A Controversy to Blow you Away

M. Night Shyamalan has decided to cast white actors in the main roles of the upcoming motion picture based on the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. The problem: Avatar featured an Asian world with Asian characters, including Aang, the titular character, and his friends Sokka and Katara.

Some people are pissed, pointing to other instances of whitewashing. There’s a letter writing campaign and a Facebook group.

Bingo anyone?

So now what?  I’m tired of reading the LJ drama aroudn all of this; but here’s what I was going to post about this somewhere else:

I dig on the Airbender;  it’s clever and funny.  It’s not as smart as Phineas and Firb but what is on Saturday mornings?  All that said, I don’t get this outrage at all.

Not a bit.

I’m not from North America, I come from a culture that is as old as any other, but I don’t “get” when people (who are predominantly not a member of my cultural group) both co-opt and defend my group.  It’s my culture guys, if I want to defend it, let me handle the heavy lifting.

I can’t speak for the billions of Asians, no way, but I can speak for me and let me simply state what the outraged seem to fail to grasp, there is a vital and vibrant Asian film production market, Asians get to churn out all shades of asian movies all the time.  If an Asian film maker wants to make a movie that resembles the Airbender story (let’s face it, it’s REALLY generic) with an all Thai cast (for example) then so be it.

In this case a Malay person is at the reigns (for the most part) and has cast some box office candy in the roles.  This outrage really smacks of Otaku-Fanism, as if sharing your toy with the unwashed masses will somehow dilute the experience.  I’m not grasping how this is Racist at all, it might be a bit desperate or money grubbing, but Racist?  Please.

Me, I don’t know if I will pay to see a movie adaption of Avatar, why bother, right?  The cartoons are out there for me to watch with the kids if I want.  Why waste cash on what is bound to dilute the experience by virtue of not being the source material.

The last movie I saw that really expanded upon and made the source material pop was Trainspotting, so I don’t think any adaption cum money grab is going to shake any trees.

If you are REALLY outraged, vote with your feet and just avoid the damn thing.

I (for one) will be disappointed if they do recast the roles that have already been set; I’d hate to lose a job over my ethnicity,  wouldn’t you?  That kind of sums it up right there, in some way there are people out there so obsessed with their own ethnicity that it allows them to attempt to victimize others (en-masse) to somehow promote and protect that ethnicity.  Imagine if there had already been a full cast of Asians in place and the reverse was now true?  A bunch of European fans get together and form groups around demands for Caucasian actors in the roles of the title character and the blind girl (along with most of the people in the snow kingdom)  then what?

In the end; the source material stands and the movie will be the movie.  If you feel that strongly about the movie’s cast, by all means, feel strongly about it, but why impose your beliefs upon the general public?  Avatar isn’t some cultural phenomenon like “Kung-Fu” it’s a somewhat well known Nick cartoon, the general public isn’t down with it, so it doesn’t have a cultural cache to pull from, it’s got a studio, some creative types and a need to make money.  If we (as the general public) could have our dreams casts in our favourite movies Pierce Brosnan would have been bond right after Roger Moore and the Next Doctor might have been Joanna Lumley (or Rowan Atkinson)  but we don’t get our dreams. Do we?

Fight on you crazy stars, it’s your right to complain about casting choices, but damn if I wish that the racism card wouldn’t be tossed around so quickly, and this is coming from a guy who actually profiles racists on his blog.  I know that the last qualifier reads like “I can’t possibly be racist” which is the furthest from the truth, I totally can be racist and catch myself being so.  It’s one of those human failings that we should recognise in ourselves.

The whole discussion of “I don’t see people like me on the screen” argument blows me away.  Seriously.  Outside of imported TV, I don’t see anyone like me on TV either, and when I do see someone like me on North American TV or Movies, they are buffoons (without fail).  So What? Should I bitch about it and keep a blog of how offensive it is?  OR have I learned one of the big lessons about life that some folks still need to learn, the prevailing culture of North America is a melange of cultures that end up in a stew or milieu that doesn’t actually reflect society instead it distorts society for it’s own entertainment, which the majority seems to like.  Case Closed.

As for “I can’t Be Ang if Ang isn’t Asian on screen” what?  How did you kill that kid’s imagination?  Is it drugs?  Seriously, that kid is having trouble seperating themselves from cartoons as fantasy.

Short Story: Lights Out Part 7

The gravel stopped crunching and Patrick thought, for a moment, that he was alone on the roof.  The flopping monsters that had poured from the door had been dispatched like his former partner and he had pitched the majority into the flaming street below; crossing himself when he could for whatever passed for souls in their grotesque corpses.

Jacks corpse had stood again, stretched and began to lope at Patrick again, his face an obscene smile with mouth agape and askew.

“Jack, shit.” Patrick ran towards his partner and kicked hm in the chest, toppling the bloody thing over the side of the roof and sailing to the street below.

The roof was quiet and empty of danger now, Patrick walked with all due care to the roof door and looked down the staircase for any evidence of more monsters waiting in the dark.  Finding none he turned his radio on and called out for the chief.

“Chief, it’s 13.  I’m 5 by 5 here.”

“Pat?  Good.  We’ve just shut the tenants on 25 in the security office, join me in the main stairwell.”

“Got ya Chief.  13 coming in”

Patrick Farrel had never once killed a man in anger; not in the line of duty either.  His tour in Iraq had been a relativley short one, with a leg injury getting him an early reprieve from the desert.  Security work paid a bit better and couldn’t normally involve much actual fighting.  The busiest days for Patrick had been chasing kids out of the stairwell after sneaking in after-hours.  He hadn’t known Jack long enough for his death to really hurt, but the fight had left him like the long-termers at the VA, lost in the moment, staring into the distance for the next encounter.

He met the guys from Unit 11 as they trotted towards the main stairwell doors, they were smiling and chatting about the tenants.

“Did you see what they were doing in the one office?  I think they were trying to film their own little porno in there or something… hey Pat.  What the fuck was going on up top?”  Patrick knew the smaller one; Henry “Hank” Jacobs.  Young, former cop, fired for some kind of harassment issue.

“Yeah, they were naked, all of them, one dude had a camera and they were in a pile in the middle of the office, like 20 people all getting it on!” The bigger one had just kept on about the discovery in the office.  Patrick just walked on to the door and knocked.  Chief Pendegrass opened up and held the door for the Security Guards to walk out.  He gave Patrick as much space as possible, given the gore that coated his uniform.

“Chief, we got some shit up here like you wouldn’t believe.  Fucking Zombies or some shit.  I fought about 6 of them, Jack included.  I pitched them off of the roof as they came at me, I fucking shot two of them in the chest and they got right up, Jack too.” Patrick found his tongue and wouldn’t let go “Chief, Man. They kept on coming, like they was gonna tear me up like Jack.  I hadda kill them.”

Patrick could feel himself losing it.  He caught himself and led the walk down to the 24rth and down,  sealing the doors as he went.  He described the whole fight to the Chief, who remained quiet and offered no judgment or comment.  When they had finished the sweep to the ground floor, Patrick had told his story a few times and the guys from Unit 11 had simply gone silent and stopped meeting Patrick’s eyes.

Chief Pendegrass put his hand on PAtrick’s should and led him to the Security offices and offered him a seat and a drink.

“Pat, I believe you.  I’ve looked outside, I can hear that stuff out there.  Something has happened to Saint Paul and I’m not clear as to what.  There were two suns out there today, things have changed in a big way.  Find yourself a clean set of clothes and dump that shit you’re wearing in a bag, tie it off and dump it deep in a dumpster or down the chute.  Go nowhere alone and keep your radio on from now on.”  The Chief stood up to his full height and looked deep in thought.

Patrick got up, went to his locker and stripped off his gore covered clothes, dumping them like requested.  He cleaned himself up as best he could in the showers and found a new uniform and some of the tactical gear the other guys had on.  When he caught his face in the mirror, he was sure that it was still him looking out, but there was a small strangeness in his eyes, like when he first stepped off of the plane at Rammstein in Germany.  He had been through something and come back broken.