To: Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall
I was very disappointed when I heard the news about the casting for the live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It seems to be very clear that this story takes place in a stylized version of ancient Asia. The characters wear the costumes and practice the customs of ancient Asia, write in Chinese and eat with chopsticks. How did four Caucasians and their families end up there?
Whether the decision to cast this way was artistic or financial, the implicit message you send out with this type of casting is that 1) stories that feature Asian people are not as appealing as those featuring Caucasians 2) Caucasians can play Asians better than Asians can and 3) nobody wants to go into a theater and see movies with Asian faces in it. Even if this is NOT your intent, these are the implicit messages you send out.
And these messages make me feel bad.
I feel bad for every person of Asian descent, who will get the implicit message that even though Asian CULTURE is endlessly fascinating to audiences, Asian PEOPLE are not.
Additionally, I feel bad for a lot of white people and other non-Asian Americans. A majority of them voted a black man into the White House because they wanted change, but now they are being told in so many words that they are narrow-minded and intolerant, and that change is coming no time soon.
I feel bad for every Asian actor, who has surely spent much of his time knocking on doors in Hollywood only to hear, "Sorry, this role was written for a Caucasian, you aren't right for the role." Now, in 2009, he also gets to hear "Sorry, this role was written for an Asian, but we found a Caucasian who was better for the role."
Mostly I feel bad for every Asian child, someone who is surely within the demographic for this film, who will look at this movie and say, "Daddy, look at all the pagodas and Chinese writing and mountains! How come there aren't any Asian people there?"
Perhaps he might be told the "facts" of life: "The people who made this movie believe that if you put Asian people on the movie screen, not many people will want to come."
The kid may ask "why don't many people want to go to movies with Asian people in them?"
"Most of the people in the audience are white, and they only like to see white people, son. Not Asians."
"How come they don't like seeing Asians? I don't mind seeing white people."
"That's just the way it is, son."
"Even all my friends at school and neighbors on our block?"
"I suppose so."
You are successful filmmakers who have earned the right to lead rather than follow.