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

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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?'

Author: Nix

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.
  • regan

    i am mad the movie was no good. im sorry i would rant more but im tired and i already have a few times on different sites. i need to get rid of my rage before i could sleep. but ya don't see it, it really sucked and i have every other person in every single theater on my side who saw the midnight release. i stayed at the theater for a bit afterward and everyone was talking about how bad it was. he completely ruined it.

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

    Thing is they're casting from Japan for Japan. The country isn't exactly diverse and I imagine finding an American or European actor that can speak Japanese is harder to find there, than people of different race that speak English here.

  • Anonymous

    Dude, there were other blatant depictions of foreign racial and cultural ignorance in the lame excuse for gothic merchandising ad that was this utterly predictable and boring Death Note. Misa-Misa was obviously Japanese unless for some reason you're oblivious to Japanese culture, characters clichés and fashion trends, in which case, what were you doing watching or reading Death Note in first place?

    I can't speak for Tokyo, vbut having lived in Madrid, I can tell you there are quite a few blonde-haired and/or blue eyed actors, actresses, and TV hosts on Spanish TV. After all, it's Europe. Still unless a North-American professional could fluently speak Spanish with local accent… any role they played would either look amateurish or foreign. How would anyone expect otherwise?

    Birtish actor Richard Collins-Moore and South Korean actress Usun Yoon had to improve their Spanish accent so they could stop playing “tourist” or “foreign” roles in Spanish TV shows.

  • ErickKwon

    Even being a “yellow” Asian, I think there's enough of a layer of fantasy that the races of the actors in “Airbender” don't bother me that much. The bigger, unmentioned problems appear in a show like “Battlestar Galactica” where characters are color-blind for all intents and purposes, but the showrunners chose white actors for nearly all the male roles (yes, Edward James Olmos is Hispanic, but his character was Anglicized to the point that his ethic background was irrelevant) while mixing up the backgrounds of the female leads. That's the kind of convenient multiculturalism that's designed to appeal to a largely white audience; and if you consider how much bed-hopping went around on “Galactica,” there's something under the surface there about race and sexual politics that's business as usual for Hollywood

  • Dave

    M Night has a really lame excuse saying he left out “asian village” scenes for the “next” movie. The believability of the characters is shot. For people who argue that the cartoon doesn't specify what race they are. Think about if in a Harry Potter movie, all the actors are Polynesian when they are clearly supposed to be white. It too doesn't specify that these actors are white.

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

    but it does say they're from England and descriptions are given in the book so there was a specific look and place given. I Think that he's got the Earth Kingdom as mostly Asian and since they're not a major part of the first story we don't see them.

  • ULIK

    Well then all of these Blacks(Tyler Perry) and Hispanic directors and screenwriters need to start making FANTASY and SCI-FI movies depicting people of color. It would be great to see an epic Lord of The Rings style movie done with actors of African descent or even something Epic about the Ancient Americas or an Ancient Native American fantasy movie. The same thing goes for Asia,and I think that's what some fans are mad about that,that Airbender could have or should have been the “Asian” Lord of the Rings but they HAD to put Caucasians in it. But in The Lord of The Rings did they HAVE to put blacks or Asians in it? No, but they sort of insinuated it with the orces.

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

    Orcs are corrupted elves. LOTR was Tolkein's own british/euro mythology. I'd love to see a fantasy story with the Anansi character or something along those lines. Nice idea Ulik.

  • ULIK

    Oh I forgot there were some “Asian” types in the movie that on the ships and giant elephants and such,they were THE BAD GUYS.

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

    Yup Easterlings and Haradrim were loosely based on asian, indian and african cultures. It was a good mix that didn't make them stand out as any one race. The Rohirim were based on Norse cutlure to a point, and the Gondorians were medieval European/British