UGO has released the first look at The Last Airbender movie’s Super Bowl ad.
The Super Bowl spot reminds us of what the movie could have meant. A large budget film portraying heroes of color in a positive light.
Instead, it shows the continuing Hollywood tradition of whitewashing – which is itself a direct descendant of practices of blackface and yellowface. The bottom-line is that this production, from the very first casting call, worked to marginalize and exclude performers of color.
There is a persistent myth and belief that actors of color cannot carry films. This bias has been apparent for decades, since the era of Charlie Chan – the most popular film character of the 1930s, based on an actual Asian American police officer… played by a Caucasian actor in yellowface:
For the Charlie Chan films and television series, the main actor had to be white.
The performers of color – people of genuinely Asian descent – could make appearances as family members or other background extras. That was then and this…
Eighty years later and still people of color are only allowed in the background. An entire tribe populated using extras from Greenland – a nation that is almost 90% of Inuit heritage – is championed by two Caucasians.
Again and again, Caucasian performers are deemed the “most capable” to portray stories about people of color – even if the casting directors have to rig in favor of Caucasian applicants. This is not an isolated incident – whitewashing is the industry standard, whether a film is based on Asian-inspired fantasy or actual Asian Americans.
From 21 to The Prince of Persia, Fu Manchu to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, faces of color are denied the opportunity to portray even their own people, their own history, their own unique part of the American cultural landscape.
At least Hollywood stopped taping their eyes back.
…in this film, anyway.
Educate yourself about yellowface and whitewashing.
Take action to help Hollywood learn that Americans are ready for films about people of color and performed by people of color.
Boycott The Last Airbender.