Last week, Spin Master Toys unveiled a new line of ‘The Last Airbender’ toys, including a version of the Katara action figure fans have always wanted.
In the past, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender rallied for a Katara action figure. In 2006 and 2007, over two thousand fans challenged Mattel’s assumption that there is no market for action figures of female characters. Mattel responded by announcing that a Katara figure would be released, but ceased making any Avatar toys before it happened.
Spin Master Toys, not Mattel, will be making the toys for the movie adaptation. There still seems to be a lack of faith that a female action figure will sell, in that Katara will only be released in the second ‘wave’ of toys. She is also the only female figure that was unveiled.
While some fans will be happy to see a female character unveiled at least, supporters of Racebending.com have expressed disappointment because an action figure from the show would have been a rare toy featuring a character of color, while the movie figurine of Katara is white.
The change in the character ethnicities is even more apparent in the new movie Sokka action figure.
Most of the action figures seemed to have suffered further discoloration, with Zuko’s action figure sporting lightened skin and Aang’s skin appearing jaundiced.
The role toys play in the reinforcement of Colorism is a valid concern. Historically, researchers have used dolls and toys in the famous Clark Doll Experiment to explore how children see race and whether or not they internalize racism.
And parents have long been concerned about the lack of multicultural representation in the toys their kids play with. According to the online store Dolls Like Me.com, a UB Multicultural Marketing & Advertising firm study they commissioned found that 82% of African American parents, 74% of Latino parents, and 50% of Asian parents feel is important for children of color to have dolls that look like them.
In 2000, Asian American parents successfully lobbied Mattel to produce an Asian American “Barbie for President” to be included alongside Caucasian, Latino, and African American Barbie for Presidents.
2008 Barbie for President – Asian American
When the first set of Avatar:The Last Airbender action figures were revealed in 2006, they were some of the only toys featuring ethnically Asian and Inuit people available in toy stores.