It’s not a good week for fantasy films. First the announcement that, in all likelihood, Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, American Pie) will direct New Moon–now it’s possible that Jesse McCartney will star in M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action film adaptation of Nickolodeon’s anime-esque series Avatar: The Last Airbender. McCartney’s potential role is Prince Zuko, and it’s such an inappropriate casting choice for many reasons. First of all, Zuko is probably the most interesting character in the series: driven and vengeful, his bad guy/good guy fluctuations give the story of the three-season series much of its arc. “Interesting” and “Jesse McCartney” do not belong in the same sentence together.

Second, Zuko (as well as most of the other characters in Avatar) is pretty clearly Asian. Avatar‘s creators are white American guys, but the series is set in an Asian world–and its Korean animators apparently contributed a lot to the show’s plot and characters. Yet, from the casting decisions that have been revealed thus far, Shymalan seems to be striving for an entirely blonde, blue-eyed cast. Great. Can’t wait to see them do martial arts.


  1. For the still young, pursuing a career in casting seems to be a pretty healthy choice as there is apparently no real competition. Add to the Last Airbender bit, the apparent casting (a.k.a. colossal miscasting) of Shia LaBeouf as Yorick Brown in the upcoming Y: The Last Man.

    This kind of casting fiasco is the butt of many jokes, but particularly this comic:

    The Danes last blog post..20081119.ChurchLies

  2. Carissa, are you suggesting that white people can’t do martial arts? Have we forgotten Chuck Norris so quickly?

    But seriously, look up the live action Dragon Ball movie for something truly horrifying.

  3. @Alan: It did kind of sound like that’s what I was saying, didn’t it? I just meant the overwhelmingly white cast is jarring with the Asian visual motifs and philosophy (well, Westernized version of Asian philosophy) of Avatar. But for all I know, Shyamalan may be jettisoning all of that anyway.

    You know what? I should write a post on the Avatar series sometime, because the way they use Eastern religions/philosophies is interesting–I think they do it in a way that isn’t as spiritually dangerous to kids as a lot of the New-Agey shows of my youth may have been. Avatar‘s definitely not Christian, but it’s not pushing a specific alternative belief system either. Anyway, more on that later . . .

  4. Carissa,

    I was just picking on you. Obviously it’s disturbing whenever directors take a story which is so embedded in a specific culture/race and make all the characters white to appeal to American audiences. The Dragon Ball movie features a very white Goku. Makes me wanna punch someone, frankly. Or at least busta kamaha maha (sp?) on them.

    That Avatar post sounds like a great idea, especially if you follow the show and have some insight! Do it!

  5. If anyone is interested, Korean indie-comic creator Derek Kirk Kim (one of my favs) posted a big deal on Avatar’s casting choices. You can pick up the link in this link, an article from The Beat that contains lively and helpful discussion of the difficulties both facing Asian American actors and standing in the way of the Caucasian as an obstacle to seeing race as others do.

    The Danes last blog post..20081119.ChurchLies

  6. That’s pretty cool. I’m reminded that I *can* write a letter to the studio, in addition to publicly complaining and lamenting. I know 21 got some critiques last spring for casting white actors in Asian American roles . . . but the issue didn’t seem to get the wide and lasting attention it deserved. At least Avatar has a pretty rabid fan base that studios might actually listen to.

  7. WHEEEEEE!!!!! Not exactly the part of Asia I was imagining, but oh well. At least Dev Patel is a good actor. Now can we arrange “scheduling conflicts” for the rest of the non-Asian cast?

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