Race + Fandom Roundup: M. Night on Airbender, and Tales of Two Amandas

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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The Last Airbender director M. Night Shyamalan finally addressed the controversy over the white-washing of his film’s casting in a recent interview. Without further ado, here’s a few excerpts …
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Here’s the thing. The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It’s intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point. So when we watch Katara, my oldest daughter is literally a photo double of Katara in the cartoon. So that means that Katara is Indian, correct? No that’s just in our house. And her friends who watch it, they see themselves in it. And that’s what’s so beautiful about anime …

I was without an agenda, and just letting it come to the table. Noah [Ringer, who plays Aang] is a photo double from the cartoon. He is spot on. I didn’t know their backgrounds, and to me Noah had a slightly mixed quality to him. So I cast the Airbenders as all mixed-race. So when you see the monks, they are all mixed. And it kind of goes with the nomadic culture and the idea that over the years, all nationalities came together.

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On the casting of the Fire Nation, and Dev Patel as Zuko:

The Fire Nation was the most complicated. I kept switching who was playing Zuko. It was such a complicated and drawn out thing, about practical matters. But the first person that I was considering casting for Zuko was Ecuadorian. So I started thinking that way. Then when that person couldn’t do it, the next person who came in was much more Caucasian. And then we had to switch everything around …

… Dev ended up being my choice for Zuko, and I looked for an Uncle that could be in that realm, for a moment I thought about Ben Kingsley. But Shaun Toub, I just loved him in Iron Man. I thought this takes us into a Mediterranean kind of Arab and Indian world, and I can go as far as that, that will be the breadth of the Fire Nation, that kind of look.

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Stark Raving Bland: The Racialicious Roundtable For FlashForward 1.13

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

When ABC executives reportedly addressed FlashForward’s objectives during its’ extended hiatus, it’s (hopefully) doubtful that one of the network’s missives was, “Y’know what? People need more of Aaron Stark.” So seeing him become a focal point of “Blowback” was a classic example of trying too hard with a character who doesn’t deserve it.

Here you had a character that went from mopey sidekick (and looking mopey compared to Mark Bedford is as impressive as wearing the douchiest Ed Hardy shirt at a UFC show) to, this week, Ex-Marine Hardened Ex-Con Amateur Hacker. What, he’s not a ninja on the weekends? His character isn’t worth a spit in the scope of what should be the show’s driving plot – the GBO and the efforts to find the people behind it before it happens again. His only connection to anything important going on is the chance that his daughter, who exists as nothing more than a plot device for him, has been abducted by those same culprits. And somehow, this suddenly-brilliant tactician records a phone-call that proves his suspicions, if not a bigger conspiracy behind it, yet he neither records the call, nor hands it over to his buddy and his FBI co-workers?

But maybe I’m being too hard on the guy. Let’s see what the Roundtable thinks of his antics. Continue reading