For those of us waiting for M. Night Shyamalan to address our concerns about the discriminatory casting in The Last Airbender, this latest article on ugo.com reveals some of his thinking on the matter. Unfortunately, it seems he really doesn’t understand why everyone’s so upset.
One good thing is that he admits that he’s heard about the protest. But to respond to our calls for people of color as heroes, he simply points to the racial indeterminacy of anime — as if that justifies the casting of only “European”-featured heroes. He completely neglects to mention that they specifically cast for white actors, instead implying that they were really trying to populate their world with a mix of races. Which would be hard to do with the casting announcement for “Caucasian or any other ethnicity.”
He also states, “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.” False. We expected to see people of color as the heroes, rather than as the background actors and the villains, so we are not getting even close to these expectations. Also, if he were true to his metaphor of the U.N., he would have sat people of color at the table next to white people, as equals.
Finally, when prodded about how “the only characters of color are baddies,” he responds “It’s called irony.” It’s hard to read this remark since it doesn’t make any sense, but the most disappointing thing is that he truly doesn’t seem to take this critique seriously.
Kudos to Jordan Hoffman for getting responses to these “touchy” questions (except for the conspiracy theorist comment…), and a big thumbs down to M. Night Shyamalan for failing to respond appropriately.
Slumdog Millionaire Cast- Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto, Dev Patel at the Oscars (2009)
The new face of America’s global cinema.
The Academy Awards aren’t generally a big night for Asian Americans — after all, there haven’t been many noteworthy Asian American wins, and little recognition given overall within the community. This year, with the dominance of Slumdog Millionaire, it was exciting to see Asian faces light up the screen. Despite the fact that the movie can hardly be considered “Asian American,” given its British crew and Indian locale, we’re crossing our fingers that its impact will nevertheless be felt throughout the Asian American entertainment world.
Some of the major arguments used by studios against casting Asian Americans in lead roles is that they are unheard of, or that mainstream audiences won’t come to see Asian actors. While we strongly disagree with the implication that Asian Americans aren’t part of “mainstream audiences”, or that there aren’t enough Asian Americans going to movie theaters to warrant Asian American faces or narratives (um, hello, the spending power of Asian Americans is predicted to be $528 billion this year…do you think they don’t spend that on media?), we now have a terrific counterargument for both claims. Slumdog has shown that mainstream audiences will devotedly pour into the theaters to see actors they have never heard of, and stories that take place a world away. As long as the storytelling is strong and the narrative is compelling, there is always room to expand our image of what an actor, or a mainstream film, should look like.
While the film is still potentially problematic for its glorification of third-world poverty and what may or may not be exploitation of its child actors, we gleefully applaud the recognition of a film that opens our doors to a new idea of what American cinema could be.
It was like preparing for an oral exam where you were gonna go in front of professors deciding whether or not you knew what you were talking about. Only this time, they’d challenge you if they disagreed and wouldn’t feel obliged to let you finish your sentences. Oh, and it would be broadcast to millions of people across the country.
Well, Aoki, you always said you wanted to educate America to the Asian American perspective. Yeah, but with David Spade probably making wise-ass remarks in between your attempts to make serious points? With a host- Bill Maher- openly hostile to your cause? And against a comedian- Sarah Silverman- who hates your guts?