Last Airbender Director Shyamalan Likes it when Critics are all Up in his Ass

The casting of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” — racist or not? Ask ten fans of the original anime, and you’ll probably get one of three answers: “Hell yes!”, “Hell, no!”, and, “Wait, is this the movie about those blue aliens living in the jungle by the guy who did ‘Terminator’?”

As for Shyamalan himself, he’s perfectly fine with the accusations of racism when it comes to the casting of “The Last Airbender”, a film that Shyamalan envisions as the first part of a proposed trilogy. The writer/director tells SciFiWire as much:

It’s a compliment when everybody is up my ass all the time, it really is. You’ve got to look at it as, if they dismissed you, they weren’t paying any attention to you. They’re trying to dissect you to show you why you’re not that great, which is wonderful thing for them to try to do for my entire life. My job is to just keep making movies. It’ll go away, or I’ll prove them right or wrong, right? So time will tell. I’m fine with that. Your critics are … you want your hard teachers to tell you, ‘You’re no good, you’re no good because of this and this,’ even if they secretly believe the opposite. It’s good to be tough on yourself.

He goes on to explain/justify his casting choices:

Anime is based on ambiguous facial features. It’s part of the art form. You got a problem with that? Talk to the dudes who invented anime. It’s not my issue, OK? That girl (Katara), looks like my daughter. That boy (Aang) looks like Noah (Ringer). There is no Inuit that looks like Katara. It’s not true. It’s just not true. She looks like my daughter. My daughter is a dupe of Katara. Our family saw ourselves in it. A Hispanic family themselves in it. My daughter’s best friend is Hispanic. She saw it and their whole family thinks they’re all Hispanic, and that’s true. That’s the beauty of anime, (that) we all see ourselves as incredibly ambiguous and diverse. I wanted to be diverse. I wanted to more diverse. I had to (build upon) whoever came in, the cultures that came in. This wasn’t an agenda for me. It was just very open to me.

But for those who still believe that the world of the live-action version of “Airbender” is too white, or not Asian enough, Shyamalan assures them that there will be plenty of rainbow coalitions in the second movie, which will take place mostly on the Earth Kingdom and will, apparently, include tours of a Mongolian town, a Korean town and an African American town. Those scenes were supposed to be in “Airbender”, but Shyamalan decided to save them for the second movie.

And for those hoping to see Suki (played by Jessica Andres) in “The Last Airbender”, Shyamalan has bad news for you: the character’s storyline has been cut entirely from the movie.

So what do you think? Does Shyamalan’s defense of his casting process hold water? Or is it all, ahem, wet. You can answer that brilliantly phrased question yourself when “The Last Airbender” opens this Thursday.

'Okay, right here? I need you to look more Asian. Can you look more Asian for me, Noah?'



About Nix

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Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

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  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    I think it does to a point. It's all in how the viewer perceived the show. I know full well that the show is based on eastern culture, philosphy, and such, but I also know that when I watched it (and I'm talking about ME personally and NO ONE ELSE) I never once thought of these chracters as strictly Asian. They were never just an analog of Thai, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese or anything like that. To me they have always been an amalgam of different cultures that make up one fictional cuture. As a break down this is what I saw:
    Water-I saw as Inuit. Shymalan has gone on record saying he saw them as Northern Russian/Asian mix or something.
    Air-I saw as religiously and culturally influenced by Eastern cultures. I saw the taoist and budhist infleunces and felt they were definitely Asian.
    Earth- I saw them as a European-Asian mix. The look reminded me of gypsies with a Korean influence.
    Fire-I saw as the most visually Asian influenced next to Air. Their armor and clothes seem Japanese, but at the same time the landscape reminded me more of India and such places.

    But again this is just me. I'll be happy with the movie as long as the story is well told and the characters are pretty much the same. There will HAVE to be some changes as is inevitable with adaptations of large stories to the screen.

    • Lafanda DeWild

      I’ve always loved M. Night Shyamalan, and if you’ve seen ‘The Sixth Sense’ ‘Signs’ ‘ Lady in the Water’ or ‘The Village’ you would too. He presents a good, entrancing story, and adds a big twist at the end.
      Now, if you’ve watched his latest movie, you wouldn’t even know it was by the same guy. I guessing on evil twin, or brainwashed zombie . . .
      The movie was a huge disappointment, and sucked on all four corners (sucked completely).

      • guest

        Basically Shyamalan is Indian so Fire Nation should be Indian and not Chinese, so Indian actors can profit from this shittiest movie I ever seen in my life, maybe 2nd book fire Nation people would eat cow dung and drink cow pee and worship Cow God

  • Stratisfire

    @Deadpool aka Jiinx see the main point of your statement is culture. they didnt based one nation with one culture. all of them have many culture attached to them. tak the fire nation for example. they use banishment as a punishment for a lot of things. that was a very roman thing to do. alot of there towns looked like a mixture of chinese architecture organized in a way that i like Greenland. and the name for the fire duels agni-kai the word agni is the hindu god of fire so yeah dont be saying” this character was CLEARLY this..” no you cant do that and saying anything like that makes you racist because you just making racial assumptions of characters when you really dont know

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    See thank you! Most people don't think beyond what they're seeing on screen and the assumptions they make about the characters. I personally can't wait to see it.

    • Robins_hidden_past

      ….UUUUG!!! are you kidding me this talk of race and all bla bla is utter bullshit!
      the story is written but “person” and the movie is created by “person” so you would think youd get it as close as possible. aaangs master was an old white asian …guy that was old looked a specific way and all blabla, and what did the director do ? what you say? he put a damn black guy that looks nothing like aaangs master !!
      look im not racist i dont get bothered by other races, if your pathetic enough to comment on my “black guy ” comment go right ahead, but seriously put the right type of person with the right role.
      its like he wedged a square inside the the circle whole and called it a circle.

      another thing was katara isnt white or at least what im saying is the area she was from and the way she looks might remind a person of a Eskimo considering the area, and the climate and there living style….but not the whole water nation no! just those specific ppl. and wtf deadpool on its not a beyond what you see bs crap!!!! this isnt some beyond what you see, look between the lines stupid ridiculous bs this is a serious that was wonderful the way it was. ITS NOT ART FOR GOD SAKES ITS A FREAKING MOVIE THAT THE DIE HARD FANS EXPECTED TO BE GOOD ALONG WITH OTHERS WHO LOVE AVATAR, BUT THE DAMN DIRECT IS STUPID AND NEEDS TO RETAKE HIS HOW SMART PILL SO HE KNOWS WHATS WHAT!

  • Drewatkins77

    I don't remember anyone being this upset when the role of Misa-Misa in the live-action Deathnote movies (who was clearly a blonde, american type chick) was cast as a Japanese actress. At least, there was no mention of racism that I ever saw. But you let an American, Hollywood movie make a couple of questionable casting choices, and BAM! Race card! I'm so sick of Political Correctness that I could puke. I, personally, would have LOVED to have seen some Asian actors playing Aang and Iro, but I don't think that it was a racist decision by ANYONE.

    As a side-note, the lack of acting roles for African Americans in early film history WAS racist. But a lot of very creative, talented African American directors and producers changed that by putting out a lot of quality films and produced a lot of very talented African American actors, starting a trend that made it mainstream. Racism is WRONG. Those were Americans, and were being treated unfairly in films and television and were denied the chance to represent themselves. This is completely different. Just ask yourself how many roles you think a blue-eyed, blonde-haired American actor is going to get living in Tokyo or Madrid, or Paris…. or wherever. It just seems that it is only called injustice when it is done in America, and I personally try to be as fair as possible to everyone.

    Okay enough rambling, can't wait to see the movie, but I'm sad that I'll have to wait for the next installment for my true love, Toph. :*(

    • Kibbskins

      Yeah Misa is Japanese, she has dyed blonde hair

      • QQ

        although that’s true that Misa is Japanese, they did change Near (Nate Rivers), which was Assumed to be English, because he was raised there, along will Mello (Mihael Keehl). :(
        Not arguing, just saying ;D

      • QQ

        although that’s true that Misa is Japanese, they did change Near (Nate Rivers), which was Assumed to be English, because he was raised there, along will Mello (Mihael Keehl). :(
        Not arguing, just saying ;D

  • ErickKwon

    I'm just glad that they didn't pull a “Galactica” and make the female characters multicultural while assigning the male roles to white actors, but being that the original cartoon mixed-and-matched eye, skin, and hair colors, I don't think the movie is out of line with the casting. But I can't help but wonder: if a Japanese studio adapted “Gundam” to live-action, would they cast a white actor as Char Anzable? Probably not.

  • Anonymous

    If your daughter is a dupe of Katara, then you should have hired someone looking like your daughter.

    Unless Nicola Peltz is a dupe of your daughter too.

    • Accknowles

      love u 4 that!!!!!! hahahahahahaha

  • ULIK

    The actor Noah who is playing as Aang is very pale skinned but I can tell from his facial features that he is DEFINITELY NOT strictly Caucasian. Even though he looks a little too pale, he does look like Aang to me.

  • http://twitter.com/bta_man BTA Man

    The Death Note movies were made in Japan, though. I don't know that much about Japanese movies, but from what I've seen, their casting is usually limited to, well, Japanese people.

  • Florence Ringo

    I don't really see how Japan's casting of Japanese actors in white roles in any way justifies the U.S. doing it to. Criticizing the Hollywood industry or Paramount for making these decisions is not the same thing as saying everywhere else in the world people are “doing it right.” Hollywood just gets more of the heat, because it is the most influential and it is dominated by the global racial majority.

  • Florence Ringo

    Misa-Misa's real name is Misa Amane, a Japanese name. I have never seen or heard anything to indicate she was anything other than Japanese. Lot's of Japanese women die their hair blond in Japan, particularly those inclined to Misa's fashion styles. There is no reason to assume she is American just because of her hair, and her name clearly indicates otherwise.

    Anyway, criticizing Hollywood's racism, intentional or institutional, and the casting practices does not mean that the people doing so think the rest of the world is so much better. As said in an another comment, Hollywood gets the most heat because it is the most globally dominant industry.