We made an oblique reference to the controversy over the casting of the AVATAR; THE LAST AIRBENDER movie the other day, but noted cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim has a rather impassioned take on it and a call for action on his blog:New day in politics, same old racist world on the silver screen. The gist of it is that the M. Night Shyamalan adaptation of the popular cartoon has cast all cute little white kids in the roles of Asain characters in the cartoon. Shyamalan is, of course, himself of Indian heritage, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t business as usual in Hollywood, and reading stuff like Kirk’s remembrance is a powerful reminder of how much this stuff hurts:
When my brother and I were in high school, our favorite class was Drama. While we were rehearsing for the next day’s class or participating in a school play or dancing it up at the after party, I don’t think there was anything we liked more. During such times, it even surpassed our love of—dare I say it—comics. But we never even entertained the notion of actually pursuing it as a career. Not because we didn’t want to, but because we had too much pride to spend our entire lives pretending to be Long Duk Dong, or a Chinese food delivery boy with one line, or a Kato to some Green Hornet. Or even worse, having our hearts broken over and over going after roles that specifically call for Asian Americans like “Avatar, The Last Airbender” only to see them go to white actors. Back in my Drama days in high school, I used to dream of being white so I could pursue acting.
With discrimination like this “Avatar” casting continuing to happen uncontested in Hollywood, my future kids will nurse the same pitiful wish.
And it infuriates me.
If my future kids feel a passion for acting, I want them to be able to pursue it just like any other American. If they’re forced to give up that passion due to a genuine lack of talent or hard work, fine. But I don’t want their dreams to be clipped at the bud by some unassailable, universally accepted dismissal of their existence on the face this country.
Much more in the link, with a call for a letter writing campaign to Paramount and Kennedy/Marshall Productions.
The entire ban on Asian-American actors starring in American movies is especially bizarre when you think of how many of the world’s biggest movie stars are Asian, and the massive influence of Asian culture on so much that is successful out of Hollywood for the past 15 years or so. Is is just denial?