Monday, January 26, 2009

It's the hot topic

Yes, over at Cartoonbrew, they seem determined to whip up a bit of contraversy over Avatar's casting of white people, devoting two posts in a row to the subject.

Being honest, I don't know all that much about the show but a quick Google image search reveals the main characters in Airbender to have blue eyes. And Wikipedia tells me "The show drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture". That's a pretty broad area.

It also tells me that it's "set in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and element manipulation".

Why is it that it is impossible for Asia to be brought up in a western cartoon without martial arts? It is impossible. Just does not happen. According to western cartoons, the only reason for the existence of any Asian country, of which there are many and each one being different to the other, is to showcase Kung bloody Fu.

Seems to me this entire show is built on a stereotype. So why get your knickers in a twist when the casting follows more the blue eyes of the characters than the vague amalgamation of Asian cultures?


Toole said...

I'm sure if they cast asians it won't be a mediocre piece of shit movie based on a shit TV show conceived to imitate a fad of imported shit TV shows.

Andy Latham said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one irritated by Cartoonbrew's stirring. As you say, the TV show wasn't exactly a great Asian depiction, so the film shouldn't be causing such a big problem.

Do any shows get made in the far east that depict the western world? If so, I wonder what their view of us is.

Humphrey Erm said...

Interesting question you asked there Andy. I have personally always wondered if there is a Vietnamese Vietnam war movie, and how it would be portrayed :)

Regarding the post: Well, I'm sort of biased here since I really love the show, and just want to see a movie get made. My main point about any anime and anime influenced show is that they don't look like asians to begin with. Those large wide eyes are more akin to western eyes, so if its about getting the actors to look like the cartoon characters, then white actors are better of.

Besides, don't we just have to take a look at other movies that don't use the right race to play the parts? Most recently Valkyrie and The Boy with the Striped Pajamas? An American Scientologist portraying a German army officer and British cast playing a bunch of Germans... Isn't that the same thing?

Red Pill Junkie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Red Pill Junkie said...

It is a complicated issue. I for instance would never be considered to play a role in a 'Latino' movie because my skin is not that tanned... and a 6' 4" Mexican is something of a rarity ;-)

Back in the old days of Hollywood, it was fine for someone like John Wayne to portray Genghis Khan, because Hollywood actors were 99% Caucasian.

But surely in the year of 2009 this is not the case anymore. So if a character of a particular ethnic group is portrayed by an actor of a different country/"race", that actor must be a damn good one to begin with—Exhibit "A"= Ben Kingsley as Gandhi.

Alas, most of the time the casting of a movie is determined not by the talent of the actors, but how much $$$ will they bring to the box office determined on their current popularity—Exhibit "B"= Antonio Banderas as Pancho Villa... even though Villa was of Spanish descent, which would bring me to a very lengthy argument on whether 'race' is still a valid term in the age of genome decoding when Science has proven no one has a 100% pure lineage...

Personally I don't care much for Avatar; but it seems an above-par TV production who relies heavily on Asian imagery—generic obviously, but this is not a Nat Geo documentary, it's a work of fiction.

Still, I think that the casting should prove that the actors picked are very good ones so their performance is believable; either that or they should explain why, in an age when there's no shortage of good Asian actors, they decided to hire white ones.

Anonymous said...

Some questions regarding your personal feelings in regard to animation:

What would be your dream project? / If you have already done what you believe to be your dream project - tell us about that.

What kind of project do you dread? / What has been your least favourite project in your career?

Obviously there are some things you probably can't legally talk about, but I just want to get an idea of what it is that gets you through each working day.

See? We can make this a sometimes lesson blog.