ez (chungguksaram) wrote,

on the Avatar controversy (also: omg public post!)

i know i run the risk of sounding like a total nerd here, but hear me out. if you didn't know, there's a controversy concerning the casting of white actors in the upcoming live-action version of the nickelodeon cartoon avatar. specifically, jackson rathbone, cast as sokka, is getting the most flack for supposedly saying that, with a tan, he will look more asian. for the full quote, see here:


first i will say, from what it looks like to me, his quote is taken largely out of context. not once does he say the word "asian". for all we know, he could mean, "i'll need a tan to look more like sokka," because sokka is (surprise) tan.

semantics aside, this is my major beef with this whole controversy: since when are the characters in avatar identified as asian? yes, the series contains elements of chinese mythology and hindu philosophy (as the very title "avatar" suggests). yes, it is animated in a vaguely japanese anime style. does that mean the characters are de facto asian? apparently so.

let's take a moment here. the series was created by non-asian americans. it's written by non-asian americans. it's voice acted by non-asian americans. the characters don't even look asian, for the most part (this is, of course, taking for granted the already problematic assumption that there's a specific asian "look", but that's another issue). most importantly: it doesn't take place in the real world.

that's right, it's a fantasy. they don't inhabit the real world, so why do they have to prescribe to real ethnicities? the lord of the rings was a fantasy, too--it took place in the nonexistent middle earth, and was filmed in new zealand. does that mean they needed to cast new zealander actors? no. why? because the characters weren't new zealanders and it didn't take place in new zealand.

it's the same fucking thing here. the characters aren't asian and it doesn't take place in asia. sure, they're filming in asia, and the cartoon is influenced by elements of various asian cultures, but the world in which avatar actually takes place is not asia by any stretch of the imagination, nor are these characters asian. rather, their "asianness" is being read into them by the popular media, probably in order to create scandal out of something completely unscandalous.

i mean, honestly. if anything, those characters look inuit.

this is apparently what asians look like.

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