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From day one, we've accepted that we may fail to change anything. We knew it was a long shot -- that we'd have to fight hard to be noticed at all, and that our efforts were as much about raising awareness of Hollywood whitewashing as they were about changing the cast.

But things are changing.

On Monday, Variety published an article announcing that Jesse McCartney, previously slated to play Prince Zuko, has withdrawn from "The Last Airbender." The role will now be played by Dev Patel, an Indian actor who recently starred in the film "Slumdog Millionaire."

From the article:

Patel, meanwhile, steps into a role that Jesse McCartney had all but locked up until the actor's second career as a musician got in the way.

"Jesse had tour dates that conflicted with a boot camp I always hold on my films, and where the actors here have to train for martial arts," Shyamalan said.


We have a lot to say about this.

First of all, we want to stress that we're very happy for Dev Patel. He's an excellent young actor and well-qualified for the role -- in addition to his recent film, he's a Taekwondo champion, and we're glad to see an Asian actor join the cast.

However, we are in no way satisfied with the current state of this production or its cast. This isn't the time to stop fighting. If anything, it's a sign that we should fight harder than ever.

• The reasons given for the casting change are dubious at best. As recently as January 30th, McCartney was giving interviews about his intensive Kung Fu training and his excitement about the project. His abrupt departure and immediate replacement with an Asian actor is an obvious reaction to the public outcry regarding the casting. Paramount is trying to pretend that they aren't reacting to your letters, your protests and your criticisms.

This move reeks of tokenism. Paramount thinks that by including one Asian actor, they'll derail our efforts to push for appropriate casting and to protest their whitewashing of the other three main characters.

• Their choice of Patel specifically -- the only young, male, Asian actor currently in the public spotlight -- displays a "one size fits all" approach to casting. Patel is Indian, whereas Zuko's culture puts him much closer to Chinese. This is not unlike equating Britain with Italy, and has angered and insulted many of our supporters.

• Assuming the rest of the Fire Nation is cast in kind, we're now presented with a world in which a race of dark-skinned South Asians are the villains. While Prince Zuko is later redeemed, in this first film Zuko is still very much the "bad guy," who will be chasing and threatening three white heroes.

We still have two white actors playing Inuit teenagers. And changing the appearance of those actors so that they more closely resemble their characters, which actor Jackson Rathbone has already suggested, would be offensive and completely unacceptable.

• While no confirmed photos of Noah Ringer have yet surfaced, we also appear to also have a film in which the world is saved by a white boy dressed up as a Tibetan monk. It's worth noting, as well, that we suspect that if Ringer were Asian then Paramount would have said as much by now.

- Staff associated with this production, including casting director Deedee Rickets, have made offensive and ignorant statements regarding this film and their casting policies for it. The lack of any apology whatsoever, for those statements and for those policies existing to begin with, is also unacceptable.



In short: White actors are still playing Asian and Inuit characters. Excuses and token casting are being used to try to avoid controversy without making an official statement or apology. The fact that Zuko has been recast in this way makes it crystal clear that Paramount knows there's a problem, that the cast is not as final as they would have us believe, that they are worried about the negative attention this issue is attracting, and that they want us to sit down and be quiet.

It's more important than ever that we keep talking, keep pushing, keep protesting. Now is not the time to back down. We've already pushed them to recast one of the four main characters. We have Paramount Pictures in a corner. Let's keep them there until they aknowledge what's going on, apologize for their actions and take steps in good faith to set things right.

If you're in the Philadelphia area and are free this Saturday, we encourage you to join the protest taking place that day. If you can't make it, we have some suggestions for other ways to broadcast your support for this cause.

Comments

( 119 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
aang_aint_white
Feb. 5th, 2009 07:09 am (UTC)
One step at a time <3
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Feb. 5th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
upstart_crow
Feb. 5th, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
Fabulous update, thanks folks :)

I'm planning on taking some postcards to a convention in a very white area of my home state, so we'll see how that goes. Utah has to have more than just one Avatar fan, after all.
aang_aint_white
Feb. 5th, 2009 07:16 am (UTC)
Any help you can offer would be very much appreciated!
(no subject) - upstart_crow - Feb. 5th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Feb. 5th, 2009 07:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - upstart_crow - Feb. 5th, 2009 07:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - socchan - Feb. 6th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC) - Expand
pikabot
Feb. 5th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
I was wondering when you guys would make a post about this. Keep up the good fight!
aang_aint_white
Feb. 5th, 2009 07:27 am (UTC)
We just wanted to make sure we were saying exactly what we wanted to!
(Deleted comment)
aang_aint_white
Feb. 5th, 2009 07:50 am (UTC)
It's certainly more than we expected!
irishgal487
Feb. 5th, 2009 11:12 am (UTC)
It's a step in the right direction indeed! And he's definitely someone who knows what he is talking about.

Just have to see what happens next..
(Anonymous)
Feb. 5th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
Noah IS white
If you go to the M night fan site and click on The Last Airbender you will see who they more then likely will be having play the young Aang and he is white. SO my thoughts are that Noah is white.

Good Luck to everyone on Saturday may God be with you all for fighting this fight. I back you 100 percent!
caterfree10
Feb. 5th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
Now if only they'd actually admit the problem. Time to write a follow-up letter!
aang_aint_white
Feb. 7th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
That's the spirit! :D
(no subject) - caterfree10 - Feb. 7th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC) - Expand
tryxkittie
Feb. 5th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Wow I really wish I could be in Phili this weekend. I hope there's extensive coverage by the protesters. I also hope it gets mentioned in at least the local media.

Yay
artisticdoodle
Feb. 5th, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
From http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/39129757.html -

"'Slumdog' star coming here
Dev Patel
, star of Slumdog Millionaire, has been cast in The Last Airbender, the M. Night Shyamalan action film that gets under way here in March. For Saturday's open casting call at the Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market Streets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., producers are looking for hundreds of people in good shape, particularly for people of Asian Indian descent. Info: http://go.philly.com/airbendercall."

... Looks like they'll be building their Fire Nation this weekend. Wonderful.

Also (I'm searching for this article) a friend of mine's dad was in Philly last week for some family business. One of the mornings when the family was watching the news there was a segment/report about the casting. I'm still looking around and trying to find it... but with no success. D: It has to exist... 'cause now all of her cousins are horrified beyond belief.

At some point Paramount/Viacom has to comment on this.... I'm afraid it'll be when every media outlet has some report about this (and it'll be some lame generic "we're doing the best we can" comment).

Great job guys!
tryxkittie
Feb. 5th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Wow, so it's true. They are planning on making the Fire Nation The Land of Evil Indians With Their Strange Accents and Scary Dark Skin.

Wow. Just...wow.
(no subject) - artisticdoodle - Feb. 5th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caterfree10 - Feb. 5th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meiko_matsui - Feb. 5th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cerviel - Feb. 5th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meiko_matsui - Feb. 6th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - planguy - Feb. 6th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Feb. 7th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC) - Expand
nthdraft
Feb. 5th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
...and the real downside is that this also adds credence to the rumor that MNS plans to cast himself as Uncle.

Crapitty crap crap crap.

Kudos for pointing out the "yeah, you recast one PoC, but surprise, it's the villain! Who didn't see THAT one coming?" aspect.

Rock on.
nthdraft
Feb. 5th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
(oh yeah, and forgot to add more than one person I spoke with points out that Dev look a LOT more like Sokka than Zuko. Now THAT would have been a WIN. *sigh*)
(no subject) - djinnj - Feb. 5th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caterfree10 - Feb. 5th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jedifreac - Feb. 6th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - kogas_chick - Feb. 6th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - kogas_chick - Feb. 6th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caterfree10 - Feb. 6th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - socchan - Feb. 6th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caterfree10 - Feb. 6th, 2009 03:53 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - caterfree10 - Feb. 6th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
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chaobunny
Feb. 5th, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
You put it very well and very maturely. I couldn't have said it any better.

I'm happy that we have at least made a small difference, which I have to admit I doubted would happen. I may now see this movie if only for Patel's sake; the guy seems genuine, good hearted, and very, very skilled as an actor.

But I'm also not ready to give up. Now that we know they're aware of our anger, we have a better chance than ever for changing things further. One Asian actor who isn't even East Asian isn't going to satisfy us. Patel will make an awesome Zuko, but we still need to see some ethnic casting for the water tribe.
tryxkittie
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC)
we still need to see some ethnic casting for the water tribe.

Er...you should probably rethink that phrase. With the word 'ethnic' you may be referring to people who aren't white, but ALL people have ethnicities, even white people. The term kind of feeds into the 'white = default and everyone else is different' mentality. Just a heads up.

I won't see the movie, even for Patel's sake. In fact, probably FOR Patel's sake, since he's obviously just being used here to quelsh cries of racism. Some changes have been made, but not the right changes and not for the right reasons. In fact things might now be potentially worse. I think for me, as long as they keep the same people for Katara, Sokka and Aang, I'm not going to see this movie no matter how bad I feel for the actors.
(no subject) - chaobunny - Feb. 6th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Feb. 7th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chaobunny - Feb. 7th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Feb. 5th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
W00T! Now it's time to make even more changes! 8D
cerviel
Feb. 5th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this.

It bothered me when Patel was cast and how a lot of people that are completely against the casting actually supported him as Zuko.

No. It's still wrong. Sure, he isn't white, but he's South Asian. East Asians and South Asians are so completely different. You cannot accept one for the other. In fact, Europeans and South Asians are more closely related as opposed to East Asians and South Asians. South Asians and Europeans are Caucasoids while East Asians are Mongoloids. Even their languages are completely different. Hindi, for example, is part of the Indo-European/Indo-Aryan language group.

Just because South Asians and East Asians are both found on the same continent, that does not mean they are related. South Asians are CAUCASIANS, though they are not "white." It not only describes Europeans but North Africans, West Asians, and South Asians.

So it's a bit tougher for us as a whole since his casting as Zuko isn't agreed upon by everyone that is a part of this "movement."

Thank you so much for this. Really. :3
kogas_chick
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
you hit the nail on the head about patel my friend. I am sure he is a wonderful actor and could play a part in the film, but as Zuko it is wrong.
(no subject) - jedifreac - Feb. 6th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kogas_chick - Feb. 6th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
wonder_gurrl
Feb. 5th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
Hi everyone, I'm a long time reader, first time poster and a huge Avatar fan. My question to you all is; since New York Comic Con is taking place this weekend, is there anything planned in terms of a protest? There were a few Avatar panels at last year's con and I'm fairly certain that Nickelodeon will have a prescence at the con this year, so is anyone going to take this issue home to them? Thanks.
cerviel
Feb. 5th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
There's going to be a protest in Philadelphia during a casting audition for the film.

It's the same day as the NYCC. There isn't going to be an Avatar panel, but one regarding superheroes and Asians. I'm also part of the Facebook group and I know at least one person is going to the Comic Con.
kogas_chick
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:50 am (UTC)
thank you for everything you and everyone is doing here. I wish there was more i could do. I am a white avatar fan and i think everything paramount and M. Night are doing is very wrong. I am engaged to a Japanese man and will one day be the mother of mixed asian children, and it is highly offensive even to me that they would do any of this. For the future of my fiance's race and culture and for my children's future as well. thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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