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M. Night vs. The Internet: The Airbender Mash-up

Compiled by Site Lead Arturo R. García

Recently M. Night Shyamalan, director of The Last Airbender, provided another lengthy response, though not by name, to the concerns raised by the Racebending campaign. While it’s good to read both sides of the story, of course, it’s unfortunate we never got to see the issue discussed in the most fitting manner: a public debate. As an experiment, though, here’s Shyamalan’s comments laid out alongside some notable posts about the film’s casting issues by Q. Le, Gene Luen Yang, Angry Asian Man and Derek Kirk Kim.

Q. Le: Perhaps the greatest offense that the “heroic” characters are portrayed by lily White actors while the “villainous” characters are portrayed dark-skinned Indian actors in lieu of the fact that all the characters have distinctly Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and Inuit characteristics regardless of their “good” or “badness.”

M Night Shyamalan: Well, you caught me. I’m the face of racism. I’m always surprised at the level of misunderstanding, the sensitivities that exist. As an Asian-American, it bothers me when people take all of their passion and rightful indignation about the subject and then misplace it. Here’s the reality: first of all, the Uncle Iroh character is the Yoda character in the movie, and it would be like saying that Yoda was a villain. So he’s Persian.

And Dev Patel is the actual hero of the series, and he’s Indian, OK? The whole point of the movie is that there isn’t any bad or good. The irony is that I’m playing on the exact prejudices that the people who are claiming I’m racist are doing. They immediately assume that everyone with dark skin is a villain. That was an incredibly racist assumption which as it turns out is completely incorrect.

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