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Round Two: FIGHT!

Hope you all had a great holiday! As for us, we're back from our hiatus with news, more addresses, and some things to keep in mind.

Here's what's going on right now:

• We've changed our strategy a bit. We'll be writing to TWO different addresses -- the film's two producers, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, at their production company; and Mark Bakshi, the president of features production at Paramount Pictures. We've updated the main information post to reflect this, so you can head over there to get started on your letter.

The mainstream media is starting to take notice, which is very good news. The outcry over The Last Airbender's casting was the subject of an article in the January 9th issue of Entertainment Weekly, which you can read in its entirety here. Media coverage of this issue is extremely helpful and important -- the more attention that gets drawn to Paramount's casting decision, the harder it is for them to pretend there isn't a problem.

We've updated the main information post regarding how to help us get the media's attention, so head over and take a look if you want to get involved!

Paramount knows we're angry. In the Entertainment Weekly article, Nicole Sperling writes, "Paramount declined to comment, other than to say that casting isn't complete." This, too, could be very good news. Saying "casting isn't complete" can mean a lot of things, but among them could be that none of the actors announced so far are set in stone. This makes taking action now more important than ever -- there may still be time to fix this mess. Help us give Paramount a reason to change their minds!

That said, here's a few things to think about as we forge ahead into the new year:

• Talking about this issue online, writing essays or even mentioning it in passing on your journal or blog is not a waste of time. Anything you do to keep the conversation going and spread awareness of this issue is a help. All we ask is that you try to stay positive and proactive, as much as we know that's often difficult.

• People may tell you you're wasting your time. People may say that you're a whiner, that you should get over it, that you're taking this too seriously. Those people are wrong.

Racism is still a big problem, in America and elsewhere, that affects real people every day. Movies like this one help shape people's attitudes of what's normal and acceptable, particularly the kids and young teenagers who are its target audience. Hollywood has a long history of marginalizing minority actors and whitewashing properties like Avatar -- they'll only stop if we speak up and tell them that it's not okay, and that we won't stand for it.

Please keep in mind that the purpose of this journal is to share information and provide a safe space for people to speak out against Paramount's casting policy. We're not interested in hosting or moderating debates on the topic -- there are plenty of other forums for that.



( 90 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 9th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
Jan. 13th, 2009 04:49 am (UTC)
Jan. 9th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
A letter from one of my friends
after I -publicised this issue on my favorite pornwriters' forum;

"December 25, 2008

To Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Marshall:

I'm writing today in regards to the cast of the upcoming Nickelodeon Film, "The Last Airbender." On December 9th, Entertainment Weekly published an article revealing director M. Night Shyamalan's hoped-for cast for the film. I must tell you that I am deeply offended by the unthinking decisions he and Paramount Pictures have made.

The Nickelodeon show "Avatar: The Last Airbender," on which this film is based, featured Asian and Inuit characters in a fantasy setting inspired and informed by a variety of Asian and Inuit cultures. The characters fight with East Asian martial arts, have Asian or Inuit features, dress in Asian or Inuit clothing, and write with Chinese characters. The cast and setting were a refreshing departure from predominantly white American media and myth. This was, in large part, the reason for the show's appeal to and inspiration for many Asian American children, a demographic, I should point out, that is both large and quite affluent.

I am outraged to read that the four actors selected to play the lead roles are all white. While I understand that the casting is not final, the statement has already been made: this film will take a culturally Asian and Inuit world and populate it with white actors. Orientalism this obvious and this dramatic is inexcusable, and I would urge Shyamalan and Paramount Pictures to reconsider their unfortunate casting choices. Asian characters in a world built from Asian cultures should be played by Asian actors.

Let me point out that I teach in a school district that is large, upscale and very, very diverse with an emphasis on Asian immigrants and their descendents. Should Paramount insist on continuing with this obnoxiously wrong-headed casting decision, I will make every effort to point it out to my Asian students and to spread the information out to my numerous Asian colleagues on the faculty. This should make an interesting experiment on who has more influence over children’s viewing habits, don’t you think?

Jan. 13th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
Re: A letter from one of my friends
Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us, and for helping to spread the word! We really appreciate it! <3
Jan. 9th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
The mainstream media is starting to take notice...

*raises fists into the air* WOOT!!
Jan. 13th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
It's a start!
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
My friend called me the other day just to tell me about the Entertainment Weekly article. I was really excited that this is getting some widespread attention. Also, do you think you could post this along with the visual essay? It's a video slideshow comparing Asian culture to Avatar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBda7b9tRdk&feature=channel
Jan. 9th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Jan. 9th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chaobunny - Jan. 11th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - glockgal - Jan. 10th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - avatarmom - Jan. 11th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Jan. 13th, 2009 04:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tryxkittie - Jan. 16th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 9th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for doing this. :) I've received little support from my online forum so this is encouraging!!!

If anyone wants to back me up and get a bunch of Avatards a little more motivated, you're welcome to spam my forum at http://forums.airbender.net/ XD we've got a couple discussions in "general avatar" in which I'm the only person that cares =P
Jan. 10th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
*reading the thread*

I feel like your forum should host a contest for the Just Doesn't Get It award and the Condescending Caucasian Ignorance award.
(no subject) - star_bolt08 - Jan. 12th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Jan. 13th, 2009 04:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahshin - Jan. 13th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 9th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
My new letter - I'm sure many people are going for the "offended" or the "not gettin' my money!" approaches, so mine's a little more positive and "c'mon! you can make a difference in the world and there will be rainbows and unicorns dancing in the sky!"


Dear ---,

Lord of the Rings is based on European culture. What if they had cast the Hobbits all as African-American? “They're not explicitly white in the book,” you could argue, “they're just Hobbits.” But we all know that's absurd.

Similarly, the cartoon Avatar is set in a world permeated with Asian and Inuit culture. Why would they cast all white people?

Worse yet, if the leads are white, but supporting and background characters are Asian. What kind of a message does that send to America's youth?—“Asians aren't good enough to be leads.” Hollywood seems to believe this message, too.

I'm writing to you today because you have such an amazing opportunity! What a chance you have to finally put some strong Asian American characters in the limelight, the heroes for the millions of kids who love and will come to love Aang, Katara, and the rest!

I'm white myself but my three-year-old siblings MaryCatherine and Daniel are both adopted from China. I often wonder if MaryCatherine will grow up wishing she looked more like Hannah Montana and the other idols of her generation, or if Daniel will feel like an outcast because Hollywood never portrays Asian men with women of any other race.

My siblings are already huge fans of Avatar, even at their young age. MaryCatherine loves to tell me her favorite characters — Katara, Toph, Suki... Please seize this opportunity to make the heroine of the next big kids' film someone that Asian Americans like her can be proud to say, for the first time, “I look just like her!”

Thank you for your time and good luck!

Sarah N---, 16 years old
owner of www.airbender.net
Jan. 10th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
You're really brave to start this discussion on your own forum, how wonderful of you!

I read the posts on the messageboard and...I hardly even know how to begin replying to that level of crazy. "Yes they live in an Asian based world but that's no proof that they should be played by Asians!" It's that whole argument that it's a fantasy world, wherein somehow fantasy = white. It's really amazing what lengths people will go to argue against racial representation, it really is.

*gives you encouragement and candy*
(no subject) - vejiicakes - Jan. 10th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rabbittroop - Jan. 13th, 2009 11:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 10th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
Get More Media Attention.
I have another idea.
To try to get more media attention, maybe sending letters to news broadcasting stations, like Good Morning America, The Today Show. I am sure if they get the right amount of letters, they might cover the story, and try to get answers and put it out there.

Just an idea.
Jan. 13th, 2009 05:00 am (UTC)
Re: Get More Media Attention.
People should ABSOLUTELY send letters to any shows they think might be interested in this issue! Thank you for suggesting it!
Jan. 10th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
If you guys have the time, please email EW's letters department to thank them for writing an article about this cause. You may even get printed in the magazine!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY welcomes feedback:
e-mail: ew_letters@ew.com
fax: 212-467-1223
All correspondence must include your name, address, and daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for clarity or length.
Jan. 13th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
This is a great idea, actually -- we'll definitely do so, and we encourage others to do the same! <3
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
The writing letter campaign got mentioned in the article! They actually MENTIONED it! Hey Aang Aint White creator, you're officially somewhat famous! You got your movement mentioned in a big time magazine. How does it feel to be somewhat famous now?
Jan. 10th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Awesome!
Anything that means more people will hear about this issue feels pretty good to us! :)
Jan. 12th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
It's nice to see that the whole thing is getting more mainstream coverage, and that the letter writing campaign is getting some results. I'll get started on another letter to this other guy.
Jan. 13th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
Any help you can offer is appreciated! <3
Jan. 13th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
He's perfect!!

Jan. 13th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, yes, we saw that over at EW! Oh goodness, we hope it doesn't come to that!

So how about you write a letter and help us make sure it doesn't? ;)
Jan. 13th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Just a thought...
I got the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly, and on the front cover they had a blurb talking about the controversy over the casting of Jacob in the next Twilight movie. I'm not really into Twilight, but this just got me thinking that even though Avatar hasn't gotten as much publicity as Twilight, it's got a similiar demographic, and has fans that love their fandom with the same intensity. (Not only that, they've both been around for the same amount of time and there are probably fans, both in the US and worldwide, who like both.) Anyway, I was just thinking that if something like that could make the front cover, we've at least got a good shot of getting a full page article about the "colorblind" casting for the Avatar film adaptions. Especially with all the big names attached to the project, and that fact that we're also calling Hollywood out for their history of these kind of casting decisions. We've just got to keep sending letters so we can keep this in the news.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 16th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, if Keith Olbermann said something about this, I think I would volunteer to bear his children. *_* I already practically worship him for his comments on the passing of Prop 8, but if he did this, I would love him forever. <3
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
I looked around to see if anyone had mentioned this interview with Jason Rathbone today. He mentions how he will need a tan for the part:


Due in theaters in summer 2010, "Airbender" has already begun to face a bit of controversy over the casting of white actors like Rathbone, Ringer and McCartney to play Asian characters — a concern the actor was quick to dismiss. "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan," he said of the transformation he'll go through to look more like Sokka. "It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)

Okay. Now that I've picked my jaw up off the floor!

We've been trying very hard to keep the actors out of this, as Paramount's casting decisions aren't their fault. But this kind of easy dismissal is a little hard to swallow. Not to mention his completely feckless suggestion that he'll "need a tan."

Sorry, Jackson. We're not interested in "suspending disbelief." We shouldn't HAVE to.
(no subject) - star_bolt08 - Jan. 15th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Jan. 15th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - sidesmile - Jan. 24th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
good on you guys!
When i first learnt that the avatar: last airbender cast was to be predominantly white actors, i was infuriated. i have loved the series for years, because of its rich diversity and acceptance. I just really want everyone here on this website/live journal to know that i really support what you're doing, 100%. you are being civilised, structured, and to the point. well done!!! i am so writing a letter to the adress you put up, and will encourage all my friends at school to do the same.
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