Friday, January 23, 2009

Derek Kirk Kim on AVATAR Movie Casting

Casting for a live action movie THE LAST AIRBENDER was announced on Monday. The movie is based on the animated TV series AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. The TV show features Asian characters, yet Hollywood has cast this motion picture with young white people.

Award winning graphic novelist Derek Kirk Kim cites that although this week saw a "new day in politics, [it's the] same old racist world on the silver screen."

From his blog is a personal story:

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.

I don't watch the show, so there's a lot I don't know here. I do know that Hollywood only sees the color of money, and if Hollywood feels that the white kids threaten a significant opportunity to build a lucrative franchise, then it may reconsider its options. At this time, it does hear those voices criticizing its cast.

One more snippet from Derek's blog; an excellent analogy:
Or let me draw a closer parallel—imagine if someone had made a “fantasy” movie in which the entire world was built around African culture. Everyone is wearing ancient African clothes, African hats, eating traditional African food, writing in an African language, living in African homes, all encompassed in an African landscape...

...but everyone is white.
How offensive, insulting, and disrespectful would that be toward Africans and African Americans? How much more offensive would it be if only the heroes were white and all the villains and background characters were African American?

More here, including information on a letter writing campaign.

My thanks to Derek for letting me know about this.

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