Adaptation Controversy: AVATAR’s THE LAST AIRBENDER

Hi everyone,

this will be a short post, because I hope that you all read the article that I will link below. I’m not sure if you are aware of the controversy surrounding the movie THE LAST AIRBENDER. (Note: the movie Prince of Persia came under the same criticism not too long ago)

THE LAST AIRBENDER is an adaptation of a popular animated television series called AVATAR which was broadcast on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons Network. The series heavily borrows elements of traditional Asian cultures. The casting of the main characters drew the ire of several people over the world–yes, because the original series is just that popular–especially in Asia and Northern America, with some putting together videos, and several others writing about what is seen as a tiring case of hegemonic cultural pattern (aka racebending) when it comes to Hollywood’s take of stories featuring or set in a non-Western culture. Because it has become a matter of “fair equal opportunity for all”, several will boycott the movie.

Before moving further with this topic, I personally think that the situation has improved a little bit; not saying it’s enough (for my taste), but I have reasons to believe it will continue to improve (I have faith in the people getting together and actually doing something about it). I’m thinking of Disney’s the Princess and the Frog, Mulan, the latest Karate Kid (the title stirs another debate, but what an enjoyable movie)… However The Last Airbender has me shake my head once again (a setback) and raises a number of questions, best expressed in this article by Q. Le. Here’s an extract of the article:
“Though I’m not a particular fan of the show (nor do I dislike it) and am simply neutral overall, I feel that it is necessary to state for several reasons why I will not support this movie for professional, philosophical and personal reasons. ”
What follows is a thorough explanation and exploration of the positive and negative aspects of that issue. I command the author for his/her extensive research.

Courtesy of Q. Le’s page, here’s a picture of the original cast and the one in the movie.

So the same old question rises again:
o Does race matter?
o One of the excuses given by Night Shyamalan, the movie director, is that the story is set in a fictional world. Okay. Does race matter?
o The original work was geared toward children. So is the movie, for the most part. Does race matter?

Edited 07/01/2010: Tarie, thank you for bringing Q. Le’s article to my attention!