Why We’re Here
- What is racebending.com?
- What is THE LAST AIRBENDER?
- What was the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender about?
- Why are you angry about the cast for The Last Airbender?
- But I heard Dev Patel is now playing a lead role. Isn’t this good?
- How do the creators feel about the movie?
- Why are you protesting the live-action movie?
- Casting is over. Why are you still protesting?
- How are you protesting?
Hollywood: whitewashing and yellowface
- What is yellowface?
- What is white-washing??
- What does this have to do with The Last Airbender??
- How can a casting call be biased against people of colour?
FAQ Part Two: Racebending 101!
Do you have an argument to support the all-white hero leads? Please read the Racebending 101 FAQ first, because your argument might already be answered. Each and every one of these questions were arguments made by real, actual people who defended the casting. No, we did not make any of these arguments up; we didn’t need to.
racebending.com is an information site for the protest against Paramount Pictures’ upcoming live-action movie THE LAST AIRBENDER. This website intends to provide information about why we’re protesting and how you can help.
THE LAST AIRBENDER is a live-action, children’s movie that is currently in production. It is produced by Paramount Pictures and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and it’s due for theatrical release in mid-2010. The movie is based off the popular Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender is an Emmy award-winning American animated television series that aired on Nickelodeon. The series was created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Avatar is set in an Asian-influenced world, and drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, Inuit and Western culture, making it a mixture of what were previously traditionally separate categories of anime and US domestic cartoons.
The Avatar: The Last Airbender world is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation, each with four distinct cultures.
In early December 2008, the four lead roles for THE LAST AIRBENDER movie was released. The actors cast as the main four characters were all white. This upset many fans for many reasons:
- Because the world is supposed to be Asian-based…but Hollywood has deemed that only white actors can populate it.
- Because Nation that was clearly Inuit-based are now white-washed as Caucasians
- Because according to the actors and creators of the movie, ethnicity is just a white person with a tan and some make-up.
- Because it is cultural appropriation (ie, Market research tells us that Asian things are cool! Just not the actual Asian people)
- Because this is a children’s film and children are being shown that only white heroes can exist in a fantasy world.
In February 2009, Dev Patel replaced Jesse McCartney in the role of anti-hero Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. While we applaud Dev Patel’s acting abilities, this is still problematic because:
- We’re now presented with a world in which a race of dark-skinned South Asians are the genocidal villains, who oppress and destroy the peace-loving white heroes.
- Zuko only learns the error of his ways from three white heroes.
- The original dark-skinned characters was the heroic Water Tribe. The movie has white-washed the entire tribe so that now all of the righteous heroes are white and the tyrannical villains are brown.
Brian Konieztko and Mike DiMartino have offered no comment about the movie. Please note -
FACT: The creators do not have anything to do with the casting.
Brian Konieztko has explicitly stated on his MySpace account: “I have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CASTING WHATSOEVER for the feature film.”
FACT: People who worked on the show, like Sifu Kisu, had to sign NDAs.
Sifu Kisu was the martial arts consultant of the animated series (and the inspiration for the character Master Piandao). He comments on questions of The Last Airbender casting on the Kung Fu Magazine message boards. People who worked on the animated series have all signed non-disclosure agreements and therefore are not allowed to speak about it.
FACT: East West Players, founded by Mako and whose membership includes actors who worked on the show, submitted a letter of concern to Paramount.
One of EWP’s founders and emeritus artistic directors: the late Makoto “Mako” Iwamatsu–the voice of Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender. One of the EWP’s current members is Dante Basco, voice actor of the character Zuko. You can read their letter to Paramount here.
Fans were tired of this cycle of discrimination in a long, long history of Hollywood’s tendency to discriminate. The majority of fantasy worlds utilize Caucasians as the default (heroic) race and, where Avatar: The Last Airbender chose to be different, the live-action movie shows otherwise.Since THE LAST AIRBENDER is meant to be a children’s movie, fans with children were appalled that a new generation will again be learning that cultural appropriation is okay and that only white characters can be heroes in a fantasy world.
We protest because we don’t believe in complacency. Hollywood’s discrimination has been happening for decades. It’s happening right now in The Last Airbender, and it will happen again. If people say nothing and accept Hollywood’s status quo, it’s only natural that studio executives feel that their audience only wants to see white protagonist leads. Discrimination does not go away until people speak up. The best way to speak out against studios is with the media and with your wallet.
Our goal is to spread awareness and encourage people to talk about white-washing and yellowface and why it’s not right.
All of our methods are listed HERE.
We encourage everyone to use word of mouth to spread the word.
Thank you for getting involved! Feel free to contact us at:
We have learned through this process that sometimes one person is all it takes. It only took one
person to protest a casting call in Philadelphia; it only took one person to contact MANAA, and they
paid attention; it only took one person to start the letter-writing campaign. You are important to us
and to the cause!
For more information on ways to support and help, check our info on how to get involved.
Yellowface, at its core, is not only the practice of applying prosthetics or paint to simulate a
crude idea of what “Asians” look like; it is non-Asian bodies (usually white) controlling what it
means to be Asian on screen and stage, particularly in lead/major roles.
White-washing is the practice of taking a character or race from the source material and purposely
recasting the characters with white actors. Due to the lack of racial representation in lead and
heroic roles in Hollywood films and television shows, this practice is generally insulting both the
source material and the audience.
For a clear example of Hollywood white-washing, read Ursula LeGuin’s account
of A White-Washed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books.
In an interview with mtv.com, actor Jackson Rathbone said that in order to play the Inuit-based character Sokka, he’ll ‘definitely need a tan’. In addition, many people think that in order to play the two Inuit-based heroes, the actors just need some make-up to colour their skin. We ask: why not just cast actors who actually fit the race and ethnicity of darker skin?
Ultimately, Paramount Pictures intends to cast the nations according to their main actors. This means that both the Water Tribe (which is originally Inuit-based) and the Air Nomads (originally Tibetan-based) will be recast as all-white nations. This is clearly a case of white-washing.
It’s all in the coded language of the casting sheet. When THE LAST AIRBENDER released its casting sheet for the four lead characters, they specifically asked for actors of “Caucasian, or any other ethnicity”. Conversely, all subsequent casting sheets for extras, non-speaking and background characters ask for cultural and ethnic people, even specifying non-white nationalities in the most recent casting calls. Please read The Language of Casting for more information.
Hollywood has a history of reserving lead protagonists roles for white actors. According to the research done by the Geena Davis Institute: 85.5% of the characters in G-rated films are white, 4.8% are black, and 9.7% are from “other” ethnicities. No differences emerged by character gender.
This is a powerful statistic that shows just how much Hollywood has insured that children grow up believe Caucasian is the norm, while other races fall into the sidekick, extras or villain categories. The Last Airbender is proving to be no different.