m. night shymalan talks last airbender and "diversity"

By now, you've heard about the casting controversy surrounding The Last Airbender, the live action fantasy adventure movie based on the hit Nickelodeon animated series. At this point, the movie is well on its way to being finished, and Airbender fans must to come to grips with the sad truth: your favorite Asian heroes are going to be played by white people.

But up to now, we haven't really heard anything from director M. Night Shyamalan about the casting controversy. Here, in this interview with UGO, he breaks the silence, calling the film "the most culturally diverse tent-pole movie ever made in Hollywood": M. Night Shyamalan on Racial Diversity in The Last Airbender. Yeah, I have a hard time believing that too.

M. Night Shyamalan: There you go. Well, it is the most culturally diverse tent-pole movie ever made. And I'm proud of it. It's part of what drew me to the material, to see the faces of our whole world in this new world. And only time will assuage everyone and give them peace. Maybe they didn't see the faces that they wanted to see but, overall, it is more than they could have expected. We’re in the tent and it looks like the U.N. in there.
He makes the argument that Avatar: The Last Airbender's anime-inspired style makes the characters' features ambiguous -- "a mix of all features" -- and thus, the roles can be filled by people of any ethnicity (as long as all the people from the same nation sort of resemble each other. Or something.

Honestly, I don't buy it, and I definitely don't see "the faces of our world" represented in this casting. Did I read that right? He actually says that the "diverse" casting of the film is "more than [fans] could have expected"? Wait, so Shyamalan actually thinks this exceeds what fans were expecting? That makes me laugh. And then cry a little.

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) has responded to the director's comments on their blog: M. Night Shyamalan misses the point. And of course, be sure to check Racebending.com, which has spearheaded the fan movement speaking out against The Last Airbender controversy. Man, I am so dreading the release of this movie.

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