Monday, February 9, 2009

Distinctive, Not Separated

(images courtesy of and also to

Sorry if this is a bit off-topic in regards to the posts below (they're great! They shouldn't be ignored just because this long rant pushed it down...). The story’s been hanging around for a long while now, but I feel like I should speak up on behalf of the issue as well, after floundering around and getting more uneasy on the subject.

There are many things that take a turn for the better, but also for the worst. So is the case with Hollywood. Sometimes, they might take a bad to average story, and turn it into a remarkable epic, but there are also times when they take a magnificent story and world and turn it into a plot-mush with missing storylines and maybe even some storylines that didn’t exist before.

But isn’t that something that should be expected? Movies were made to provide entertainment, but for the production company, they’re also made to bring in big bucks. Unfortunately, it can get a bit desperate. Every time that they bring a story or idea—that’s not heavily recognized by wide audiences, but that are more directed towards a specific audience—to the big screen, they’re taking quite a risk. Of course, that’s why they have large promotions and advertisements for the movie, but if they can’t get people to come and pay $8 to watch it, it’s a dead shot.

So, they decide to cast big-name actors. Surely everyone would come and watch their favorite celebrity, because they just know that he/she is going to make any movie great, right? Haha...ha.

It just doesn’t work. No matter how many household names you put into a movie, if the roles don’t fit correctly, it just fails. But what is especially annoying is when a movie is completely demoralizing a tale, and morphing it into an artificial money gobbler.

I could be talking about Eragon, but no, that’s not what I’m trying to focus on (even though I do have things to say about how they demolished the book, but that’s something else). My main point right now is The Last Airbender. Viewers of Nickolodeon are sure to recognize Avatar: The Last Airbender, an American “anime” of sorts, that centralizes around a Asian-styled fictional world where a struggle of balance upon four elemental nations sets the story. I’m not quite an avid Nickolodeon viewer, but I am an avid channel surfer. A couple years back, I was surfing, diving, and paddling through channels, and that’s how I stumbled upon Avatar. I’ve been a fan ever since, and probably always will be.

And yes, if you’ve been following this article, you would know what they’re planning for it—they’re turning this magnificent show into a movie. “Here it goes again…” is an expected thought. As with every story-turned-movie, it’s highly probable that it’s not going to be as stunning as the original, but at least it’d be decent…hopefully? Nope, no, nada. Here comes Tom Sawyer with his whitewash...too bad he couldn’t stick to fences.

In exchange for taking the story of Avatar and turning it into a movie, they decide to surprise the fanbase with HUZZAH four Caucasian actors in the lead roles (well, now it’s reduced to three), namely: Jackson Rathbone [from Twilight], Nicola Peltz, Noah Ringer (no actual visible picture of him as arisen yet, but still plausible), and Jesse McCartney (who backed out due to “schedule problems”…or so they say. He’s been replaced by Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire). “Um…and what’s so bad about that?” Let’s see…the entire world of Avatar is Asian-based, Asian-styled, and Asian-themed. Four major forms of martial arts are presented. Settings throughout the series depict Asian cultural monuments, items, and details. Chinese-language characters are frequently shown on scrolls, artwork, and other props. I think the big picture has gotten clear.

Yes, yes, I know that this is just how the big, bad movie industry goes. That’s the way of life in the world of Hollywood. But on a deeper level, this morally affects many people, both by Asians who feel betrayed and by the huge fanbase following (which includes me). There are so many Asian actors and actresses out there, who are struggling to find a chance in this industry. Not just actors and actresses, but talented ones. But for some reason, they just don’t seem to get a breakthrough. This issue further exposes this struggle. The Last Airbender is a massive opportunity for Asian actors to show what they’ve got. Almost every character in the Avatar world is Asian and Inuit (this excludes what they physically look like—this is based on their actual character). But instead, they decide to cast trendy actors in the lead roles, in the hopes of bringing in an audience (which is a highly probable theory). But you know what? They’ve got that completely erroneous. Instead, they should try to bring in the audience that is already loyal to the series: the fanbase, which may I say, is giant. Not the hot-guy-obsessed-fangirl, NO.

This has been circulating for weeks and months now. Of course, I’m not the first to speak up on this subject. Take a look at Saving the World With Postage, a blog on LiveJournal that’s been in the process of a letter-sending campaign to stop Paramount in its tracks and to make them reconsider their decisions. Has it been successful? Well, the casting of Dev Patel and the removal of Jesse McCartney—*cough* emphasis on "due to schedule problems"—is highly suspicious. But it’s still a step into bringing some righteousness to the ordeal.

And to quote Vagabond Sal:
“What does this casting choice say to me, the angry Asian man? It says that every time somebody speaks more slowly and loudly to me because they assume that English isn't my first tongue, they're right to do so, because I'm not normal….It says that every time somebody asks me to translate a random set of pictographic characters for them, they're right to do so, because I know ancient Asian secrets. It says that when Rosie O'Donnell said that Asian people talk in alternating tones of ching chong ching chong, she wasn't being offensive, because we really do all sound like that.”

I’ve had my say.

-the clam.

Note: Racial issues and opinions regarding them are highly debatable and controversial. I am not encouraging the act of racism, but I am only expressing my thoughts and beliefs on how it should be correctly interpreted.

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