A few days after the Superbowl, Paramount released the extended trailer of The Last Airbender movie.
Interspersed between the action-filled scenes previously seen in the Superbowl spot, audiences get their first chance to hear the Water Tribe siblings, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) speak:
We also got our first glimpse of Princess Yue (Seychelle Gabriel) from the Northern Water Tribe. Gabriel is thought to be the “actress of Italian, French, and Mexican heritage” described in Paramount’s letter to MANAA. On her personal site, Gabriel self-identifies as “White/Caucasian.”
The original Princess Yue and Sokka
As always, the contrast between the original characters and the selected Caucasian actors is striking. Paramount went to great lengths to deliberately exclude Americans of color from their principal casting, using performers of genuine Inuit and Asian descent for “authentic” window-dressing as extras and villains.
The result is another in a long line of whitewashed films, generated systematically by an industry that refuses to believe in Americans of color – and that justifies itself by pointing to the fact that their legacy has worked, since long before the end of segregation.
Because white actors have always been successful in the past, white actors should always be used in the future. Actors of color are assumed to be the risky choice and rarely given the chance to prove otherwise.
Racebending.com supporters also spotted something new on Aang’s back:
Noah Ringer’s Tattoo in The Last Airbender (enhanced contrast)
The original Airbender tattoos follow the flow of chi in the body – the creators have stated that this is why the tattoos glow when Aang is in the avatar state. The film tattoos have been heavily modified to separate it from this Eastern influence.
Director M. Night Shyamalan has cited the original series’ Buddhist, Hindu, and Asian influences as one of the attractive features of The Last Airbender project:
I loved the characters in the story and I felt like I could be me inside this larger canvas of this very long-form movie [...] Cultural differences at the center. It has Buddhism, Hinduism, things I’m interested in.”
-M. Night Shyamalan, June 2008
I love martial arts and the Japanese culture. This particular piece has an intensely spiritual Buddhist substory that I really dug.”
-M. Night Shyamalan, April 2008
Despite such statements, could these alterations mean that he has chosen to incorporate more Christian imagery into the story?
We will see if these changes are part of new analogies between the role of the Avatar and that of more Western religious figures.
I’ve had enough movies now that I know that it’s really about the consistency and the integrity of the work. There will be some that have huge successes box-office wise and some lesser, but the consistency of being honest to myself as an artist, the integrity is felt by the audience.
You can feel it when somebody is chasing the audience or sold out in some way when they did something they didn’t 100-percent believe in.”
-M. Night Shyamalan, June 2008