dev patel as zuko in avatar movie

No freaking way. Variety reports that Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel has joined the cast of M. Night Shyamalan's live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. You know, that movie that's got a lot of people angry over its white-washed casting.

Patel will star as Zuko, a member of the Fire Nation... and apparently the only the significant person of color in the four nations: Shyamalan cast floats on 'Air.' It was formerly announced that Jesse McCartney would play this role. I guess this is a change for the better? Perhaps the producers think it gives us less reason to complain.

While I like Dev Patel (based on the one role I've seen him in), this hardly changes things. M. Night claims he's had his eye on Patel for a long time... but doesn't this sound suspiciously like an afterthought? They first filled all these principal roles with pretty white folks, then suddenly got wind that maybe fans weren't so happy about that. So they get the South Asian dude to play the villain!

What the hell is M. Night Shyamalan doing? Could it be that with all the critical assbeating his latest films have been getting (did anyone like The Happening?), he's come to that defining point in his career where he just stopped caring?

For those who are still interested in trying to be in this movie, which just seems to get more and more awful with each bit of news, they're having another open casting call next Saturday, February 7 at the Independence Visitor's Center in Philadelphia: You Should Be In Movies! Some details:
They're looking for physically fit men and women ages 18 to 85 and children (boys and girls) ages 6 through 16. Near and Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean and Latino. Oh, and if you have a background in martial arts or military experience, that's a plus.

Here's what they're casting for: Craftsmen, artists, puppeteers, gymnasts, dancers, athletes, soldiers and grandparents for basket weaving, candle making, painting, ceramics, needlepoint, silk screening, whittling, jewelry making, cooking and fishing.
Ah yes. All the white people get speaking roles, save for one brown dude... but when they need some background basket-weavers and candle-makers, that's when they have an open call for "Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean and Latino" types. I see how it is.

The Avatar fan movement, which has been all over this from the beginning, has a bunch of useful information for people who want to show up to the extras casting call to protest: February 7th Casting Call in Philadelphia: Can You Make It? There's more information on this Facebook event page here: Protest at The Last Airbender Auditions. Here's also another Facebook group: Boycott Avatar.

This is a really good opinion piece in The Daily Pennsylvanian by Lisa Zhu, who actually attended the previous open extras casting call: A 'last' straw for ignorance. Her experience, and what she witnessed there, sound both sad and laughable.

To be completely honest, I'm pretty doubtful that a protest, or any of this mobilizing, is going to change any minds among the powers that be at Paramount. They're not in the business of playing fair--they're in the business of making a crapload of money. But what making a ruckus will do is call attention to Hollywood's racist practices. Nothing new, really. But this is an excellent, obvious example of the kind of ignorance Hollywood movies regularly perpetuate. Hopefully, more and more people will see that.

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