A friend forwarded me an opinion by critic Roger Ebert, which brought me some good comfort this morning. He responds to a question about the “whitewashing” of the upcoming film The Last Airbender.
Q. Regarding the upcoming M. Night Shyamalan vehicle “The Last Airbender,” what do you think about the whitewashing of the production so that all of the original Asian cultural landmarks, architecture, philosophy, and costume design are being retained while they cast white kids to play the main characters?
Arlene C. Harris
A. Wrong. The original series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was highly regarded and popular for three seasons on Nickelodeon. Its fans take it for granted that its heroes are Asian. Why would Paramount and Shyamalan go out of their way to offend these fans? There are many young Asian actors capable of playing the parts.
I posted about this controversy several months ago, and I particularly appreciate Gene Yang’s perspective.
But intentionally or not, they are adding another chapter to Hollywood’s long, sordid history of Yellowface. By giving white actors roles that are so obviously Asian – and by stating from the get-go their preference for Caucasians – they tell Asian-Americans that who we are and how we look make us inherently inadequate for American audiences, even in a movie that celebrates our culture.
Check out this video too. Ugh.