil for H&K escape my notice.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:08 PM on December 29, 2008


Cindy Kim didn't represent a stupid stereotype? Seriously?

Man, let me enjoy my movie.
posted by chunking express at 6:11 AM on December 30, 2008


Superman's planet is racially diverse - finally.
posted by lunit at 7:21 AM on January 9, 2009


Asian culture in the Avatar world.
posted by lunit at 9:04 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


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