Friday, July 2, 2010

this makes me sad

"Stars don’t just happen out of thin air, Hollywood helps make them. This was an opportunity to give the chance to some Asian kids to become stars for the future generation and we missed it."
-Dante Basco, voice actor for Zuko in the original cartoon (read his entire thoughts HERE).
I rarely like to call out others on "racefail" as I think it is an extremely difficult and tricky thing with many layers which is easy to be guilty of (especially for creators). Honestly, I've been guilty of it myself.

And, honestly, I don't actually think M. Night is a racist (in fact I really hesitate to call anyone that, like I said I think racism is tricky thing). In a way, I'm just jumping on this racist label bandwagon because it calls attention to the whole thing. Because people have argued that it's a fantasy, that why would the characters have to be Asian? It's anime which has "ambiguous facial features." That is true and I agree. Just like Dorothy, who didn't need to be white when I wanted to play her in 5th grade, these characters don't have to be Asian.

But it really would've been nice.

There are so few opportunities for Asians to be seen in the media, to be stars--this was such an obvious one. The Last Airbender's mythology is based in Asian tradition...when Asians can't even play lead roles in movies where the content is based on their heritage, it's a shame. It's an opportunity wasted.

Boycott or not boycott? Well, I was on the fence but hearing that the movie was really bad, anyway, pushed me over. If I do see the movie, it might be one of the few times I consider doing the illegal and watch a pirated download. Because the movie industry isn't racist either. They only see the color green and not paying seems to be the only way to make them listen. If this movie succeeds, it's easy for the studio to interpret that Asian stars are not needed or wanted. Because, while no one "owes us" to put Asians in movies, it seems like not paying is the only way to show them we want to be in them. To say, Hey, we're over here! We exist and we want to be seen too!

But, it makes me sad.


Deva Fagan said...

It makes me sad too. I'm not seeing it in the theater myself -- instead, we're rewatching the fantastic original series. Thanks for the link to Dante Basco's blog too, it was interesting to read his thoughts.

yamster said...

The original series is indeed wonderful, and I, too, am sad that this movie is not doing it justice. My sister considered going to a casting call for extras (apparently the filmmakers wanted to fill the background with "real" Asians) but decided not to when she received a notice saying that attendees should dress in the costume of their culture, "e.g. Koreans should wear kimonos." Oops.

Andrea and/or Jeff said...

It makes me sad for the lost opportunity, but mostly it makes me angry and frustrated. I'm sure it makes a difference that I only heard about Airbender because of this controversy. I'd heard about the controversy, along with the pathetic call for Koreans in kimonos, back at the time they were casting. Makes all their attempts now to say it is just about "generic" (read "white") people seem pretty transparent. I said on Facebook that it is racism, and I truly believe it is. It buys into and reinforces all the stereotypes about Asians not being "right" somehow to carry a mainstream movie. And for the record, I'm a white girl myself. But my daughter is Asian, and so are lots of my friends, and darn it, lots of them are Latino or Black too -- and I just want all of us to live in a world where people of all races can be action heroes, and romantic leads, and maybe villains and sidekicks, too, but not just villains and sidekicks. Apparently we aren't there yet. Sigh.

Grace Lin said...

that is weird about the kimonos! I heard that the movie is actually doing okay, which is a little disheartening. But maybe it does at least prove to hollywood that asian culture is of interest to the masses...just make the next step, please!