Katara is pissed
Roland Kelts has posted about the racebending controversy at TCJ. He argues much more succinctly the same points I made about the ethnic and creative fault-lines of much (anime-inspired) modern cartooning and animation vs. the racial politics of live action, but he seems to confuse Japanese anime adaptations with Avatar when he starts talking about casting Japanese actors:
But there’s another problem: Few Japanese actors can speak English fluently, and those few who can are often too old for the roles they might play (Ken Watanabe being the perfect example). Do Asian source stories like anime need Asian actors to deliver the aura properly? And if so: Where to find them?
I'm not sure why he thinks they have to be Japanese or Asian nationals sporting exotic accents, since the issue is more about balanced casting for Asian Americans, or anyone from a minority background, who already can speak English fluently enough to play the roles being cast.
Martha Nichols, MANAA, Michael Le, and Angry Asian Man slam director M Night Shyamalan's defense of the casting choices. It must be nice for Paramount to know that it can depend on him to be a team player.
Of course the organized protests no longer have any chance of changing those decisions. The protesters have to content themselves with making a statement and stirring up enough displeasure to affect the film's summer launch.
For all the publicity, the cast's ethnicity is only the most outward part of the film. There are still the core concerns that arise whenever adapting works from different mediums which could sink the movie even if the casting was pitch perfect. Take the writing for example: Here's Shyamalan's response to a question about altering Avatar's brand of humor for the big screen:
Hopefully there is enough that you will still see characters that you love. But there is so much latitude with an animation that you don’t get with live action.
Obviously, changes have to be made when translating an animated television show into a motion picture trilogy. But given his track record as a director and his interview answers, I don't foresee him succeeding in this area.
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