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We'll let the show speak for itself.

Many people have been telling us we shouldn't be offended. And of all the arguments we've been presented with this past week, the most common is also the most surprising: "These characters look white to me."

We considered writing an essay about the ethnic makeup of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but then we realized we could never be as eloquent on this topic as the show itself was.

For those of you who're interested in this issue but not familiar with the show, and for those fans who want a reminder of what we're fighting to preserve: an essay in images, spanning the length of the series and ending as the show itself tellingly chose to.

Images provided by Iroh.org.

If you agree that whitewashing this world and these characters is disappointing and offensive, please take a few minutes and help us do something about it.

It will take hundreds of letters to get Paramount's attention -- we're getting there, but we still have a long way to go.


( 286 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 16th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
We do what we can <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
This is the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time.

Not just because it pretty much exemplifies everything we've been saying in pictures, but also because I'm reminded of how carefully constructed and designed this animation is, from architecture, to costume design to colour schemes.

My god. The thought of turning this into the live-action, CGI version of 3 Ninjas just...makes me shudder even MORE now.
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Hey, I hope you aren't harshing on Three Ninjas! That shit was so cash back in the nineties.
(no subject) - glockgal - Dec. 16th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pikabot - Dec. 16th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tryxkittie - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hopefully_sane - Dec. 17th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __planitbremix - Jan. 17th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - allburningup - Mar. 6th, 2009 05:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
I agree that sokka, katara and zuko look indian/eskimo/asian, but aang is as white as he could be. Same goes for toph (although it will be a long time before she will be casted).
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Re: aang
There's more to a character's ethnicity than the way their face is drawn. And just because a character design doesn't have exaggerated ethnic features doesn't mean they then "default" to white. That kind of thinking is exactly what this campaign is trying to fight against.

However, this journal isn't a forum for debate on this subject -- there are plenty of other places to do so. For that reason, I'm going to freeze this thread.
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
...I don't see anything Asian in this.

Hahahha nah I'm just kidding. That was gorgeous. Thanks for letting me relive one of my favourite things ever.

Anybody who thinks Aang is white: he has big eyes because he is a child. When his hair grows in he is obviously Asian. Go look at a Chinese baby and tell me it doesn't have big-looking eyes for it's head.

Sokka <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - akiko - Dec. 16th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - omnicat - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - omnicat - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - tallycola - Dec. 17th, 2008 07:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 17th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - notsheniqua - Dec. 29th, 2008 03:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - generic_geek29 - Dec. 18th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Are you familiar with this article?

The Face of the Other

It's intended for an audience of anime and manga fans and is not about Avatar per se. That said, it's a useful rebuttal if someone throws the whole 'but the characters all look white!' argument at manga and anime fans which doesn't rely on the old chestnut that the Japanese all secretly want to be American, and I think it applies here as well. The fundamental arguments still apply given that the default setting in the Avatar world, as it is in most anime and manga, is very clearly Asian. Why should they have to signpost that the characters aren't white until specifically proven otherwise?

Awesome picspam, by the way. I have got to watch this show sometime soon.
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the link! I'll definitely be reading it later this afternoon.

And I'm glad you enjoyed the screencap barrage -- it's a beautiful show. <3
(no subject) - allyndra - Dec. 19th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - megalomaniageek - Jan. 1st, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
Nope... no Asian or Ndn cultures/ethnicities there.

*eyeroll for olympic gold*

Edited at 2008-12-16 09:12 pm (UTC)
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
Yeah. Kinda yeah. -_-
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
In truth, the only character that could possibly be considered American-looking is Jet -- but this may have something to do with the fact that he's chewing on grass, which, historically, is kinda an American thing.

Great job finding screencaps! These show perfectly all the different ethnicities Avatar is made up of.
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you -- that's exactly what I'd hoped this post would do!

Keep in mind, though, that the 13 million Asian Americans and 2 million Native Americans are...well, haha, American! Cultural and ethnic diversity is an awesome thing about our country, after all. <3
(no subject) - hymnia - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hymnia - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hymnia - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 17th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 22nd, 2008 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 28th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Okay... Must watch this show. Now.
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
It's a beautiful thing, let me tell you. <3
(no subject) - deird1 - Dec. 17th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - themhooligans - Jan. 17th, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
This post is beautiful. Thank you so much!
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
We all do what we can <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
When I was new to anime and manga, I thought, why are all these characters Caucasians, because I saw round eyes, blonde or auburn hair and blue eyes. As my Japanese roommate informed me, not all Asians have straight black hair, and not all Asians have dark eyes, Asians can have many different facial features, just like Caucasians, and in their entertainment, Asians do not racially stereotype themselves.

Also, programmes created by Western studios, including Disney have had portions farmed out to Asian animation studios for decades, so we in the West have become used to certain stylized features and methods of movement that we think are our own culturally, but as I stated, came from Asian animation studios. So I can see why some would say, these characters look white.

However, you can't deny that the world depicted in Avatar borrows a lot from different cultural traditions, not just Asian, but East Indian, Middle Eastern, African and Aboriginal, so what I was hoping for in seeing a live-action Avatar was to see actors of many nations participate, using it as a perfect way to break some of those Hollywood stereotypes.

The younger generation is much more sophisticated that this, have been interested in anime, manga and games for at least a decade that have Asian characters, my 19 year old Native American nephew is a die hard Final Fantasy Fan, my 14 year old African American niece loves Sanrio characters and Korean pop band Super Junior, which means not only would they like to see Asian actors in some of the roles, but characters that look like themselves as well.

My children who are English-Irish and frankly, as white as it gets, love Avatar. Just last week I had to explain to them what 'blackface' was in the old Xmas movie Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby from 1945, so now how do I explain that the movie based on the show they love, can't cast anyone but white actors in all the lead roles?

In fact, when my seven and nine year olds saw images of the live-action actors, they said 'that does not look like 'Zuko and Katara' and have no interest in seeing the Avatar live-action movie.

Edited at 2008-12-16 10:25 pm (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
Just to clarify, by "Aboriginal" do you mean Native American?

(Being Australian, I read it as "Australian Aboriginies", which I'm guessing isn't what you mean - but I just want to check.)
(no subject) - karadin - Dec. 17th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaatsu - Dec. 18th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karadin - Dec. 18th, 2008 11:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 17th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
Nuts to writing lengthy and heated discussion points--next time I get into an argument with someone on this, the only think I'm bringing with me is a link to this post.

Which, by the way, is beautiful. I mean, both as a succinct visual essay, but also just as a collection of one of the elements that made this series so RICH and vibrant and different and lovely and MADE OF LOVE AND WIN :D
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
I'm glad to have been of service! <3

(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC)
Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to help us with this!

And yes, GOD yes -- it's an absolutely fantastic show. One small comfort in this mess is that at least it's getting new people interested in the series, which deserves every bit of attention it receives. <3
(no subject) - tallycola - Dec. 17th, 2008 07:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)


Honestly, beautiful job. Now not only will I spread this link to further our cause, but also to try to hook some of my friends into watching the series. It truly is beautiful. I love it when creators put so much work and effort into their work and love it more when they're rewarded with kick ass fans that appreciate it to this extent :D

Honestly, I just wish we'd hear something from Bryke already...how do they feel about it? We've heard pretty legit rumours about what might be going on, but are they legally allowed to say or do anything about it? The suspense is killing me...
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
This show is so often just...astonishingly beautiful. I suppose that's the silver lining in all of this -- that new people are being introduced to it, even if the circumstances are depressingly awful.

No one I've spoken to or heard from knows for sure what Mike, Bryan or even M. Knight thinks about this. Personally, I find it hard to believe they'd come to this decision on their own, and suspect that an ultimatum from the studio itself was involved -- adhere to their idea of "marketable," or have the project dropped entirely (or worse, taken away from them.)

Unfortunately, I don't think they have many options right now. They can either stay silent or they can hitch a smile on their faces and try to pretend there isn't a problem. If I were them, I'd choose silence.
(no subject) - tryxkittie - Dec. 16th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 21st, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
While I do not think Caucasians should be banned entirely from acting in this movie, I definitely want a much more diverse main cast! Katara, Sokka, and Zuko need to be portrayed by minority actors, Asian and Inuit actors to be exact.
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
Let's hope Paramount comes to their senses! :)
(no subject) - choke_n_broke - Jan. 23rd, 2009 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Ooh, very nice!! This really just says it far more eloquently than words ever could. It took forever to load on my browser, but it was so worth the wait. XD
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:09 am (UTC)
While I'm sorry to have abused your poor browser, I'm glad to hear it was worth it in the end <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
"But don't you know only white peepul are good at kung-fu? I saw it- Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and American Ninja told me so!"

There's no need to bend over backwards to convince these people- they're lying to themselves, and no matter how much sense you throw in their face, the more irrational they'll get.
Dec. 16th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
That's probably true. But I'd like to think that the folks in the middle -- particularly people who have never seen or were only casually interested in the show -- might benefit from this sort of thing. My Inner Optimist has to at least try!
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:10 am (UTC)
I'm VERY glad to hear it -- thank you for taking the time to comment! And if you have a few minutes to write a letter, remember that the voices of non-fans are just as important in all this, if not MORE so. <3
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
Ok by all the hints in the show, you would think that they would be asian, but remember people...THIS IS AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. It isn't real life stuff so basically they could be any race that the creators choose. >.> I don't believe that aang is asian anyway...he doesn't look or sound that way at all. I do agree that sokka and katara's actors should be changed to people that fit the skin tone more but whatever. I don't think we can really change anything by complaining on a forum. =/ no offense.
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
Re: ummm...
If you're curious about why people disagree with your stance, and why we feel this is a cause worth speaking out about, I suggest you read the blog posts and essays I've linked to on the left.

However, this journal isn't intended as a forum for debate. For that reason, I'll be freezing this thread.
Dec. 17th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
Man, seeing all these pictures reminds me of how much I love Avatar. So much detail is put into the show. Do you know of anyplace online that lists what part of Asia various parts of the show were taken from? Like a wiki or something?

For example, Songs dress is from Korea, right?
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
I've picked things up from various places -- in some cases, the audio commentaries on the episodes themselves. If you find a central resource that seems accurate, please link to it here!

You're right about Song. Broadly speaking, the Earth Kingdom incorporates obvious aspects of Korean (Song and her family), Japanese (the Kyoshi warriors), Chinese (Gaoling and Ba Sing Se, among many others), Vietnamese (the Foggy Swamp Tribe), and Indian (the Guru) cultures....just to name a few. <3
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:26 am (UTC)
Ah, Avatar is so self-explanatory in just images.

I would love to take action ASAP (and I'll try to hold back on demanding a role as Katara) but I've got finals to finish. Expect my letter in the mail by this weekend!

Thank goodness I found this before it was too late.
I was totally looking forward to an amazing, accurate movie. If Hollywood has the slightest ability to get anything right, they could at least make it the Avatar live action, which I am living for now that the show is over. Ahh! AHH!

Excuse me if I am incomprehensible. I'm not sure if what I typed made sense. Cursed Chemistry preventing me from saving the world from yet another white-washed movie. (Let's not mess up like DB:Evolution, although the graphics seem to make up for it.)
Dec. 17th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC)
What you typed made perfect sense!

And thanks for your (upcoming) contribution. <3

Ah, Avatar is so self-explanatory in just images.

That fact is exactly why we decided to put together this post. :)
Dec. 17th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
It's true what they say; a picture's worth a thousand words. This is such a fantastic resource to point the doubters to, because that promo pic on the casting call news story really does make them all look like generic white characters. Thank you so much for putting all this together!
Dec. 17th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
It's Hollywood people
I really think the whole aang being cast as a white person being portrayed as racial is quite overblown. First off I'd like that yes its blatiantly obvoius that aang, as well as every else in Avatar, are asian. Secondly this is HOLLYWOOD just look at what they did to DBZ, thier sole reason in doing this is because they think that this will bring in more ticket sales, but like DBZ the only thing they've managed to accomplish is alienting the series truly enormous fan base. There is a 3rd possibilty, which is highly unlikely, is that they were unable to find enough suitable young asian actors for these rolls, considering on how many minor characters they'd include, which would probably be quite many considering the sheer number of teen/preteen characters there are in the series.
Dec. 17th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
Re: It's Hollywood people
Hollywood continues to make these kinds of offensive casting decisions because their audience allows them do so. The only way to keep it from happening again is to let them know it isn't what we want and will not go unchallenged.

As I've said elsewhere, this journal is not intended as a forum for debate -- there are plenty of other places on the internet better suited for that purpose. For that reason, I'll be freezing this thread.
Dec. 17th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
Beautiful! I loved this show, and found it incredibly interesting for the very elements that made it more than just another quest series - the characters and background and cultural all made it clear that it was Asian, and many kinds of Asian at that, not just a generic American-TV version. It was so refreshing and fun and thoughtful.

I didn't even know there was going to be a film until an entry on flist brought up the casting news. What a shock that was. I'll write a letter to add to the deluge, though it will probably have to be this weekend.
Dec. 17th, 2008 09:27 am (UTC)
Whenever you can is fine. :)

And, yes, so many of us were drawn to the show by its cultural diversity in the first place. That's what makes the casting decisions even more of a slap in the face.
Dec. 17th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
*grabs pen and paper* I'm ready to write! Thanks for starting this, it's amazing to see something like this happen. Let's hope this works!
Dec. 17th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)

Dec. 17th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
I regularly forget how incredibly gorgeous this show is. It breaks my heart to think of Hollywood disregarding the loving care that was put into every little detail. Half of Avatar's magic comes from the care Mike and Bryan put into its creation.

This is an excellent reminder as to why we have to do this! Visuals definitely speak more than words could, here, and they're very obviously oriental in everything down to their color pallet. Even the soundtrack of the show is distinctly oriental.
Dec. 17th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)
Yessss. Yes to all of that.

That's exactly why we decided that instead of another essay, which others have already done so well, we would just let the show speak for itself.

It's so undeniably, blatantly Asian in every aspect that it was an easy point to make. :D
(no subject) - spectralbovine - Dec. 17th, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
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