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[personal profile] yeloson
M. Night on the casting choices for Avatar:

Here's the thing. The great thing about anime is that it's ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It's intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point. So when we watch Katara, my oldest daughter is literally a photo double of Katara in the cartoon. So that means that Katara is Indian, correct? No that's just in our house. And her friends who watch it, they see themselves in it. And that's what's so beautiful about anime.

Where to start?

As a movie director, he knows that visual continuity is created deliberately- you can't haphazardly throw visual elements together and make it work. It's not ambiguous, the series team did a giant amount of research - the architecture, the characters, the clothing, all of this had to be communicated to the animation team.

Sure, his daughter identifies - because how many brown female characters are there for kids? Does she also identify with random white characters? (Maybe. Look at the implication in mentioning her friends identify as well. All white social circles?) Of course, maybe she's just happy to have A Girl Like Me in her cartoons.

Also, I like the "Well I could have used these other ethnicities, but I didn't" as if the would have, could have actually impacts the final result. Kung Fu the TV series could have had Bruce Lee in it! Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee could have been true to the original story! Wizard of Earthsea could have had brown characters! 21 could have had asians in the story, just like the real life events!

What makes this intent bit completely moot is that basically, at the end of the day, despite it all, he chose white actors. Actors of color don't even get considered in many roles, so it's not like "well we could have" works the other way.

This is someone who very deliberately chooses roles. He's very careful with his visuals. Am I to understand suddenly he became enveloped in a magic fog of color-blindness that overwhelmed his craft and experience as a director? (Was this the same magical force of post-racism that exploded across the nation when Obama took office?)

White supremacy isn't everyone's fantasy. There's nothing ambiguous about white folks getting roles and actors of color not.

Try restoring the balance yourself, before telling movies about it.

ETA: Because it cannot be said enough times: These are the Ghosts of the Heroes I never had.
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November 2012

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