M. Night Shyamalan has drawn fire for his casting decisions regarding his upcoming film, The Last Airbender. While most directors get crap over whether they casted a particular actor or not, Shyamalan is being questioned for his decision to cast white actors in roles that are clearly not white in the source material, the anime Avatar: The Last Airbender. Speaking with io9, Shyamalan finally addressed the controversy:
Here’s the thing. The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It’s intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point. So when we watch Katara, my oldest daughter is literally a photo double of Katara in the cartoon. So that means that Katara is Indian, correct? No that’s just in our house. And her friends who watch it, they see themselves in it. And that’s what’s so beautiful about anime.
Hit the jump for a more in-depth explanation by Shyamalan. The Last Airbender hits theaters on July 2nd.
Speaking with UGO on the race issue, here’s what Shyamalan had to say:
There you go. Well, it is the most culturally diverse tent-pole movie ever made. And I’m proud of it. It’s part of what drew me to the material, to see the faces of our whole world in this new world. And only time will assuage everyone and give them peace. Maybe they didn’t see the faces that they wanted to see but, overall, it is more than they could have expected. We’re in the tent and it looks like the U.N. in there.
He explains that in the second movie (unwise to count un-hatched chickens…), we’ll see more of the Earth Bending Nation, which is Asian but has a community within that that is African-American.
While I highly encourage you to read Shyamalan’s interview at io9 (where he goes into all aspects of the production, not just the race issue), his argument seems to break down like this:
1) I tried to give each nation a racial identity
2) I had to give that identity based on the actors I got-I cast these actors based on the quality of their performance and then tried to balance the racial identity of their nation from there.
3) The sequels will prove that I made an ethnically diverse world.
I’m not sure whether or not this explanation will satisfy fans of the anime or not, but it’s worth reading what he has to say on the issue.