I just wanted to say a great big THANK YOU to all the professionals who put their good names down on the petition to protest the discriminatory casting of The Last Airbender. There were over 125 professionals from all across the arts and entertainment fields who pledged to boycott this movie unless the casting of the lead characters were properly rectified. I just wanted to let all the supporters know that the petition was mailed out early last week.
If you need a reminder as to why this fight is worth fighting, simply take a look at this. When viewed in one gulp like this, it's just overwhelming and terribly disturbing. Asians have been constantly maligned and forcibly excluded from the screen--and thus from the fabric of America--since the beginning of cinema to this very day. This Airbender casting is just further insurance that it never ends. Whether you signed a petition, wrote in a letter, or just made your disappointment known publicly, thank you for doing your small part to fight this.
I want to end this with this fantastic YouTube video from Chris Rock in celebration of Black History Month, starting from 4:36:
Chris Rock, I could kiss you. He so succinctly and pointedly gets to the heart of the inequality at work here. One of the most prevalent defense of the white lead casting of The Last Airbender is the "they just found the most talented actors, race doesn't matter/it's just as racist to exclude white actors" argument. The saddest part is I've actually heard this argument from Asian Americans who don't see the greater picture of equality. When Chris Rock says, "True equality is the equality to suck like the white man," he really shines a light on the misdirection in that line of thinking. Rock continues, "When I watch the Oscars--okay, these are the people that made the good movies. What about the people that made the bad movies? That's most of the industry. I wanna be like that! Not that I want to be bad, but that I wanna have the license to be bad."
White roles go to white actors who are phenomenal, mediocre, and shitty without condition. Why shouldn't that be the case for Asian actors going after roles of Asian characters? The argument that only extraordinary Asians should be allowed to be on the screen is completely unfair and, if you're Asian yourself making this argument, self-defeating. When they go to cast "Rob Roy," are they really trying to find the most talented actor? No, they are trying to find the most talented white actor. As it should be--that role is for a white Anglo-Saxon character. As such, a role for an Asian character like that in Avatar MUST go to an Asian actor, even if the best one they can find is simply mediocre. (You know, like a million kids' movies like "The Chronicles of Narnia" starring mediocre white actors.) Or else we don't have true equality.
This kind of exclusion also makes it very difficult for that phenomenal Asian American actor to emerge. Were the first 10 white actors in cinema history the best white actors ever? Well, then you can't have those kind of expectations of Asian Americans either. We need to be able to grow too. Just pointing fingers at some mediocre Asian American actors that are around today when there are so few opportunities for Asian Americans to begin with doesn't mean anything. Maybe if every one of those leading roles that should have gone to an Asian American in that first link actually had gone to one, maybe we would have had that great actor by now! You can't find gold if you're not even allowed to dig or approach the river.
(I'm not saying there aren't great Asian American actors already. Just pointing this out to the people who don't like the current crop.)
Thank you again to all the supporters and human beings of simple empathy out there!