Two years ago, a group of my friends introduced me to Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated television series by Nickelodeon that first aired in 2005...Here was a fantastical Asian world, full of well developed and delineated countries, each with a distinctive culture and a carefully developed mythology born from real world Asian traditions, art forms, myths and religions. Here was beautiful Hànzì adorning the walls of temples and restaurants. Here was the food I loved best from my childhood, eaten with chopsticks by the heroes of the show.
And here were the Heroes: Brave, noble, beautiful, strong, and Asian.
Please, read the whole post here. It is a heart-breakingly convincing appeal--perhaps the best I've seen--on why this film is so hurtful.
But in the case of film!TLA, its producers and director have ignored the fact that the characters’ race is fundamental to their development. Everyone in the cartoon!ATLA world was some flavor of Asian, and this racial context informs their relationships, their philosophies, their lifestyles, and all their choices. Specific, carefully-researched and thoughtfully-appropriated elements from dozens of distinct Asian cultures were used to depict the world’s diversity in a way that was nuanced and realistic. It mattered that Aang’s design and personality were inspired by Tibet’s Dalai Lama...To ignore all these distinctions and reduce them to a simplified mishmash erases many of the vital, fascinating details that made the characters of cartoon!ATLA feel so plausible and identifiable. Erase too many such details about these characters, and you don’t have the same characters anymore.
Read the whole post here.
And for a humorous take on the issue, check out this two-part video. The first part focuses on a similar outrage that occurred with the casting of the film 21, released in 2008. The second part relates that incident to The Last Airbender.
And if the desire not to support institutional racism isn't enough for you, the early reviews that are hitting the net today provide a few more reasons NOT to spend money on The Last Airbender:
Otherwise it’s a tossup as to which is worse: the script, which regularly grinds to a halt to Explain Everything until the movie curls up and dies; the shockingly dingy camerawork; or the execrable 3-D.
Tedious, overstuffed, visually flat (and even darker and blurrier in the 3D rush job than it presumably is in standard 2D), emotionally inert, filled with painfully expository dialogue and mostly poorly acted, it’s simply an all-around misfire.
ETA: Ebert also gives it a thorough smack-down.
ETA #2:: Click here for the latest Rotten Tomatoes rating. As I write this, it's at an astonishingly low 8%. [/edits]
Please, I urge you, do NOT spend money on a ticket to see this film! Or, if you feel you simply cannot go without seeing it in theaters, at least wait until after the third weekend or so, at which point the studio tends to get less of the box office revenue. And perhaps, as more reviews emerge in the meantime, it will become even more apparent that it's not worth the price of admission--and you can save your hard-earned money.
Why not drink some calming Jasmine tea and re-watch (or watch for the first time, if you haven't already!) the original animated series instead?