Guy Aoki from Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) isn’t going to stay silent about the way he feels Asian actors have been given short shrift in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. (One plays a villain and some are in supporting roles, but there’s not the visibility you’d expect.)
Says Aoki: “It’s based on ‘Avatar,’ the TV show, where all of the characters were Asian or Inuit. It was popular with a lot of children and their parents and for once gave Asian Americans their own heroes.
“For the film, the casting directors sent out notices with a stated preference for white people, which is what they ended up with–four white stars–until one of them dropped out.
“Dev Patel now plays the bad guy leading a nation of brown people against the good guy white nations. It sends the message that Asians can’t be the heroes in their own story.
“Unfortunately, even Shyamalan, who’s Asian American himself, has fallen for the cynical assumption that whites will not pay money to see Asian Americans starring in a film.”
One might have more sympathy for this kind of colorblind casting if Asians were more often given parts that weren’t written as Asian. But it seems like only whites get that kind of privilege.