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Take Action: Write Film Critics About Discrimination in "The Last Airbender"

June 18, 2010

With The Last Airbender set for release on July 1st, we want to ensure that film critics are aware of how the film discriminated against actors of color.

This is especially important since very few 2010 summer movies will star any actors of color. We’re asking you – our supporters – to write your local film critics, journalists, and newspapers. A short email with a few sentences can make all the difference.

Movie critics may not be aware of the cultural background of the characters in the animated series. They also may not be aware that their readers are upset seeing actors of color restricted to background and villainous roles. This is your chance to encourage people who will review the film to recognize that in the animated series, the characters were people of color, and that actors of color are continually discriminated against in Hollywood.

Support the cause in three easy steps!

Step One: Draft an Email

This shouldn’t be very long. You can do this in a matter of minutes! A few sentences will do.

Please respect the film critic’s time–short emails are more effective. Keep your email under 150 to 200 words.

Suggested formatting might be:

Salutation: Dear Mr./Ms. ______,

Sentence One: A sentence describing yourself, your relationship with the newspaper, and your background. My name is Jane Doe, I am an Asian American business woman and mother from northern California and a subscriber / reader of the San Francisco Times.)

Sentence Two: Explain why you’re writing the email as related to Airbender. I’m concerned about the film The Last Airbender and representation of people of color in Hollywood. Even though the characters in the original series were depicted as from an Asian background, the film cast white actors to play the heroes and only cast actors of color in background and bad guy roles.

Sentence Three: Explain why this upsets you and you are protesting. I can’t think of a single movie featuring an Asian American or Native American actor that has come out recently/this reminds me of yellowface // It sends the message to kids that only people who are white can be heroes and main characters // Paramount has a really bad diversity track record, etc.

Sentence Four: Your call to action for the person you are writing. Please consider mentioning the casting discrimination in your review of the movie // I wanted you to know about his before going into the movie // please encourage your readers to learn more about this issue, etc.

The letter should encourage the journalist to explore the issues surrounding the film. Most journalists and critics want to be balanced and inclusive of different viewpoints and sources in their reviews. Be friendly and share your opinion in a clear and helpful manner.

Step Two: Figure Out Who You Want to Write

We recommend that you visit the website of your local newspaper. If you don’t know your local newspapers, you can try this database. Read some of the entertainment and film review articles from the newspaper and determine the name of the person you would like to contact.

Racebending.com supporters have compiled a list of potential journalist contacts. (see below!)

Most websites for your newspaper will have a “contact us” form. Others will provide an email for each journalist. (eg: the format for the Los Angeles Times is firstname.lastname@latimes.com) If you can’t find the right person to contact or you have to submit through a generic form, you can always write a general letter to the editor or “ATTN: Entertainment Editor”

Step Three: Send the Email!

Fire off that email! That’s it!

If you’d like, you can BCC (blind-carbon-copy) mike@racebending.com. This is optional, but will help us track what critics are being contacted!

Thanks so much for writing journalists and critics, and be sure to update us if a film critic you wrote to gets in touch with you or talks about the issues surrounding the casting.

List of Critics

  • National Public Radio, submit a story idea: http://www.npr.org/about/pitch/story.html
  • TIME Magazine
  • Southern California
  • Northern California
    • Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee: Rbentley@fresnobee.com
    • The San Francisco Chronicle
      • Mick LaSalle, Senior Critic: mlasalle@sfchronicle.com
      • Peter Hartlaub, Pop Culture Critic: phartlaub@sfchronicle.com
  • Other West
    • Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com
    • Rick Chatenever, Maui News: scene@mauinews.com
  • Midwest
    • Tom Long, Detroit News: tlong@detnews.com
    • Detroit Film Critics Society: http://detroitfilmcritics.com/Page_2.php
    • Howie Movshovitz, Colorado Public Radio & Denver Post: hmovshovitz@cs.com
    • Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: mjphillips@tribune.com
    • Colin Convert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: ccovert@startribune.com
  • East Coast
    • The Washington Post
      • Ann Hornaday: hornadaya@washpost.com
      • Michael O’Sullivan: osullivanm@washpost.com
      • Rachel Saslow: saslowr@washpost.com
      • Jen Chaney: jen.chaney@wpost.com
      • Sarah Kaufman: kaufmans@washpost.com
    • Wall Street Journal
      • Javier Espinoza, Wall Street Journal: javier.espinoza@wsj.com
      • Joe Morgenstern: joe.morgenstern@wsj.com
    • Boston Globe
      • Ty Burr, Boston Globe: tburr@globe.com
      • Wesley Morris, Boston Globe: wmorris@globe.com
    • Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: rmoore@orlandosentinel.com
    • Mal Vincent, The Virginian Pilot: mal.vincent@pilotonline.com
    • Jeanette Krebs, Pennsylvania Patriot News: jkrebs@patriot-news.com
  • Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News: harry@aintitcool.com

Let us know if you’d like us to add a critic to the list!

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About the Author

Marissa Lee is one of the co-founders of Racebending.com

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