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Once again, we're presented with a case in which images are more eloquent than words.

The culture that Sokka and Katara hail from, the Water Tribe, is clearly modeled after real life Inuit cultures of the Arctic region. The Last Airbender's production designers obviously agree.

Here is a photograph of the film's set, from one of their locations in Greenland:



These are the Inuit skin tents that they're emulating:




These are the people who lived in those tents:







These are their modern descendents:







And this is who Paramount Pictures cast to play Sokka and Katara:



The cultures in Avatar: The Last Airbender may be part of a fantasy setting, but they are explicitly based on real cultures that exist in our world. Paramount is appropriating Inuit culture and populating it with caucasian faces. We could not disagree more with that decision.

Comments

( 80 comments — Leave a comment )
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akiko
Mar. 26th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
I shared this on twitter using the hash tag #aangaintwhite if anyone else is on twitter and wants to start a # trend.
carondelet
Mar. 26th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
I hashed it. :)
(no subject) - akiko - Mar. 26th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
jordan_the_kid
Mar. 27th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: Woah
lol agreed
madd_hatteress
Mar. 26th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
I literally smacked my forehead.

I have nothing against against the kids but part of me hopes they realize what is going on and can understand why we're upset about the casting choices.

fenm
Mar. 26th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
I have nothing against against the kids

Yeah, I actually feel sorry for the kids. They didn't make these decisions, they just wanted a job. And as much as I would like to see the movie recast, that means that the three kids would lose their job, which kind of sucks.
(no subject) - tobu_ishi - Mar. 26th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - star_bolt08 - Mar. 27th, 2009 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Mar. 26th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sirdrakesheir - Apr. 27th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
pretty_angel
Mar. 26th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
THIS.


By the way I love the photographs! Thanks a lot for digging them out. <3 Do you know any good internet pages for more photographs of that kind (the old b&w ones)?

japantheman
Mar. 26th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
I think this is quite effective in conveying the point.
I also think this could be a little more effective if it had a few pictures from the show to compare and contrast with as well.
star_bolt08
Mar. 27th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
Definitely! This pretty straightforward as is, and makes it incredibly difficult to argue against the Water Tribe being Inuit, but adding screenshots from the show would be a plus. Also, on the Iroh.org, they have scans from the "Lost Scrolls" book series, that you might want to take a look at. They're Nickelodeon publications and pretty much confirm everything we've been saying about the cultures each of the Four Nations are based on. :D
parsimonia
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
Nicely done.
obsessive0514
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
Very well put. I just wish Paramount would stop and think for one second.
jaquenerd
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
Whoa, so they're still sticking with the Inuit culture??

I thought that they would at least change it to, idk, Vikings or something. God, this is just embarrassing.

Fail. You're doing it right, Paramount.
puffysanjo
May. 19th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
"Fail. You're doing it right, Paramount."

What are they doing right? Failing? Or whitewashing?

*Is confused.*
(no subject) - jaquenerd - May. 20th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - puffysanjo - May. 20th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
meredyd
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
Those kids are obscenely cute.
nthdraft
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
this just keeps getting failier and failier... sigh.

(BTW I agree, kudos for getting those archival pics. They're fabulous! and the modern pics are adorable. Those kids are so cute I think I need insulin :-) )
spookster_z
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for those beautiful pictures! A really compelling visual comparison. Maybe if the people from Paramount could see this they would realize how ridiculous they're being.
spazmodic
Mar. 26th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
thank you.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 26th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
A suggestion...?
If you can, maybe send this 'visual essay' to sites like Gawker, Glosslip, and other celbrity/Hollywood gossip sites with a brief explanation of what's going on. They'd probably be happy to put this up and they're ALWAYS spilling the beans on something in Hollywood, DC, all that juicy stuff.

I've tried looking for Inuit/Native American casting agencies, but haven't had much luck. I'll also look for casting agencies that are specifically geared towards Asian Americans. I'll keep you posted.
scdsam
Mar. 26th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Another good example of Inuit actors/actresses is http://www.atanarjuat.com/ (an award-winning film that used entirely native Inuit actors) many of the actors from this film are on IMDB with lots of film experience. I refuse to believe that it's so hard to find suitable castings for these roles.
star_bolt08
Mar. 27th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
This is absolutely amazing! This backs up every argument we've made about the casting for Katara, Sokka, and the rest of the Water Tribe. There's no way someone could come up with a an argument against the point we've been making without looking like a complete idiot (alas, I'm sure there are people out there who are still going to try, but that's besides the point).

I was upset when I heard the rumor of them changing the Water Tribe from Inuits to Vikings, but considering the fact that the actors are white, it would have made sense from a visual standpoint...but now that they're made it clear that they're going to keep the Inuit setting for the Water Tribe, well, I honestly think I'm even more offended. Do they realize how out of place, and flat-out ridiculous this is going to look having white actors dressed in Inuit clothing? Anyone with eyes is going to take one look at the trailer or some promontional photos and realize how wrong this looks. And does this mean that they're going to have the mostly Indian people of the Fire Nation dress in Chinese/Japanese inspired clothing too? Now I'm even more curious to see the actors in costume...and hoping Rathbone hasn't been allowed anywhere near a tanning salon since the last time we saw him. O_O
keithmex17
Mar. 27th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
I slowly scrolled through this excellent essay and when I reached the pics of Peltz and Rathbone I laughed like a madman.

When the trailer is released, this movie is going to become a laughing stock. Oh yes.
vctorianromantc
Mar. 27th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
Agreed
Finally someone gets it.
nemogbr
Mar. 27th, 2009 08:33 am (UTC)
THank you for the photos.

One site. Twilight Sucks.
http://twilightsucks.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=seriousbusiness&action=display&thread=7013&page=34

Was accusing me of being racist and being a bigot for being upset over the casting of the actors for the roles.

The visual images are the best and only someone blinkered and of a certain mindset would disagree.

Unfortunately, I have now been banned from the site.

They accused me of being racist for not liking the idea of white actors made up to look like non-white actors.

I asked when was the last time, they saw a non-white actor,given the main role and cast as a white person?

Someone mentioned Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago.
I had to point out that Catherine Zeta Jones, is Welsh. I don't think you can get more white than that...lol

When I posted that Leonardo Di Caprio and Joseph Gordon Levitt, will be playing respectively, Akira and Tetsuo.

I got banned.

nthdraft
Mar. 27th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
Catherine Zeta-Jones XD

"But she MUST be a PoC, she was in Zorro! wait... you mean she's NOT Hispanic? but.. her middle name is Spanish for Z!..."

Plaintiff rests, Your Honor... :-/

(for the record, she's not just Welsh, she's VERY Welsh. She's Welsh like Sean Connery is Scots. She out-Welshs Tom Jones, fercrissake.)
(no subject) - wonder_gurrl - Mar. 27th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nthdraft - Mar. 28th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nthdraft - Mar. 28th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - erikonil - Mar. 28th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Zorro IS Caucasian!!! DUGH - anen87 - Apr. 20th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Zorro IS Caucasian!!! DUGH - aang_aint_white - Apr. 20th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Zorro IS Caucasian!!! DUGH - anen87 - Apr. 20th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - japantheman - Mar. 28th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caterfree10 - Mar. 28th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC) - Expand
chaobunny
Mar. 28th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
Well, I've almost given up now. The filming has started, and we have white people playing Inuits and Asians.

I'm advocating a boycott now. They won't change anything and I want this to get publicity.

The set picture shows that they're doing exactly what we feared- placing white actors in traditional Inuit and Asian cultural settings.

They might as well make the movie take place in New York City. It no longer represents Avatar to me.
tryxkittie
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
Thanks for this, it's wonderful.

I'm particularly pissed off now.
nthdraft
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
publicity you want, publicity you got.

I have been given the opportunity to guest blog on a very well connected comic book writer/illustrator's blog, and she's given me free reign to write whatever I want.

I've already cleared it with her. I'm writing about THIS.

Watch this space, and give me a few days.

Thanks.
erikonil
Mar. 28th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Awesome!
(no subject) - nthdraft - Mar. 28th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nthdraft - Mar. 28th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - erikonil - Mar. 28th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wonder_gurrl - Mar. 30th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Mar. 29th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
A realization...
Something occurred to me just yesterday and I think this approach could be well-utilized if done properly.

I'm looking at all these beautiful pictures (those kids are damned CUTE, BTW!) and I can only be stunned at the pure IGNORANCE of people who claim it's 'not a big deal' that they cast white actors in roles that should go to Asian/Inuit people.

We are, whether we believe it or not, profoundly effected and influenced by the images presented by the media. Claiming the casting of white people in these roles won't affect anyone/cause any harm is like saying pictures of size 0 models and actresses splashed all over the front covers of magazines doesn't put pressure on teenage girl's to look like those images.

Like it or not, the MEDIA tells us what is beautiful/perfect/acceptable, etc. It is the MEDIA that produces pages and pages of all these stick-thin models because face it, it SELLS.

Why do people think there are so few plus-size models out there? Simple. The media DOESN'T WANT TO TAKE A RISK. They want to make money. So they hire super-skinny models and actresses to sell their product. That includes movies, too. The problem with doing this ALL THE TIME is that it puts a LOT of pressure on teens (guys and girls) to look just like the people on the covers of those magazines or that actress up on the screen.

Paramount doesn't care about the art that is in Avatar; they don't care that Mike and Bryan spent a year in Korea learning about Asian culture, history, architecture, calligraphy, cuisine, clothing, mythology and all the other things that made Avatar so fantastic in the first place; they want to MAKE MONEY. And by showing that they don't care about the whole story, it WILL show in the final product. When you care about something it shows.

Mike and Bryan cared about 'Avatar; The Last Airbender' and it showed.

Paramount Pictures DOESN'T and it WILL show.
nthdraft
Mar. 29th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Re: A realization...
I agree. In fact, that's one of the things I addressed, although from a different angle. But yes.
Re: A realization... - sapphire_fuego - Mar. 29th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
eternaldarkfire
Mar. 29th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
I emailed the local News~
I have emailed my local news, we shall see what comes of it. my letter follows, it's not hte best, but it's better than nothing~:::

Hello,

My name is Kristin and I have been struggling with how to treat this news for some time now, so I am going to bring it to your attention and see if you can understand the severity of it, as I amongst hundreds of others have done. This news has to do with Paramount films' casting of a movie called "The last AirBender" which has been scheduled to start filming within the next few weeks. This movie is based off the Emmy award-winning children's TV show that has gained acclaim in many circles outside of it's intended audience. The cartoon was aired on Nickelodeon, under the full title "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and featured Asian characters in a fantasy setting inspired and informed by a variety of Asian cultures. The characters fight with East Asian martial arts, have Asian features, dress in clothing from Asian cultures, and write with Chinese characters. Furthermore, the settings and environment are all highly influenced by Asia and led to much of the allure to its wide-reaching fanbase as well as what has become an inspirational tale for many Asian American Children.

The casting for this movie, however, seems to have decided that some of these characteristics wont be necessary for the live action rendition - namely the ethnicity of the actors chosen. I want to make it positively clear at this point that I am not in the position of the ''oppressed people'' being ''beaten down by society", I am a white Irish Italian American - I cant get more white- and yet the fact that M Night Shyamalan is picking and choosing what aspects of these cultures wishes to keep for his movie offends me greatly. The main concern of many active fans has been the casting of the main characters of the "Water Tribe" a fictional culture based nearly entirely on Inuit Culture. The actor and actress for these main characters are Nicola Peltz as Katara, Jackson Rathbone as Sokka, who will be 'living' in Inuit inspired tents, wearing Inuit Inspired clothes. This is a blatant insult to the people whom the cartoon got its influence from, and yet the production of the show seems to care nothing about them. Not only that, but from a visual sand point it is going to look riddiculous. White people are not Asian, no matter how tanned the actors get, or how they dye and style their hair they do not have the cultural awareness that An Inuit, or Other Native American Tribe might. This extends to each of the other "Four Nations" within the show - each based on a determinable culture-type.

There is really only so much I, myself, can tell you about this blatant white-washing of memorable characters, but if I may suggest you check out the Visual Essay ( http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/1007.html ) to better understand the cultures the show has captured, as well as looking for much more information at the following websites:

http://racebending.com/
http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/

or look at the facebook group:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54866461619

if you would like further information from me, I am at your disposal, you may email me at:
MY EMAIL

or call me via Cell at
MY CELL



Thank you for your time and consideration,


MY NAME,
Actively boycotting the film The Last Airbender
nthdraft
Mar. 29th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Re: I emailed the local News~
Good job! Give yourself a few attagirls out of the fund :-) One suggestion though: if you just emailed the news's general email address, go back on their website, find their entertainment reporter (every news station has one) and cc this to that person directly as well.

This is pretty much what stage two of a grievance action looks like. First we took it to the production company and they flicked us off. Now we take it to their future audience, either directly or through the media.

Every bit helps.
Re: I emailed the local News~ - eternaldarkfire - Mar. 29th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pariah164 - Mar. 31st, 2009 07:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eternaldarkfire - Apr. 14th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
caterfree10
Mar. 29th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
First, AMAZING visual essay! It makes the casting look all the worse. ~_~

Second, Y HELLO THERE, LAST SAMURAI. Check the second post from the top: http://www.lastairbenderfans.com/

*headdesk x 9000*
nthdraft
Mar. 30th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
in related news:
THIS pretty much encapsulates why it is important we do not stop talking about this. This is from one of my regular morning reads and I am still getting coffee and spit out of my pajamas:

http://notalwaysright.com/cultural-diversity-is-a-dora-ble/1737
caterfree10
Mar. 30th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Re: in related news:
...Please tell me that that story isn't true. If it is, I think I've just lost all faith in humanity. >_
Re: in related news: - azure_orbis - Apr. 5th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC) - Expand
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