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Jesse McCartney Answers 'The Last Airbender' Casting Criticism

January 31, 2009 04:30:29 GMT

Amidst the casting controversy of 'The Last Airbender', pop idol Jesse McCartney assures fans that he will do his best to fill in the shoes of exiled prince Zuko.


Jesse McCartney
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Photo credit: Bob Charlotte/PR Photos

Following Jackson Rathbone's footstep in addressing fans' criticism over "The Last Airbender" casting, pop singer Jesse McCartney comes to MTV to share his response towards fans' protest of the "all Caucasian" casting. The 21-year-old who is tapped for Prince Zuko part tries to assure hard core fans of the animated TV series that he will do his best to do justice for his character.

"I heard a lot about this online," the singer who fills the voice of Theodore in "Alvin and the Chipmunks" explains. "There's a lot of hard-core fans out there [who] probably know more about it...I'm still learning. This is M. Night's vision and this is what he wants. To all the fans, I can tell you I'm putting my best foot forward." He further adds, "I've been in kung-fu training for the last month and half-learning all the moves. I'm looking forward to it."

The casting controversy came out after reports surfaced that karate-trained Texan Noah Ringer, "Twilight" actor Jackson Rathbone, "Deck the Halls" actress Nicola Peltz and singer Jesse McCartney have been offered the roles of Aang, Sokka, Katara and Zuko respectively. The casting of the four Caucasian actors brought out negative reaction from fans with accusations of racism.

Earlier, Rathbone has responded to the complaints, stating that it is his chance to show his range of acting. Speaking to MTV, he added on what he will need to do for Sokka's transformation, "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."

To be differentiated from James Cameron's "Avatar", "The Last Airbender" has dropped "Avatar" from its title. It tells the story of the successor to a long line of Avatars who must put aside his irresponsible ways and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations. The Paramount Pictures film eyes to hit U.S. theaters on July 2, 2010.

© AceShowbiz.com




Post Your Comments

posted by viankha on Aug 20, 2011
hey im going to ask what is the last airbender casting agen e-mail answer with screen name cast lab answer
posted by viankha jesslyn on Aug 12, 2011
please offer me the roll of taag ilove love love acting. i will fly across the world just to take that roll. my hair is black so im perfect but im not blind my hair is long
posted by Jane on Jul 10, 2010
@yiu The protestors are not calling anyone racist, try not to say they are, it does nothing to further the dialogue. No one seems to understand why M. Night would intentionally anger some fans, when the story takes place in an old ancient times, and their ethnicities are part of the story, what do you expect?
posted by yiu on Jul 04, 2010
Anyone who is defending the racebending of this movie are either dumb, intentionally dumb, or dropped on their head as a baby. Seriously, these people must be racists who relish each and every time hollywood slaps non-white americans in the face. I bet they're upset at all these "uppity" blacks who aren't bowing down to master anymore
posted by jkh on Jul 04, 2010
all the people who think the characters aren't asian even though everything in this asian world are based on real life asian cultures are TOTALLY RIGHT. And on THAT note, lets re-make LOTR with asian-american actors! And let's have asian-american actors play superman, spiderman, iron man and more! After all, they're just fictional characters who don't have a REAL "race", am I right?
posted by Huh on Jul 01, 2010
@dot: Oh wow, you were able able to name three of the actors in the movie that aren't white in a cast of tons of actors. I'm amazed.
posted by dots on May 17, 2010
I forgot how white actors like Dev Patel, Shaun Toub, and Aasif Mandvi are.
posted by Peter on May 02, 2010
I am asking Asians to deface any and all Avatar posters by spray painting RACISTS on them. Also, I heard they are makig a Genghis Kahn movie starring Mickey Rourke. Jews in Hollywood and the media have always been racist towards Asians. Unless Asian Americans take a stand and stomp these assholes out in their tracks, they're going to keep on commiting to their divisive and racist policies against Asians. All it does is minimize Asian Americans who have been in this country for the last 150 years. These racist Hollywood Assholes don't want Asian Americans to be Americanized. It's always been about divide and conquer with them. There are enough starving actors looking for work. Stuff like this is racist and these idiots will keep on doing it unless Asian Americans come togther as a group and threaten them with either physical, fininacial or social consequences. This country has a problem with selective racism. Apparently, it's only racist if something negative is done to blacks, Hispanics, gays or Jews. With Asians, they just don't care.
posted by Mimi on Feb 07, 2010
All the casting is horrible!There should be asian actors especially when it comes to the fire nation people. Native Americans are perfect to play water nation people because of their skin tone. They got it all backwards dark skinned people playing fire nation and white people playing water nation! None of the actors look like the character from the cartoons and where are the Asian actors!
posted by furious on Jan 29, 2010
i hate jesse macCartney but he isnt in the movie now, this movie is sh#t like dragon ball evolution kills goku, I always say aang is the b#stard son of krillin, the new cast is sh#t but nicola peltz is delicious, the original creators and nickelodeon staff isn't working in this movie, I think jesse must work more in his music and don't blame others
posted by ni ni on Jan 13, 2010
i understand the casting issue i don't think it will change or if it do change that would be better. if not , i am not trying to give excuses or not feeling what you are feeling, but atleast the asian martial art and other things that are in the movie, you are getting notice in the USA. it will get better in time.
posted by ana on Jan 13, 2010
i understand this of both sides but it what i think is that they should still find the chracters who look like them play in the movie. no matter what is being said about superman or harry potter that is another excuse. in the movies this is real ancient martial arts which is a part of asian culture the moves in the movie are real. you have to be mindful of other's not what you think can fit the part, because i am not buying that. you have to look an find actors who have the talent to fit the part and who looks like the character.
posted by Jon on Dec 31, 2009
First of all, i love all the people demanding political correctness from a TV to movie adaptation. Sure, this cartoon base their tribes or nations on different cultures, but they are merely BASED in these cultures. This is an American cartoon and i'm not saying everyperson in america is white, but white is the majority in America... it's a fact... get over it. Also, the director in question is Indian. If any of you have ever looked at a federal form that asks the race of the person filling out the form, there is no "indian" selection, there is only asian. And being that India is on the Asian contenent, M. Night is asian... also, get over it. Being that this movie IS NOT the cartoon it is something completely different. This is now M. Night's baby and he will cast whomever he sees fit... also, get over it. It all boils down to everyone clammoring about how politically incorrect this movie is. Again, it's a friggin adaptation of an adaptation. Get over it!
posted by jerry on Jul 29, 2009
To all of you saying he doesn't have enough martial arts experience: It doesn't matter. This is a movie. THEY WILL MAKE IT WORK. It's not like they're going to have a scene where all the actors have to do their very own original fighting routines! Have you ever seen those movies about hard core dancing?! most of the stars in that movie never knew a step of dance before being hired, BUT THAT'S WHY THEY HAVE COACHES. TO HELP THEM LEARN. Also, ever heard of MOVIE MAGIC? or maybe A STUNT DOUBLE? God damn, you're all so dumb and ignorant.
posted by sam on Jul 29, 2009
Everyone here knows that the only reason you're saying this is racist is because the characters are WHITE. If they were an all BLACK cast of originally asian/indian/white/etc. characters, not a soul would say one thing about it. Why? Because all of you ass holes who throw down the race card assume that only WHITES CAN BE RACIST. I'd like to see this whole issue from all of your points of view, but I can't seem to get my head that far up my ass.
posted by Shaolin on Jul 08, 2009
It is true that the cartoon is asian influenced, it is also true anime characters look western, but not all of them. It is also true that martial arts is a huge part of the cartoon, which weighs heavily that this should be an asian cast. I don't care who is casted, although I prefer asians to keep true to the cartoon's scenario, but what I do care about, is TERRIBLE kung fu from Caucasians. 1 month plus a few more in training for a few scenes isn't good enough to satisfy the martial artists taste in how fights are displayed. More often than not, it's the bad technique, and AWFUL form that reveal that they had no real training at all for this role. One can learn martial arts, while another will KNOW it. This movie may as well be as demeaning as the 50's when they casted Caucasians with thier hair pulled back, and fake teeth hanging from thier mouths. How insulting, and then to further it, insult the fact that they could have recruited almost any asian actor, with the HIGH possibilty that they wouldn't need any classes. ~Touche on ruining a good show, and I can't wait til someone remakes it.
posted by Hey123 on Jul 06, 2009
Prince Zuko should've been Jesse McCartney
posted by avatar fan on Jun 29, 2009
Ok, Sokka and Katara are the only ones with blue eyes because they are part of the water tribe, duh, but I do agree with the casting thing, every one looks good so far but they are gonna need darker skin tones, with some make up you should be good
posted by aftiger on Jun 29, 2009
have any of you even watched the show. how many asians have blue eyes? the characters in the tv show are more white looking then asian.
posted by Little Ms. Sunshine on Jun 28, 2009
As a minority in America I am extremely disappointed in the cast for this movie. It is almost like casting the "Wiz" with an all european cast. How dare Paromount forget that this is an Asian heritage cartoon and to white wash it only displays the lack of respect for culture. I will not send my students, children, or recommend this movie to friends with the current cast. I hope that the director and Paromount rethink this cast because the cartoon has a dedicated fan base that enjoys the theme of the cartoon,the characters, and their Ethnicity /culture.
posted by Jude on Apr 29, 2009
First of all I just like to say that M. Night Shyamalan is probably one of the worse directors in the business no better than Uwe Boll, though I like Uwe Boll more since heís not nearly as pretentious and far more eccentric. The first comment is directed to Jordi. Iím just curious how you determined that ALL the characters arenít Asian? There were many characters that look quite Asian while others look Caucasian but if you had an understanding of Japanese Anime, which this series is heavily influenced by, then youíd know how a person looks is by no means an indication of their race. A lot of Japanese characters in Anime have very Caucasian features; so if I were you Jordi I would probably avoid making comments like ďall the characters arenít really Asian.Ē It just makes you look stupid. Secondly the reason why so many people are up in arms is that Hollywood is genuinely underrepresented by Asians so when a movie comes along that can provide Asian American actors an opportunity they find that not a single role was available. I can understand their confusion and anger. While I canít say that their exclusion was deliberate, it is hard to believe that Shyamalan couldnít find a single Asian American actor to fill one role in a movie that is heavily influenced by Asian cultures. The infusion of that element is what makes this series unique and itís more than just a ďbackgroundĒ as Jordi would like to prevaricate. Itís literally the soul of TV series. It can take place in another world replete with a culture that is unmistakably western, but it wouldnít be Avatar as we know it. Itíd be something completely different. Itís not necessarily that the race of a role canít be reversed or changed but people donít truly realized that aside from white people the only other minority group to feature prominently in Hollywood are African Americans. Theyíve managed to become a part of mainstream culture in a sense. But after James Shigeta last starred in a movie Asians were regulated to background or insignificant roles. Knowing the history of Asian Americans in Hollywood Iím not particularly surprised by the casting of this film, though generally Hollywood is far more sagacious in their approach and would have at least hired one or two Asian actors to backup the main cast. On a side note, after watching ďThe Good EarthĒ decades ago, I can say that I would rather prefer that Hollywood change the characters to Caucasians rather than seeing Caucasians pretend to be Asians. So yes it was a shame that Mr. Shyamalan didnít cast a single Asian actor. After all the movie is in a sense a form of cultural appropriation and Iím sure a lot of Asian Americans would have been glad to see someone who embodies their culture play a role, but that is how Hollywood operates. It shouldnít surprise anyone that Hollywood puts profits before anything else. Asians have to speak a little bit louder and fight a little bit harder for better roles. It seems to me that Asian Americans have been taking it all these years scraping by a little bit at a time until someone throws them a bone, like they way they did for John Cho. Iím glad to see some outrage came out of this anime. One can argue that there are or arenít racism in Hollywood. They would be both valid because Hollywood isnít a homogenized blob, but rather a collection of people. There are more than enough directors and producers who would be more than amiable to having more Asian American actors portray ever more diverse roles; Asian Americans just have to learn to speak louder and go for them.
posted by sensenrox30 on Apr 16, 2009
WOW CHILL THE FUCK OUT JESSE IS THE PERFECT ROLE REASONS TO COME. HE IS AN AMAZING ACTOR NO DOUBT. ALSO AS HE SAID HE IS LEARNING AND PUTTING HIS HEART AND SOUL INTO IT. DONT MAKE ASSUMPTIONSON SOMETHING THAT HASNT YET BEEN SEEN. JESSE IS WHITE OK SO. WHAT YOU WANT THE DIRECTOR TO BE LIKE UM NO SORRY ALL YOU GREAT ACTORS BUT I NEED ASIANS. ITS THE STORYLINE THA COUNTS NOT THE LOOKS. ACTING IS A BIG DEFINITE, JESSE IS NOT JUST GREAT BUT HE IS INSPIRING. I BLEIEVE JESSE CAN DO IT, AND IM A HARDCORE PERSON. WHITE OIR ASIAN IF THEY DROP JESSE THIER LOSS, WITH NOTHING TO GAIN. ALSO PATEL FOR THE PRINCE THATS DISGUSTING, THIER ON CRACK.
posted by Jordi on Mar 21, 2009
If you think about it, all the characters aren't really asian. Yes, their culture is based off of the asian culture, but if momory serves me correctly their are only four elements which drive and divide this created world. In asian culture there is five elements, not including Aeather (which Aanga's power as the Avatar is based off). This was a westerised cartoon, regardless of the asian inspired background.
posted by Alex445 on Feb 03, 2009
I think it is funny to see some white kid (Jesse) saying oh it is ok for me to take this role and play it asian because it is the director's vision. If it was the directors vision for him to play blackface I bet he would do it.
posted by Red on Feb 02, 2009
Thinking... NO producer/director/casting agency, etc. in today's Hollywood and in their RIGHT MIND, would outright ADMIT that race was the deciding factor on whether or not someone got a role in a film. Their career would be over in a heartbeat and they'd get hammered by the ACLU six ways to Sunday. Do you really think high-ups in Hollywood would ADMIT that they believe that white actors/actresses are 'more marketable' than non-white actors and so hire white actors because they don't believe the audience can relate to a black, Asian or hispanic hero?
posted by Observer on Feb 02, 2009
Thinking, you need to start thinking. I've told you once they made a point in the casting call for the leads to prioritize "Caucasian" as a preference. If you don't believe me or think I'm making assumptions, Derek Kirk Kim has a rundown on his blog.
posted by Liv on Feb 02, 2009
Yellow and Brown face is extremely offensive. Justify it all you want but it is what it is. I won't spend any money on something I find highly offensive.
posted by Thinking on Feb 02, 2009
To Observer, Red and others: I can get behind you on Hollywood casting pop actors for box office reasons and not having the courage to stick to the original story. I just can't buy that the color of a persons skin is the deciding factor on whether they are appropriate for the role or not. Nor can I abide the term "white washing" or any racist derogatory term planted on a person or situation unless the person(director/producer) admits that they based their decisions on skin color rather than merit. I don't think this is the case here. On a related point I would be very upset if they lost the culture of the original story by changing the clothing, heritage or setting. I would also demand that if an actor is playing a character who is Asian or other PoC then you attempt to look as much part of that culture as possible if you are not actually of that ethnicity yourself. If makeup, a tan or whatever makes you look more a part of the world in which you are acting then so be it.... tastefully...with integrity.
posted by Thinking on Feb 02, 2009
To Red: I made no such comparison. I compared the time frame of the STORY to who played the character in "Wild Wild West" pointing out that a black federal marshal is unlikely in that time. Obviously even by the title it wasn't set in the 1960s but in the old west 1850s. I made no allusion to the series or the time frame of its production or of any social leaning of the 60s. To come to the conclusion that my argument is invalid because there was a tv show in the 60s and the 60s weren't particularly great for casting PoCs in roles is patently absurd!
posted by Livvy on Feb 01, 2009
M. Night is free to cast whom ever he wants. I know I a 'hard core fan' (which seems to be what Jessie labels actual fans of the show) will NOT spend a dime on watching this movie. This movie had potential but now is white washed,with a side of brown face from the twilight kid. I'm not even bothering any more.
posted by ayashe on Feb 01, 2009
It wasn't the white part for me, it was the part about casting people who's acting skills are questionable, and who know absolutely nothing about the parts they're undertaking. Okay, I know nothing about the Twilight guy, so I'm willing to give him a chance, but Jesse McCartney proved what how little he knew about the role on a radio show. It was ridiculous. The one thing I could see him good at is the whiny voice when Zuko is being - whiny. I love Night, but ...??? here.
posted by grimley on Feb 01, 2009
They really should have gone with an all asian cast to reflect the cultural influences of the source material. White people with Eastern backgrounds and clothing will give the movie a contradictory feel that will make it feel like an American sell out. 3 Ninjas anyone? They should take a cue from the Potter films and stick close to the CREATORS VISION.
posted by Observer on Feb 01, 2009
Wild Wild West was a parody of the original show that tried to mine Smith's racial anachronism for comedy. And poorly at that among other glaring problems with the film. Of course, it flopped badly. And there's the rub. Context is the key. In the same way the Blazing Saddles works. It's improbable that a town in the old West would accept a Black sheriff. But that's the point and the root of the comedy in the film. Likewise, Tropic Thunder has Robert Downy Jr. in black face for the specific purpose of mocking the situation that we have with Avatar. The sense of entitlement that has the Hollywood establishment believing that just dropping in a white actor and slapping on makeup is good enough just for the sake of getting a "name" into the film. Sorry, no one is saying white people aren't good enough to play these roles but it's clear that their intent was to whitewash the lead roles and relegate all people of color to the background. Which is shameful in a story, fantasy or not, that is comprised of a diverse group of Asians.
posted by Red on Feb 01, 2009
To Annie995: Any attempt to make the characters 'look Asian' will be regarded as Yellowface, which is just as bad as Blackface. And I can guarantee you; MANY people will be VERY offended if they did that and the ACLU will definitely have something to say about that. To Thinking: While it's true that many roles have crossed racial boundaries, this is, by means no one of those instances. This is about trying to cash in on two teen idol stars. In any case, the Will Smith comparison is simply a strawman argument; the Wild, Wild West movie was based off the TV series from the 1960's, a time when VERY few doors to the entertainment world were open to PoC and the Civil Rights movement was in full swing. You are trying to draw comparisons when there are NONE. To NOT cast any Asian Americans as the leads into a decidedly ASIAN-BASED fantasy world? It's NOT 'speculation' that they took on McCartney and Rathburn because of their popularity with young girl's. Rathburn just finished 'Twilight' and Jesse McCartney is a teen Idol. They were BOTH flown in for try-outs, which show special preference and displays that they had every intention of hiring these two. This is how Hollywood operates. It's naive to think that Hollywood cares about racial equality; they care about money and the rate things are headed now, they won't stand to make much off of this. People are threatening to boycott this and there are other groups getting involved, too. I strongly encourage you to look at Derek Kirk Kim's blog regarding this. Also to look up what happened with the live-action movie version of Ursula K. LeGuin's popular novel 'Wizard of Earthsea.' She was furious and rightly so when they cast her lead character, described as Native-American in the books, as white.
posted by Thinking on Feb 01, 2009
To Observer: I would agree with you if it was only that roles written for PoCs were cast white as you suggest. This is not true. There are many examples of roles that have crossed racial boundaries in both directions and even crossed between asian/black, latino/asien, latino/white, etc. I find it hypocritical that everyone is up in arms over this but did anyone complain when Will Smith was given the role of a gun toting federal marshal in "The Wild Wild West"? Did you march on Hollywood? Despite the fact that historically it would be a virtual impossibility that a black man could be a federal marshal in the time frame of the movie we suspended disbelief because race or skin color wasn't at the core of the movie. He acted the role of a federal marshal and he's a good actor. He's a popular actor who brings in the box office. I'm sure all these were taken into account when he was cast. I just can't buy into the bias that its only unfair if a role originally written for a PoC is taken by a white person and that seems to be what people are saying. That is, only someone of asian decent can present this culture sufficiently in even this purely fantasy movie. I find that prejudicial and possibly bigoted if motivated solely by skin color.
posted by Observer on Feb 01, 2009
Thinking: Wouldn't the best way to preserve a presentation of culture be to use people of that culture first? Why is it that time and time again, it's acceptable for people of color to be substituted in roles that were designed for them? It's the wrong headed idea that defaulting to White actors to access some kind of unattainable skill, ability or talent that is necessary that's the problem. If you think they went out of their way to find Asians to fill the roles of the leads, you've never been to southern California, where the industry is based, and they clearly went out of their way to not look.
posted by Observer on Feb 01, 2009
The production's preferecnce for White actors was made clear in their original request for leads. They never had any intention of casting Asians in the lead of a story about Asians. For whatever reason or intention this is patently racist.
posted by Annie995 on Feb 01, 2009
I am a huge fan of the avatar series, and I personnally feel jesse has the rite attitude for prince zuko who has been banished from his home by his cruel and critical father, ozai. zuko's character is sweet and caring although this is not shown until the third season, I feel Jesse will make a perfect Zuko except he will need to grow his hair longer which may actually suit him. I am not sure about the casting of Jackson rathbone and nicola peltz but I am sure jesse will make a good zuko. I understand that people are considering the casting to be racial as the doesn't have a Asian ethnicity but hey I am Asian and I feel that if the actors are not racsist we as an audience should give them a chance. But I am sure the movie will meet upto the standards that are expected and sure a little bit of make-up will transform nicola, jesse doesn't need a transformation except for the hair and a bit of tanning will fix Jackson right up. So people don't get offended this is just my opinion as I feel mccartney is a suberb actor and singer!
posted by julibelle3 on Feb 01, 2009
To respond to JP: Yes, it matters to me. Harry Potter is British and well described...find someone who at least reasonably matches that description. Superman is a big white guy. Stick to the story, don't cast Bruce Lee. Robert de Niro is a fine actor, but please don't cast him as Malcolm X. I understand that sometimes people want to put a new spin on an old theme and have the Rock play Superman, but The Last Airbender is new. It clearly has many Asian themes. Stick with that. And for god's sake...it's not like they had some brilliant 17 year Leo DiCaprio on their hands...it's friggin' Jesse McCartney.
posted by hannah on Feb 01, 2009
I distictly remember Shyamalan saying that we was going to look for unknowns, well noah ringer is definately unknown but jesse mcCartney and jackson rathbone, they are very famous!
posted by juliebelle3 on Feb 01, 2009
I am an adult who recently ( and quite surprisingly) watched the entire series on DVD over a course of several days with my husband. I loved it. I am heartbroken that so little care went into casting the film. There is absolutely no excuse for casting the lead roles with not only white actors, but , not particularly talented actors at that! ( I am white , by the way). I have to say that casting Jesse McCartney as Zuko has to one to one of the decades worst episodes of miscasting! What a shame...for heaven's sake, it's like casting Harry Potter with a Jonas Brother. Thank god that film's team thought to cast an unknown British boy who could act! I am saddened by the thought that the Last Airbender will tank...except with the 11 year old girl audience.
posted by Thinking on Feb 01, 2009
To Red: Finally a well thought out and cogent argument. If the casting of this movie was as you state to "cash in" or because white teeny-boppers are "more marketable" then shame on them for not having the courage to risk the failure of their movie in pursuit of the almighty dollar. However, your argument is speculation on the minds and motives of the producers and as such how can I comment? I will simply state that we don't know everything they went through to choose these people. Maybe they tried many different actors including many PoCs and when they got to Rathbone they just saw something and said "That's Sokka!" And I will state again what I said before: I always prefer that when adapting a project it is adapted as closely as possible to the original with the caveat that things may need to be changed to fit the medium. Clearly if the intent is that Sokka, Ang, Zuko, et al will no longer be presented in such a way that it honors the culture of the people in the story then I would be upset. I just don't narrow my view down to only someone with the correct skin color can so honor that culture.
posted by jvolk on Feb 01, 2009
Im not sure what is so hard to understand here. Not every thing is about race. Maybe the actors that were chosen were the best the could find or the best there were.... And I know here is a thought... they just all happened to be white..since that is the Majority population in the United States.
posted by Confused on Jan 31, 2009
What's with the assumption that only "hard core" fans will have a problem with a white actor in yellowface?
posted by Observer on Jan 31, 2009
If they were trying to get the best person to embody the character, why did the casting notices ask primarily for "Caucasian" actors for all the leads in a story where they are all Asian and then fallback to Asian and other people of color for the extras? And if you think Jesse McCrtney thinking he can pass for Asian by half way learning kung-fu some how puts him on the level of James Earl Jone and Denzel Washington, you've got a screw loose.
posted by Red on Jan 31, 2009
To Fiji and Thinking: That's assuming that ALL avenues in the search for Asian-American actors and actresses was exhausted. Which I DOUBT, as the casting call sheet put's Caucasian specifically before other ethnicity. McCartney and Rathbone were picked because they're teeny-bopper heartthrobs and the studio thinks they can cash in on this by casting them in these roles. Basic common sense would dictate that, as Avatar is set in an Asian-based world, then the leads should be Asian-American, Native American and/or Inuit. But because Hollywood thinks that white actors are 'more marketable' they cast them into roles even though those roles are specifically set for PoC. Hollywood has marginalized Asian-American actors for YEARS. Look what happened to 'Wizard of Earthsea' when it was made into a live movie. Ursula K. LeGuin was OUTRAGED that the character that she described as Native American in her books was made white for the film. Neil Gaiman won't sell the rights to his book 'Anansi Boy's' because every studio he went to wanted to cast the lead characters, who are black, as white. Derek Kirk Kim, who works in the comic industry, talks about his experiences in acting and voices his feelings on the whitewashing of Avatar on his blog. He has begun a petition made of names from people who work in the industry who are also outraged by this total disregard for the artistic integrity for such a beloved series.
posted by MNIGHT PLEASE RETIRE on Jan 31, 2009
oh god rathbone is going to try and "change" himself for the role... one thing comes to mind...Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder...oh and by the way that doesnt know. but apparently there are no asian actors in the state of california.
posted by Fiji on Jan 31, 2009
Such long comments. It's their choice who they cast. Why can't people just except that they were the best they could find and not try to make a scandal out of it? Maybe we"ll love the movie? Loads of people didn't want Robert Pattinson and now tenn girls around the world are smitten.
posted by Sylvie on Jan 31, 2009
My baby sister loves Avatar and we're Bangladeshi. I hate how often I have to explain inherent cultural racism such as this casting mistake. Avatar (the cartoon) made me happy because it treated people like us like people, instead of "ethnicities". At its most innocuous casting white kids in brown kids' roles shows little kids like my sister that "white" is "pretty." Mr McCartney, don't take peoples' anger personally. They're angry at a system you have not experienced, and it doesn't have to do with your skills as an actor.
posted by Thinking on Jan 31, 2009
To JP: Absolutely not a problem! If we can have a black President we can have a black Superman or Harry Potter. Obama's ethnicity does not effect his ability to be a president, nor would a black actor effect the story of Superman. However, I would have a problem when the ethnicity is a core issue in a project or story. For instance, if they cast a white actor to play MLK, Jr then it would be a travesty. Ethnicity must be preserved if ethnicity is the core of the story. Clearly this is not the case with Airbender. The only ethnicity or racial differences ever acknowledged in the show were between Air, Water, Fire and Earth nations, ttbomk. No mention of color that I know of.
posted by JP on Jan 31, 2009
I just want to ask those who support this, what would be your response if the cast were African American... let's stretch it, what if Harry Potter or Superman were played by an Asian or black actor, would the ethnicity matter then?
posted by Thinking on Jan 31, 2009
To Observer: Firstly, the casting call for principal actors made no mention of race or color. So your statement is simply false. Only the open call for secondary and extras mentioned any ethnicity. Secondly, if you will re-read my previous comment you will see that I was making no direct comparison between "level" of actor of Jesse McCartney and James Earl Jones or any other quality of those persons. I simply was making the point that the color of ones skin does not dictate what role they can or cannot play. To suggest otherwise is the very definition of a bigot. I'm sure any right thinking person would agree with me on this narrow point. I hope that the issue here is not one of skin color. The issue is one of culture. Regardless of who plays the role the issue of the culture and mystery of the series is in question. For a movie such as this the director, writer and producers will set the tone and not the actors. Lets hope they keep the culture and richness of the original story alive.
posted by sidbrown210 on Jan 31, 2009
Shocking! Just absolutely shocking that the creators would allow such a bastardization of their story without protest. Can we please view culture through something else other than a "white" prism? Sorry for the oxymoron. If Shaymalan allows this he'll be laughed at. I'm already laughing at the fact the main actor says he's "half-learning" moves. Is it that difficult to be authentic? Or is it that producers are afraid that this would be dubbed an "asian movie"? I thought Hollywood was growing up. Why is there seem to be such a need to demonstrate that "white" actors can "do the ethnic stuff too" (Last Dance, Step Up 1 & 2, etc.)?
posted by Thinking on Jan 31, 2009
I disagree. I prefer that adaptations should follow as close to the original intent and imagining of that which is being adapted. However, this kind of casting is very common and for good reason. You attempt to cast the actor who can best embody and portray the character in what counts, the core of who they are, and not what color skin they happen to have. Furthermore this happens all the time in *both* directions. If you think there are not numerous examples of actors of color portraying characters that were originally written as white, then you are deluded.(Denzel Washington and James Earl Jones, two of my favorite actors come to mind) And I'd like to add that if you didn't get angry, blog and complain in those cases, I don't believe you have the right to be incensed in this case.
posted by Chris S on Jan 31, 2009
The casting director and producers need to re-evaluate his/her/their strategy for this movie. The simple fact is that alienating the Avatar fan base by ignoring the fact that the show's mythology was decisively Asian in origin is totally counterintuitive to the intention of creating a movie that will sell at the box office. For my part, there seems to be two apparent goals to the creation of a film based on a TV series with such a strong fan/cult following: (1) sell tickets to the audience of the show, (2) create a film that accurately represents the series itself. It is asinine to ignore these goals by casting a controversial, all-white cast: the show's audience will dismiss the film for its incongruence, and the film will be far from an accurate representation of the series. Certainly, a film adaptions of a TV series does not need to be exact, but why ignore the Asian roots of the show completely: the casting directory has not selected a Caucasian actor for a single character, but the entire lead cast. I will be disappointed to see this film get released, flounder, and fail, only to find it two years after its box office release in the mark-down DVD bin at my local movie rental establishment. I wonder what the strategy is behind upsetting the only audience base that would make this movie a success. I would implore the production team to take a hard look at the relationship between the all-white cast and the goal of the movie's success.
posted by Vina on Jan 30, 2009
MIND. Ack.
posted by Vina on Jan 30, 2009
If Shyamalan thinks he can get away with blatantly whitewashing one of the most popular kids' cartoons of the last decade without repercussions, he is out of his goddamned mine.

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