For those who don't already know: The actors who will play the main four characters of "The Last Airbender," the live action Avatar film, have been announced. And all of them are white.
We love Avatar, and have for a long time. But we're pretty disappointed about this casting decision, and we know we're not alone in that. This post is about what we can do.
What we need to do is send real, paper letters to the Kennedy/Marshall company -- specifically, the film's two produces, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall -- telling them why we're offended by their casting choices and what we want them to do about it.
Below is a guide for how to make your letter as effective as possible and where to send it once you're done.
Please feel free to link this to as many people as possible. The better organized we are and the more people we get to participate, the more likely it is that we'll make a difference in this mess!
And once you're done with your letter, post a photo of yourself holding it in the comments! (Or your action figure/stuffed animal/dog if you're camera shy)
Why This Is Worth Doing:
1) It'll make you feel better, and you'll be able to say later that you did all you could.
2) The casting isn't final. If we make enough of a stink, it's possible they may reconsider their choices.
3) Even if nothing changes, this production should be called out on their bad behavior. The point is to create an environment where this decision wouldn't have been made in the first place. And if we don't speak up every time they pull this kind of nonsense, they'll never have a reason to change. The only way to make people in positions of power care is to kick up so much of a fuss that they can't ignore you.
4) You can do this in TEN MINUTES, and every single letter they receive makes it more likely that they'll pay attention to what we have to say!
How To Write Your Letter:
1) Read the example letter.
2) Write your own letter in your own words. (It's better if you don't just copy the example letter and sign it.)
3) Double check your spelling and grammar. Be particularly sure that you've spelled the names of the two producers correctly -- why should they listen to you if you write their name wrong?
4) Sign the letter by hand, even if you typed the rest of it.
5) Make a copy of your letter to keep for yourself.
6) Put your letter in an envelope and mail it to:
Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall
619 Arizona Avenue, Fl. 2
Santa Monica, California 90401
Please note that we called the Kennedy/Marshall company to confirm these individuals can be reached at these addresses. If your letter is returned to you for any reason and you're sure you wrote the address correctly, please let us know in the comments.
Tips for Letter Writing
1) Be respectful and professional in your tone. If you're rude they'll just ignore you.
2) Stay focused on the issue. Don't get into your feelings about the specific actors and their merits, don't offer suggestions for other actors. Just explain that you're offended they chose white actors to play Asian characters, that you expect them to change their policy, and that if they don't you will not support their film with your money.
3) If this impacts you personally -- because you're a parent, because you're Asian-American, because you're a minority actor or actress who has a hard time finding work -- feel free to add a few sentences about that, too.
4) Keep it brief. They're busy people who won't read your letter at all if it's too long.
5) Double-check your letter for spelling and typos, and make sure that the names on your letter and the names on your envelope match!
You should try to avoid copying this letter directly, but please use it as an example of the kind of letter you should be writing and the points you should touch on.
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, and I am offended by the 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 were a large part of the show's appeal as well as an inspiration to many Asian American children.
I am disappointed to read that the four actors selected to play the lead roles are all white. While 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 casting choices. Asian characters in a world built from Asian cultures should be played by Asian actors.
If Paramount Pictures continues to go forward with this cast, I will not be supporting this film with my money, and I will encourage my friends and family to do the same.
[Your name and signature]
What To Do Once You've Sent Your Letter
1) Post a copy of your letter -- and if you can, a photo of it, too! -- in the comments so we all know you're awesome!
2) Remember to actually put it in the mail. ;)
3) Pat yourself on the back!
4) Link other people to this post who you think might not have seen it.
5) Encourage non-fandom family and friends who care about this issue to write their own letters.
6) Have more letter-writing in you? Awesome! Do you have a magazine or newspaper you read regularly? A blog or podcast or even television show you think might be interested in this issue? Take a few minutes and write them! Make sure to explain the situation thoroughly -- you can't assume they've heard of Avatar: The Last Airbender, for instance -- and let them know that, as a reader/listener/viewer this is an issue you care about and would like to see them cover. The mainstream media is just starting to discuss this story, and the more it turns up in the news the harder it is for Paramount to pretend there isn't a problem with their casting policy.
If you're looking for ideas, GlockGal has lots of well-organized suggestions!
As a fandom we don't always get along, but if we can come together and put in a little time to do this one thing, we can really make a difference! We all want this movie to be good -- let's do what we can to help that happen!
EDIT: It's been incredibly heartwarming to see so many non-fans speaking out about this issue and writing letters of their own. If you're unfamiliar with Avatar: The Last Airbender and want a better sense of why fans are so upset and offended by the casting decisions, we've put together a "Visual Essay" -- the show really does speak for itself.
EDIT2: The response so far has been fantastic, and we're SO GRATEFUL to all of you who have written letters so far! However, please keep in mind that we have a long way to go -- a hundred letters is an amazing thing, but it will take many, many more to get the attention of Paramount. Keep writing, keep spreading the word -- every letter is important, and every voice brings us closer to being heard.