The Trashed Airbender

As a general rule of thumb, doing the mere opposite of whatever Political Correctors would have you do, is likely to bring you felicity and joy: and so it has for me this weekend.

For me this was no light decision. I was caught, writhing in uncertainty like a fish on a line, in a dilemma between the absurdly high price charged to see the film, my desire to live up the promise I had made my shrieking children we could go see it, and my fear that the film would be truly bad, as all the negative hype implied.

I went to go see THE LAST AIRBENDER.

LAST AIRBENDER is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon almost of the same name (AVATAR was pre-empted by another film). The setup is explained in the voiceover opening of every episode of the cartoon. The four nations of Earth, Water, Fire and Air once upon a time lived in balance. Each nation has martial art called ‘bending’ — psychokinetic control of its element. Only the Avatar controls all four elements. The Avatar vanished one hundred years ago. The balance was broken when the Fire Nation set out to conquer the other nations. They exterminated the Air Nomads and began systematically hunting down all other benders. Only the missing Avatar can stop the ambitions of the Fire Nation and restore world harmony.  But the current Avatar is a young Airbender—the last of his kind— named Aang, who is unready and untrained for the daunting task. Two members of the southern Water tribe, Sokka and his sister Kitara, discover the Avatar frozen in the ice, and they set out to help him, assisting on his journey to find the training and allies he needs; meanwhile an exiled Fire Nation prince named Zuko relentlessly hunts him.

The director who asked to do the live action film is M. Night Shyamalan, a director of considerable talent and prestige, and so hopes (including my own) that this film would do justice to the wonderful cartoon were running high.

Those hopes were cruelly dashed when the first reviews came out, the overwhelming majority overwhelmingly negative.  On the famous ‘Tomatometer’ at ROTTEN TOMATOES website, the film was scored at an 8%, the lowest score of any major film in recent memory.

Everyone, every review, scorned and dismissed this movie. Every critic panned it.

There were two categories of criticism: first were the sane critics, people whose judgment I trust, who said the acting the wooden, the blocking was bad, the film was murky, the plotline was confusing, the names were mispronounced, the humor was lacking, the cartoon was betrayed.

The second criticism came from barking moonbats, who yowled, howled and growled that the film in some obscure way offended the capricious and irresponsibly arbitrary gods of Political Correctness, those cruel gods never to be placated, for overstepping some boundary of their ever-changing and ever-more-silly rules of cultural Marxist theory.  Of course, this means about as much as being accused of being a witch by a professional witch-chaser of the 16th century—the film was racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, heterosexophoboracist, lookist, age-ist, snarfist, bigoted, biased, mean-spirited, part of an oppressive narrative, or contributing to global warming. Or something. No honest man cares what these sanctimonious yet frothing lunatics rolling in their own distempered vomit think, and even to repeat their accusations is both to give them credit beyond their merit, and to feel the slime of their spiritual grease on one’s soul.

But the first category of criticism is not to be scoffed away. Verily, I recall my disappointment with THE SHADOW starring Alec Baldwin, which, despite its nearly perfect art direction and period look, changed the central idea of the character from a spooky avenger of the night to a man tormented by self doubt. I recall with tears the live action version of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, which was so bad that by the time I was found a week later living in a dumpster, I was merely rocking myself back and forth in the corner, eyes glassy, mumbling ‘Victor von Doom is not a male fashion model’ over and over again, until electroshock therapy returned me to what passes for normal consciousness.  So, I know full well that Hollywood has no particular talent to portray beloved pulp and funnybook characters on the screen.

I am not a wealthy man, and so the prospect of taking my family out to a movie is a daunting one: the price tag was over $70 dollars for this weekend’s outing, and I have yet to recover from the shock.

This price was roughly twice what I was prepared to spend. My beautiful and talented wife looked at me woebegone, as stunned by the sticker shock as I was. Kindly friends who had joined us for the expedition offered to pass the hat, and take up a collection, to pay for part of the ticket price.

I was on the verge of walking away from the ticket booth and taking my children to go do something less expensive, such as burning banknotes or skipping rare gold doubloons in the river, and in the midst of wavering in uncertainty, one clear thought came to me.

The thought was: I have to defy them.

You know who ‘them’ are. The insects. The Correctors.

Still burning in my recent memory was the time the Correctors sneeringly accused an honest and hard working editor of being racist because he failed to provide a token black in the table of contents for an anthology of hard-SF sense-of-wonder space opera. I bought that book, even though I could not afford it, merely to defy them. It turned out to be a darn fine anthology.

I decided that no matter how bad this film was, no matter how far short this film fell on the grounds of the first category of criticism, the mere fact that the second category of criticism existed at all, meant that it was my duty as a gentleman to give M. Night Shyamalan my hard earned money. This, despite the fact that I knew full well that he was responsible for THE HAPPENING. Even though I knew that my contribution would mean nothing, the insects in their swarms were so vile, and so far beneath contempt, that they had to be opposed, utterly and completely, without compromise, in all things great and small.

So I gritting my teeth, went to the local clinic to contribute the blood donation necessary to raise the cash, and took my kids to the movie.

Not just one, but every single criticism I heard about this movie turned out to be not only false, but the exact opposite of true. For example, one critic told me that the martial arts fight scenes contained too little ‘bending’ — not enough special effects — and too much punching and kicking. I don’t know which version of the film this critic saw, but it was not the one I saw. There was flame and rock and ice flashing and flying in every battle, and I lost track of the number of times Aang spun villains away through the air with his whirlwindy tai kwan do.

Another critic said Aang did not look right. False. This was the real Aang. He was a perfect in the role, and he looked and spoke just like the real Aang (and by real, of course, I mean the cartoon version).

Another critic said the plot was cramped and too full; another said too long; another said too short; another said too much exposition;  and so on. I recall perhaps one voice over I thought was unnecessary, and aside from that the plot seemed (to me, at least) to be perfectly clear — of course, I am a fan of the cartoon, so I knew what the set up was, but as best I can tell, someone having never seen the cartoon should be able to follow the action.

They pronounced the names wrong, that is to say, not as spoken on the cartoon. (AH-ng rather than AI-ng or SO-ka rather than SAH-ka) I thought this would bug the heck out of me, but I did not notice it at all, I was too caught up in the drama, the action, the spectacle.

Other critics said the film did not cover the main points of the first season. Well, that is a judgment call. Basically the events of the first two episodes and the last two are covered, and you cannot expect much else out of a normal-length movie.

Other critics, many of them, said the acting was wooden and the kids could not act. If that is the case, I never noticed.

Was there any criticism that was true? Well, yes, unfortunately there was. The energy and humor present in the cartoon was absent from the film. There were maybe one or two jokes in the film where the cartoon is surfeited with witty banter, dialog, and snappy jokes. M. Night Shyamalan is no doubt known for his grim Hitchcockian thrillers for a reason: he is good at doing grim. A writer like Joss Whedon is known for his snappy banter, and Shyamalan is no Whedon. The character of Sokka, who is the comedy relief in the cartoon, was downgraded into merely a complainer; Uncle Iroh, who in the cartoon (voiced by the late, great Mako, who also did the voice of Aku in SAMURAI JACK) exudes abundant joviality as well as wisdom and compassion, here was merely a kindly but stern man, in no way projecting what the character in the cartoon put across. Uncle Iroh is one of the best beloved characters in the cartoon, and, to me, one of the best beloved characters of any tale or story in any medium, period, full stop.

Take a look, for example, at the characters in their two different incarnations. Notice what is missing?

The Unsmiling Airbender

None of the live action characters are smiling.

But the live action film was a different take on the story. The grimmer tone might appeal to some viewers, but I thought it suffered in comparison with the source material.

I would also warn anyone not to bother seeing it in 3-D. No real use is made of this, and the colors are murky  through the glasses.

However, the look of the film, the art direction and costuming and such, was perfect, simply perfect. The sight of the warships of the Fire Nation, their huge funnels roaring with flame and darkening the skies with smoke is one that will live in the imagination, once seen.

Need I say anything about the criticism of the Correctors? The cast of the movie had more races and ethnicities than the UN or the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  I best I can understand, the criticism is that the various races did not fulfill the stereotyped roles that the Political Correctors have assigned to each race based on its skin color. In other words, the real racists were criticizing the non-racists for not being racist enough. There was not enough white-bashing in this children’s adventure story to please them.  But to speak more of these enemies of reason, life, and good taste is unnecessary and unpleasant.

The last two times I have decided to buy something I could not afford merely to show support for whatever underdog the mob of vermin was slandering, I was rewarded with something that more than repaid the cost. May it always be so.

Don’t believe the negative hype.

As I watched the well-done and visually stunning opening scene, and then the next well-done scene, and the next, I kept thinking that it was good so far. When was it going to get bad?

Well, it never did get bad.

I had discussed the dilemma of paying for so expensive a movie, as well as the film’s merits and demerits, with my children before and afterward. They agreed there should have been more humor, and my youngest son regretting that the film did not have the episode where the Avatar visits Omashu, to meet his hyper-octogenarian friend, the mad genius Boomie. My youngest was as surprised as was I that this film only got 8% on the tomatometer.

My youngest in a loud voice, speaking over the end credits so that the whole theater could hear,  reported his opinion. “That was a good movie! I’d give it a tomato!”


  1. Comment by bear545:

    “I recall with tears the live action version of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, which was so bad that by the time I was found a week later living in a dumpster, I was merely rocking myself back and forth in the corner, eyes glassy, mumbling ‘Victor von Doom is not a male fashion model’ over and over again, until electroshock therapy returned me to what passes for normal consciousness.”

    You and me both. Gosh, but that movie was terrible. Everything was bad. Von Doom was completely wrong- he’s the quintessential genius/megalomaniac type villain, not a businessman/megalomaniac type villain. Reed stretching just looked comepletely wrong. And just how, pray tell, can you make a movie with Jessica Alba in a form fitting uniform completely unwatchable? It is a feat that can only be done with effort and determination. It cannot happen in the normal course of events.

    I am glad you were pleasantly surprised by the movie. The last time I went to a movie I had mistakenly promised my elder daughter I would let her choose the movie, and she chose the latest Twilight movie. As was the case with Helios and Phaethon, I regretted a rash promise I was honour bound to fulfill. (Truth be told, we were talking about going to see Toy Story 3 and were standing in line to buy the tickets when she changed her mind.) Sadly, I was not pleasantly surprised.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Please go see Toy Story 3. I swear by the Great God Tao of Mongo, and Finuka, and Frith, and Rao, and all the other invented gods of sciffydom, that it is worth the ticket price.

      • Comment by bear545:

        I am sure it is. I have yet to see a pixar movie I did not enjoy. In fact, they made my favourite super-hero movie, and I assure you, that is saying something.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I assure you that that selfsame movie is also my favorite superhero movie of all time — and I think I have watched darn near everyone ever made, except for the Indian Superman, which I missed, and FANTASTIC FOUR 2, which I would have not seen even for a bag of shiny yellow gold coins. I have even tracked down old copies of the 1944 CAPTAIN AMERICA serials and such.

          • Comment by Weetabix:

            I must admit to innate density. What is your favorite Pixar superhero movie? Mine would be The Incredibles, but I must admit my exposure is severely limited in comparison to your average commenter.

            • Comment by bear545:

              It is The Incredibles. That’s the only superhero movie Pixar has made to date, and even if they never make another superhero movie, they will remain the champs of the superhero genre, unless, of course, someone pulls off something really, really awesome.

  2. Comment by Va.:

    Karate Kid remake was also worthwhile…far better than the original though no karate was in evidence. I think your daughter would like it quite a bit as well as your sons.

  3. Comment by Fr. Cory Sticha:

    It’s great to hear a positive review! I’m working through the series on Netflix Instant and enjoying it immensely, so I’m glad to hear that the movie will be worth watching.

    “That was a good movie! I’d give it a tomato!” Out of the mouths of children…

    • Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

      You got the quote wrong:

      “This is a great movie. I’d definitely give it a tomato!”

      Yelled out in the theater by our seven-year-old during the final battle sequence.

  4. Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

    Yes, the movie was a lot of fun. I do think more humor would have fallen flat. The genocide of the Air tribe is perhaps more immediate in a movie, when you don’t have a week or more between episodes….

  5. Comment by Baron Korf:

    Now I’m torn. My friend told me that it was the worst sucker punch he had suffered since Phantom Menace (a shared experience of ours).

    Maybe I’ll go see it, but I’ll probably just wait for Netflix.

  6. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    There were two categories of criticism: first were the sane critics, people whose judgment I trust, who said the acting the wooden, the blocking was bad, the film was murky, the plotline was confusing, the names were mispronounced, the humor was lacking, the cartoon was betrayed.

    Well I’d like to be a critic you can respect/trust someday. XD Although I found this movie to be extremely poor. It could have been much much better if you ask me.

    Not just one, but every single criticism I heard about this movie turned out to be not only false, but the exact opposite of true.

    I don’t know about EVERY criticism (or at least, you’re not hearing the “right” ones). I mean – c’mon John, keeping earth benders on a plot of land was extremely stupid.

    Uncle Iroh, who in the cartoon (voiced by the late, great Mako, who also did the voice of Aku in SAMURAI JACK)

    Well, I hadn’t got to see the show yet… but now I have a definite reason to.

    • Comment by KokoroGnosis:

      It’s worth noting that the guy who took over for Mako when he passed away halfway through the series does an excellent job as well. You can barely tell the difference. And the show has an amazingly touching side-story that functions as memorial to Mako.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        “And the show has an amazingly touching side-story that functions as memorial to Mako.”

        One thing I did not emphasize in my review of the movie is that it falls short of the story-telling power and skill of the Nickelodeon cartoon. But, then again, every film (with the possible exception of films by Akira Kurosawa, or Frank Capra or Pixar) falls short. One mountain the live-action film had to overcome was how well done the underlying cartoon was — and even though I liked this film, it did not top that mountain.

        I remember seeing Mako in the television version of GREEN HORNET. There is a scene where he squares off against the legendary Bruce Lee, playing Kato. He was much younger then, but his wonderful gravelly voice was the same.

    • Comment by Noah Doyle:

      I can’t recommend Samurai Jack highly enough, especially for children about 6-10 years old, and most especially boys. Jack is a hero, good and true. There is plenty of swordplay, with lots of robots to get hacked and sliced, but Jack never attacks first, is unfailingly polite, tries to talk his way out of unnecessary fights, and is selfless without hesitation.

  7. Comment by Peony Moss:

    We went to see “Despicable Me,” which was good, and used its 3D to good effect. (Not sure that it’s $70.00 worth of good, though.)

  8. Comment by David Klecha:

    Every once in a while, I think you’re being deliberately obtuse on the question of race and ethnicity and sensitivity to same. This is another of those times.

    It is, of course, not just the skin color of the actors chosen to portray Aang, Katara, and Sokka, it’s that the characters in the cartoon were clearly inspired by and entrenched in the milieu of a non-white, non-European setting. All the setting and trappings remained, but rather than keep the characters otherwise true to their origins, and yes, looking in all ways like their cartoony antecedents, they were whitewashed. In fact, as you note there were people of all ethnicities in the movie, but there clearly were not in the cartoon. So yes, the movie was made more representative, but falsely so.

    Or would Jaden Smith have been okay for the role of Aang? Or Gabby Soleil as Sokka? Perhaps Samuel L. Jackson as Uncle Iroh?

    If skin color isn’t and shouldn’t have been a factor in casting, how do you honestly feel about those selections? Or are you just going to say that would be fine, for the sake of argument and your own twisted premise, that anyone who complains about this sort of thing is a certifiable moonbat, etc. etc.?

    • Comment by Zen:

      How on earth is that an improvement? Samuel L Jackson as Iroh? That is wrong on so many levels, in addition to race and skin color. It was an Asian milieu, not an African one. If we are so concerned about minorities, we might do well to remember they are not infinitely interchangeable. Even Jackie Chan would have fit better than the awesome, but for this role inappropriate, S. Jackson.

      I have to agree it would have been nice for Katara and Sokka to be darker, but fussing about it is making a mountain out of a molehill. Obsession and paranoia with race is the preferred racism these days.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        “I have to agree it would have been nice for Katara and Sokka to be darker…”

        But even in the original cartoon, Katara and Sokka are something between Eskimos and Laplanders: the Earth Kingdom is Chinese in its look and feel, but the Water Tribes of either hemisphere did not look particularly Chinese in architecture or culture or whatever.

        Someone made TARNSMAN OF GOR into a movie. The first book in the series, before John Norman descended into the cesspool of bondage pornography, portrayed a world colonized by a group of ancient Greeks, who, under the dictatorial rulership of their insect overlords, developed all their technologies except weapon technology. So they had electric lights and translation machines, but still fought with sword and shield. Would it have been legitimate to object on racial grounds that TARNSMAN was racist, because the main characters were not taken from Greek actors?

        As I recall, the Political Correctors did indeed kick up a fuss when MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (written by a ‘gaijin’) was made into a movie starring more than one Chinese actress: so apparently nationalities are legitimate causes for grievance, the same as races for the purpose of stirring up hatred, but nationalities are not races and not legitimate causes for grievance when it does not stir up race hatred.

        • Comment by Noah Doyle:

          As far as I can tell (having not seen more than a few stills of the TV series) from the pictures above, only one of the cartoon characters looks ‘Asian’ – the young ones look like well-tanned Californians.

          • Comment by Keith B:

            Aang (the guy with an arrow on his head) wears clothes that are incredibly similar to Tibetan monks, along with the Airbender cities looking much like Tibetan temples. Their culture is largely Tibetan Buddhistic in nature, with some Hinduism thrown in. In the series, he is clearly intended to be Asian-looking, but is drawn in the large-eyed anime style.

            Zuko is a member of the Fire Nation, whose entire design motif is very strongly influenced by the Tang dynasty in China, with a culture that incorporates some borrowing from Imperialist Japan. In the series, he is clearly intended to be Asian-looking.

            Sokka and Katara are members of a Water Tribe, whose entire design motif is heavily influenced by various Eskimo/Inuit tribes. Their culture is similar, with some borrowing from Pacific Islanders. In the series, they are clearly intended to be Native-American-looking, if not Eskimo-looking.

            And Toph (who appears in the second season) is from the Earth Kingdom, which is pretty much a fantasy version of ancient China. She is very clearly meant to be Asian-looking.

            The characters all read/write in Chinese (yes, actual Chinese), and many names are actual Chinese names with meanings; it is somewhat implied that they are all actually speaking Chinese.

            It is extremely clear, both in the series and from interviews given by the creators, that the characters are very much intended to not be white, but instead Asian or Eskimo.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              You identify the races of make-believe cartoon people from another dimension with the precision of a Nazi eugenecist. I assume you can identify the races of the actors and actresses with equal precision.

              Some of us — those of us who are not racists — do not care about or notice these things.

              This conversation is beyond the pale of what civilized men will tolerate. Your racism is a mental disease, and it is not welcome here.

              • Comment by David Klecha:

                Will you count among the racists, then, the creators of the show, who have admitted the influences of the various cultures?

                Is it wrong to suggest that characters whose culture was inspired by the Inuit should be played by Inuit actors?

                • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

                  Yes it is wrong. Quite, quite racist to say that there are jobs only white people can do, and that is no different. Your point is not only racist, it’s stupid, and you’re late. Why are you worried about a kid’s film when all over the world, ethnics are performing the plays of Shakespeare, without using English actors! What have you done about that? Nothing, because you are a racist, and hold “ethnics” to a different standard.

                  And Stupid and wrong. Those cultures influenced the writers, who were trying to give us a feeling of an exotic, alien world, and started with something a little exotic and alien to us. The cultures they ended up with are correctly different then the “base stock” of the “stew”. If anything, the only people who could not play the roles in question are the people the cultures are based on. They would strip much of the “alien” feel from the role by their presence. There might be a place for cultural typecasting, but this movie was not that place….

                • Comment by Foxfier:

                  Is it wrong to suggest that characters whose culture was inspired by the Inuit should be played by Inuit actors?

                  K, this is flat out funny, since the outraged cries have uniformly been “but Aang’s not Asian!”

                  I KNOW I made some joking posts about this when the movie was first announced, and the first “Avatar is racist, it didn’t hire Asians” drives came out.

                  Yes, the various cultures are pretty clearly inspired by IRL cultures– Fire is Japan, Earth is China, Air is Tibet, Water is Eskimo style tribes. (I can’t remember the exact ep, but there was something in one of the WT eps that had my husband and I utterly delighted because it seemed the Avatar creators had researched Japan’s northern tribes.)

                  Yes, when they’re in their nation’s costume, it’s clear which nation they’re from… but how many story arcs depend on folks being in different clothes and thus blending in perfectly? Shoot, Aang passes as fire nation, even when Rule of Funny doesn’t apply. That means that either they were INCREDIBLY lucky about all the main characters being able to pass as earth and fire, or they don’t have the racial precision you’d find in, oh, the unpleasant parts of Japan aimed at someone who looks Korean, or visa-versa.

                  I’ll put in my vote of being glad the Aztec knock-offs had little or nothing from their IRL culture but the look!

              • Comment by Keith B:

                That is a very odd response. I suppose it boils down then, to the basic philosophical question: is it racist to acknowledge that there are definite physical differences (skin color, hair type, eyelid folds, bone structures) between groups of people who share a common genetic heritage, and that there are certain cultural trends that are highly correlated with those definite physical differences?

                You yourself had a complaint about how they treated Kato’s character in the new Green Hornet movie trailer–it seems to me that you noticed that he was Asian. Are you just as racist for that as I am for identifying the things that the creators of TLA have said in interviews and in the art book?

              • Comment by Anthony39:

                Claiming “color-blindness” to racism only perpetuates the actual racial differences and inequalities that still exist in our world.

                “Racism is still a factor in daily life, even in relatively casual forms such as this? NO, IT IS YOU WHO IS THE RACIST FOR POINTING THIS OUT!”

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  If ‘color blindness’ perpetrates racism, and if non color blindness is racism, then, by the PC formulations, there is nothing that is not racism.

                  My formulation is that men should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The PC formulation is that men should be judged by the color of their skin, according to proportions deduced by Politically Correct eugenicists, and the judgment is that Arabs trump Blacks trump Yellows trump Whites.

                  The advantage of my formulation is that it is fair, just, and sane. The disadvantage of the PC formulation is that the Political Correctors are logically required to condemn Martin Luther King, who formulated my formulation, as a racist.

            • Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

              Toph will be Asian. All the Earthbenders were Asian. That was one of the things the director said in an interview. He’d made them that way from the beginning and said sadly that people would probably think he was “bending to pressure” when Toph shows up as an Asian girl in the second movie…but he’d had it that way all along.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            I’ve seen the movie. This is one reason I am so filled with indignation at the racists who are cropping up here telling me these actors and actresses are the wrong race. The character look PERFECT. Aang looks just like Aang; Kitara looks like Kitara, and so on. My only complaint is that Iroh is slightly too young and too slim.

            In the movie, you cannot tell what race the characters are, except that Aang looks like a Air Nomad, Kitara and Sokka look like Water Tribe, and the Fire Nation are not only the handsomest nation on the planet, they look darn slick and darn cool in their armor. We only see Azula for one moment of screen time, and she looks perfect.

            I am entertaining the suspicion that the racists — and I mean Leftwing racists, race-baiters who try to make everything and anything into a race issue — have gone out of their way to color the cartoon photos you see on the internet, in order to invent and emphasize the difference. They are two shades darker than anything I have ever seen on my television screen.

            Anime characters are deliberately drawn in a fashion so that their race is not obvious. The American animators followed that tradition here. They may have had a particular model in mind, and they may have wanted Katara and Sokka to be Eskimos or Hawaiians rather than Laplanders or Patagonians, but that is not what they drew. What they drew, and what M. Night Shyamalan put on the screen, looks the same.

            Now, the modern Leftwing eugenicists who can tell to a nicety whether an octoroon or a quatroon has the right balance of races can look at a movie that has more race diversity than the UN, and decree it to be ‘washwashing’ and doubleplus-ungood because all they see is a person’s race.

            The eugenicists are the enemies of man and nature alike, the foes of logic and civilization, and their vile, vile propaganda should not be tolerated in any civilized forum for an instant. These race-hustlers should not be given the benefit of the doubt, should not be allowed to state their case, should not be allowed to show their faces in public. The Second World War settled the issue of whether racism was a socially acceptable form of mental disease among civilized people: and the answer won in sacrifice and bloodshed was that it was not.

            Hiring an actor who looks exactly like Aang to play Aang is not racist. Denouncing the hiring decision because the actor is not of the politically correct race is racist. it is Nazilike.

            Is no one else creeped out by the empty-eyed resuscitation of this horrid, vile, nauseating enemy? Must we again prove with bloodshed that racism is wrong?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Let me use your own logic against your argument, and see how it holds up.

      Will Smith was cast as James West in WILD WILD WEST, originally portrayed by Robert Conrad, as character who was not only white but a cowboy. Likewise, Samuel L Jackson in the movie IRON MAN 2 portrayed Nick Fury, also a character originally a white guy.

      Now, by your logic, anyone who objected to a Will Smith playing a James West on the grounds that he is of the “wrong race” is a non-racist; but anyone who did not mind or care who played whom as long as he did a good job is a racist. That argument is not merely backward, it is demented.

      It is a racist argument calling a non-racist a “racist” on the grounds that the non-racist is not racist enough.

      The argument becomes even more demented once it is noted that we are talking about Aang, who is not from Tibet or India or Persia, but from the Air Nomad tribe on a world in another universe. For the race-baiters to read into him the whatever ethnicity the claim is his (the Buddha of our world is from Nepal) is merely madness, like unto arguing about the race of whatever actress were to play the live action version of Deja Thoris if they ever made PRINCESS OF MARS into a movie.

      The argument falls off the edge of dementia once it is noted that the actor playing Aang looks exactly like him in every way.

      The argument is not only backward and beyond demented when you bring up the example of Jaden Smith, it also is tin eared. Did you mean to bring up an example that shows the truly depraved nature of your argument? Smith is a young black actor playing the role (and I mean the role, not the character) of the karate kid in the remake of the film of the same name: by the logic of your argument, if Smith had been forbidden from the Ralph Macchio role on the grounds of being the wrong race, that would have been non-racist, whereas, by your logic, the KARATE KID remake was racist.

      In the last nine months, I have heard myself, my wife, my best friend, my ex-roommate, my brother (one of whom is black, and two of whom married Japanese women) all called racists on grounds even flimsier than this. To hear my church, my nation, my founding fathers, and everyone and anyone under the sun also be called racist is now so commonplace as to become not just meaningless, but boring and risible.

      I am not willing to listen further: I consider the topic to have passed beyond the pale of what reasonable men can discuss.

      • Comment by Brad R. Torgersen:

        Silly Mr. Wright, the Selenites of Correctness have invented for themselves a kind of circular, trap-door logic in which they can never be wrong. No proof need be offered. The charge itself is the proof. Get called a racist by one of the Selenites? You are a racist. They don’t need to prove anything. And any attempt to deny the charge is used as further proof of your guilt. You either hurl yourself — fawning and groveling — at their feet, or you are a racist.

        As for the movie, I was never an Airbender watcher on the small screen, so I do not think I will see it on the big screen, though I do think your base motivation is quite commendable: to financially defy the Selenites in their insane witch-trial mindcrime culture war against the cracked and vulnerable buttresses of Western civilization. I am glad you found the movie worthwhile. Not everything declared “bad” in the moment, remains so.

      • Comment by deiseach:

        My objection to the film version of “The Wild, Wild West” was not that they had James West played by Will Smith (nor indeed that the villain, who should have been of Spanish descent, was instead switched to being a Southerner played by Kenneth Branagh, whom I imagine the casting persons thought was English and so appropriate to play a villain, but in reality is from Norn Iron), but that the lead characters had no chemistry (a shame!), the script was too full of silly “jokes” depending on double-entendres, and the relationship between the two main characters (West and Gordon) was depicted as too mean-spirited.

        I avoided the Fantastic Four film (despite being a fan of “It’s clobbering time!” since I was seven) because of the film version of the Incredible Hulk, and now by your account I’m glad I did. :-)

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          My objection to the film version of WILD WILD WEST was the same. I was not annoyed by casting James West as a black guy, but one of the best villains of televisiondom, Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless, protrayed by the unforgettable Michael Dunn (turns out he was a Godfearing Catholic as well as a fine actor), got turned into a stereotypical Suhthuhnuh — as a loyal Virginian, and a loyal fan of the shoe in my childhood, I admit that annoyed me. The television version of the villain had pathos and scope that Brannaugh either could not bring to the screen or did not care to.

          • Comment by deiseach:

            I have to blame the script; no way such lameness was accidental. I won’t even touch the ludricrous Freudianism of the visuals. The essence of the series was the partnership between West and Gordon; the film got it right in that it began in suspicion and a degree of hostility, but it never managed to become convincing that the two of them grew to like and admire each other. No chemistry between Smith and Kline, for whatever reason.

            Also, making the villain crippled was too cheap. I do not know if you regard accusations of “ableism” as you do those of “racism” (i.e. over-used to the point of becoming meaningless), but I think there is a point where blaming the villain’s villainy on being scarred/deformed/disabled in some manner becomes ridiculous. Just as bad as making his Southerness the reason for being villainous. You have to give something to natural inclination; had he been an able-bodied Northerner, he probably would have been as great a megalomaniac.

            The original series was very of its time but it still managed to beat the film six ways from Sunday. Miguelito Loveless may have been a person of diminished stature, but he was never ridiculous; he was genuinely sinister and there was a relationship of mutual (if grudging) respect between himself and James West.

      • Comment by Noah Doyle:

        It is a racist argument calling a non-racist a “racist” on the grounds that the non-racist is not racist enough

        This makes my head hurt.

      • Comment by David Klecha:

        You skillfully avoided, through your truly fabulous outrage, to answer my question, sir. Bravo. Bravo, indeed. Circumlocution worthy of Socrates himself.

        I never called you, or Shyamalan racist, nor did I explicitly defend any such accusations. I did say that you appear to be deliberately obtuse on the question of race and sensitivity to race issues, especially as it happens here, in media. I did say that it was more than a matter of appearance.

        The unfortunate reality these days is that there is no level playing field, of course, so the casting of Will Smith as Jim West, or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, is seen as interesting or daring or breaking the mold, as opposed to objectionable. This isn’t so much some kind of march of Political Correctness as it is a simple fact of the imbalance that has long existed in society and culture in favor of a particular race to the extreme detriment of another, an imbalance that featured–in living memory–men applying shoeblack to their faces or, in the infamous case of Mickey Rooney, just squinting up their eyes and bucking out their front teeth, cruelly mimicking minorities for the amusement of an unsympathetic audience. I’m not suggesting that there should be some kind of Hollywood reparations program, where every Amos & Andy needs to be atoned for with a black Jim West or Nick Fury.

        But at the base, it’s pretty freaking simple. The characters look like they are based on an Inuit culture. Casting Inuit actors in those roles would have made perfect sense. Criticizing the casting of white actors instead is a valid avenue of criticism, as it is valid to bring up the shameful history of blackface, etc. in our arts.

        Your art of bending over backward to excuse it, to wash over it, to ignore it by any means possible is both risible and frustrating. Any reasonable man should be able to understand objections on these grounds, and discuss them without resorting to the creation of cryptoliberal boogeymen. Your vapid dehumanization of your intellectual opponent highlights the rickety underpinnings of your “philosophy” and the craven, wrongheaded nature of your objection to the objections.

        This kind of dismissive, patronizing response to such objections lies at the heart of the problem of race in our society. Rather than attempt to understand, to seek out the source of wrongs with a meek and humble heart, you consign every imagined foe to the dustbin of capitalized objectification, caricatured dummies who do not deserve your love or compassion, but cruel monstrosities that you are incapable of even conversing politely with, and without hyperbole or exaggeration. And you see no reason why you should have to engage with them.

        I’m grappling with the beam in my own eye, sir. It’s time you acknowledged yours.

  9. Comment by Joi:

    Hmmmm. I had heard nothing but bad things about this movie (which, as a certified Shyamalan fan, distressed me), but now maybe I will go see it…

  10. Comment by jonathanmoeller:

    Interesting, interesting. I wasn’t going to see it, since the reviews were so universally negative, but I may have to reconsider. Of course, considering how it did financially, I’m going to have to reconsider very quickly or lose my chance.


    • Comment by John C Wright:

      One thing I want to say again, is that I regret watching it in 3-D: it cost extra and seemed not worth it.

      • Comment by deiseach:

        What is this recurring fad of 3-D? It’s been hanging around and reappearing as long as I can remember, and it’s never worth it. Until and unless they invent some kind of camera-in-the-brain doohickey, it’s never going to work without a lot of fuss.

        Why do they bother? Okay, there’s the perennial problem of cinema attendance is going down so we need new gimmicks to pull in the punters, but judging by what you say ($70 for yourself, the missus, and four kids to see a picture?), putting the prices down might help more.

        Chicken and egg, though: fewer people go to the movies, so ticket prices have to be higher, which means that fewer people go to the movies…

        • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

          I think it comes down to “home theater”. The actual theater has to offer something you can’t get at home.

          • Comment by deiseach:

            But I’ve never really found a use for 3D that would make me go “Ah yes, I absolutely must go see this film!”

            “Oh, it’s like the football/skeleton on a wire/rollercoaster jumped right out of the screen at you!”

            No, somehow that does not appeal. I don’t want to be reflexively covering my face half the time I’m watching a film (unless it’s a horror film and I’m peeping between my fingers going “Is that bit over yet?”) because what’s the point?

            Plus, I like flashy effects as well as the next person, but I also like a bit of decent acting, a script with a plot that doesn’t make me go “But… but… that flat-out contradicts everything they said in the first three-quarters of the film!” or, failing that, some wit and humour.

            Okay, lots of blowing things up will keep me happy if I can’t get good acting, good script, good plot, but not in 3D.

            • Comment by kokorognosis:

              I keep hoping that GimmickVision will whither away and die again. I don’t know that it will, but I’m hoping.

              I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a movie in 3D that had the 3D make or break it– No, strike that. If Dances With Smurfs hadn’t been 3D, I would have fallen asleep with boredom. I’ve never seen a -good- movie that was made or broken with 3D. Toy Story 3 was great, but I’m sure it’ll be just as good in 2D. Ironically, I would have loved to have seen Inception in 3D, but they didn’t make a 3D version.

            • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

              Yes, but all of the things you list can be seen at home. They need a gimmick that cannot be used on a “home theater” system. What have you got? How do you get people to go to the theater as opposed to watching a bootleg on their Iphone?

            • Comment by Noah Doyle:

              What struck me about watching Avatar in 3D (back when I still had binocular vision…) was that I felt like I was watching a hole in the wall in which giant people were moving about and acting in an enormous set. It was both spectacular, and very odd.

        • Comment by Joi:

          I thought the 3D was well-used in Coraline, but generally it just seems gimmicky. I liked most of the 3D in Avatar, but the movie itself was so bad that the plot distracted from the pretty effects. Which is pretty typical for Cameron, actually…

        • Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

          It’s not a fad, it’s desperation. The theatres are dying. Movies come out almost immediately online. People don’t have as much money as they used to. They just are not going.

          …but 3-D can’t be pirated. If you upload it and watch it at home, you miss the whole experience. So, they’ve jumped onboard with 3-D hook, line, and sinker, in an attempt to keep afloat.

  11. Comment by shana:

    My four ever-so-nerdy and picky daughters, all Airbender fans, took their visiting cousin (who had never seen the cartoon series) to see the movie. They had read many reviews, prepared for disappointment, but still hoped for the best.

    The whole lot of ’em LOVED it. Two weeks later, it still comes up as a topic of conversation at the table for one reason or another. They were not bothered by the differences between the series and the movie, because as my eldest daughter says, “Movies just can’t be the same as the cartoon or the book because there isn’t enough time. And if they are the exact same story, why bother making the movie in the first place?”

    There are plans now to buy the movie once it goes to DVD, two really so their cousin can have one of her own, and they have already purchased all the cartoons through Amazon (package of the last season arrived today via UPS.)

    And my very wise daughter with Asperger’s had only one comment to the ever whining, ever banal racists:


    She does have a way with words.

  12. Comment by Bob Chase:

    Wish you lived on the Maryland side of DC. I would happily pay for tickets for you and your wife to see INCEPTION. A great S-F movie.

  13. Comment by Keith B:

    John, do you truly believe the casting on this movie was done in a fully non-racist way? That is, do you believe that they cast the best actors for the job that they could, and paid no attention to race when doing so?

    • Comment by KokoroGnosis:

      If you poke around on the internet, you’ll find M Night’s defense of his casting. He felt that the Airbenders, being nomads would have bred with a lot of cultures and be of mixed race; so he cast someone whose race he couldn’t immediately identify.

      I wish I could find the more thorough version, but I’m more interested in getting a shower right now.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “John, do you truly believe the casting on this movie was done in a fully non-racist way? That is, do you believe that they cast the best actors for the job that they could, and paid no attention to race when doing so?”

      I believe that for you even to ask the question betrays a deep and grotesque sickness in your soul which I will not honor nor encourage by answering further. You should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Comment by Keith B:

        ‘Tis a sickness in my soul to ask an honest question? To even acknowledge a potential injustice, and to ask whether you think it might be there or not?

        What sin am I committing so deeply that you deem my soul to have a sickness?

        • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

          Well, Mr. Wright did not say Sin, you did. As to the sickness in your soul, something has gone terribly wrong with the people (not just you!) who looked at this imaginary world and, finding elements that seemed familiar, mapped real world ethnic groups to the ones in the imaginary world, and when the live action movie did not follow that sad racist little map, Injustice! Racist! Black face! Doom! Doom!

          Is Shakespeare to only use white, British actors? Why don’t you tell us what positions or roles can only be played by white people. If you can’t (and I don’t believe you can), then given your previous question, there is a sickness in your soul.

          • Comment by Keith B:

            You are ascribing a lot of thoughts and opinions to me that I did not state (nor do I actually have).

            Regarding the elements that looked familiar, they did not all actually look familiar to me (some did, but not all). Instead, the creators of the show have stated in interviews &c where they pulled the elements from, and have spoken regarding the race of the characters (to the point of noting the real-life people they based the characters’ looks on). Should we ignore what the creators themselves say about a world? Should we ignore LeGuin’s pleas that Ged is dark-skinned for the same reason?

            Is it racist to acknowledge that race exists, and has an impact on people?

            Is it racist to suggest that there might be racial injustices in the Hollywood casting process itself, especially of lead roles?

            Do I have a sickness in my soul for implying asking if such an injustice (if it exists) might have happened with this movie?

            How does someone determine I have a sickness in my soul from my simply asking an honest question?

            • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

              Well, if I might ask an “honest question”, answer yes or no; Have you stopped beating your wife?

              I think we both agree that is an question that can be honest but is not honest here. If I were to seriously ask that question to a man known not to be married, it would be an indication of a “sickness of the soul”. Here, when you ask, seriously, if a movie about an imaginary world has acted in a racist fashion, because it did not make use of racist templates in a way you think acceptable, well, “sickness of the soul” time. To claim that actors should have been certain real world ethnic groups, because the writers were “inspired” by them, well, that’s like saying that a movie about Elvis should have the Lead as a black jazz man, because Elvis was inspired by them. Yes, Elvis was inspired by people, but he will never be them. To think that something inspired by an ethnic group is “owned” by them, and no other ethnic group may act upon or depict it, is Racist. The fact that you are so consumed by your “anti-racist” that you cannot “put the girl down at the edge of the river” and have to look for examples in the castings of a children’s film about an imaginary world, well, your soul is sick. Put the girl down.

              I note that you did not answer my question about Shakespeare. Those plays were written about the English, for the English. Is it racist for the Japanese to perform and enjoy those plays?

              • Comment by Keith B:

                The answer depends on the way you interpret “stop”. I do not beat my wife, therefore I am in the equivalent state (not-beating) as someone who has stopped beating his wife. However, I also never started, and it’s hard to stop something that never started.

                Although I certainly don’t see how it gives me any sort of insight into the state of someone’s soul from hearing the question. Their assumptions about the world, yes, but soul? No.

                I never said the movie was racist. You are putting words in my mouth. Again.

                Animation has a tendency to obscure racial characteristics, therefore people tend to project onto them more. Matt Thorn has an excellent piece describing this phenomenon. However, that doesn’t mean that animated characters are race-less; consider the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Or Spirited Away. Or Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

                In the case of Avatar, it is clear that the creators most certainly intended for the characters to be Asian/Inuit, through their dress, names, written language, culture, and so on. Furthermore, they have noted various real-life physical models for the characters, who end up fairly often being Asian.

                In short, we have a television series that features a (visually) non-white lead cast.

                In transitioning this to movie form, this (especially as it was an intentional choice on the series’ creators’ part) should at least be considered. It appears as though it was; there are an abundance of non-white characters in the movie.

                However, for some reason, the entire main cast ended up white (until they re-cast Zuko).

                So we must ask ourselves why this happened. It could be a coincidence, that of all of the non-white children extras they got, they couldn’t find one that was as good an actor as the ones they chose. I’m not sure I believe that. It could be Shyamalan doing it intentionally. I don’t believe that either.

                Rather, I think this is just a symptom of a larger trend in Hollywood, wherein lead characters are cast with white actors (unless they are an already well-established non-white actor) for whatever reason, even when the source was a non-white character. Consider, for example, 21, based on a book about an Asian male, but when they made the movie, they made him white.

                Is it a consciously racist decision on any one person’s part? I don’t believe that, either. It’s fallout from decades of racism, and the attitudes presented by Hollywood executives regarding the profitability of movies starring non-white characters.

                I haven’t seen a mainstream romantic comedy from the past decade that starred and Asian male as the lead role. Why not? Coincidence (my statistics treat that as unlikely)? Or is there something else going on?

                I’m not suggesting it’s a co-ordinated effort. Like I said, I think it’s just a result of the way things have been. That doesn’t mean I can’t hope it will change, and am sad when a wonderful opportunity to begin cultivating young non-white actors in lead roles goes by.

                So is it wrong for me to think that American audiences are good enough people to accept non-white leads, and to find it troubling that Hollywood does not? If belief in the good of people and of a movie-making system that does not tend to cast leads as white because it’s “safe” is said to taint my soul, then I must only conclude that someone that claims such has no idea at all what the status of my soul is.

                Regarding your Shakespeare question, I assume you’re not talking about the plays like Hamlet, which are not about English people. And no, I don’t see how it’s racist for a Japanese theatre troupe to cast Japanese people in a performance of it. It’s a red herring question, though. I am not criticizing the casting itself–I simply have issue with the casting process.

                “Caucasian or any other ethnicity” to me is a problematic casting call for a movie based on a property where the characters are very intentionally not Caucasian. Would such a call be any more acceptable for a movie about Earthsea?

                • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

                  So much for the “honest question”……

                  Of course you said the movie is racist. You repeat the charge in paragraph five. “In the case of Avatar, it is clear that the creators most certainly intended for the characters to be Asian/Inuit, through their dress, names, written language, culture, and so on. Furthermore, they have noted various real-life physical models for the characters, who end up fairly often being Asian.”. Very dishonest, in the way the Left so often is. First you put words in the mouth of the people who made the series. “It is clear that the creators most certainly intended for the characters to be Asian/Inuit, through their dress, names, written language, culture, and so on.”. This is not what they said and it’s self evidently untrue, insofar as they could have made them Asian/Inuit if they wanted to. It is only because you can’t see with eyes unclouded by hate that you assign ethnic categories to imaginary people, who are their own, imaginary ethnic groups. It is the fact that you put everything into your secret “racist” decoder ring (AH-HA! I have uncovered the clues! The Water tribe is really Asian! But Hollywood would not cast an Asian for the role because their Racist!) and your stunning lack of awareness (You put words in my mouth! I never said the movie was racist, I just asked if you had stopped beating your wife!) that makes Mr. Wright and I think that your soul is wounded.

                  You’re right. If only Hollywood had accepted Jackie Chan as a male lead (Oh, wait, they did). If only Jackie Chan had been the male lead in a romantic comedy(The Spy Next Door, 2010. Saw it in theaters. Guess you were too busy looking for Racists) Or maybe Danny Glover (Oh, wait, they did). I could go on all day. It is self evidently crazy to claim that Hollywood does not accept “not-white” leads. Particularity crazy given how much Hollywood chases after the International market. If you could see with eyes unclouded by hate, this would be obvious to you as well.

                  Of course you don’t. Like a good Leftist, racist is something “white” people do to “ethnics”. All your talk about “inspired” goes right out the window when it’s being done to “white people” and your magic “lens of racism” don’t activate. It is obvious that Shakespeare wrote his plays with the idea the the English would be playing in them. It’s what he had to work with. They do not suffer for being played by “ethnics”, for his art is universal. If your soul were not so damaged, you would understand the reverse is true.

                  Of course it would. There is nothing important about “skin color” in Earthsea. The ideas in Earthsea are universal, and any role could be filled by anyone, like in Shakespeare. How damaged your soul is, that you would bring up Earthsea as an example of a film that needs to be racist in it’s casting. Pathetic, too, since there are movies where you would have a point, because their art is less universal, such as “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Let go of your hate. Put down the girl…..

                  • Comment by Keith B:

                    In other words, you are going to completely throw out everything the creators have said about the series in interviews and the art book?

                    All in the quest to prove me (someone who usually gets shouted down for being “too conservative”) wrong, to brand me a racist, and to claim that I have a tainted soul?

                    How about you get back to me when you decide to have much less vitriol, and more actually reading what I wrote?

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

                      I did read what you wrote, and responded to it. I note that you have many accusations that you have been unable to defend, such as the one about the Asian leading man, and the silliness with Earthsea. Then there is your misreading of the authors statements. It is an animated feature. If they wanted Asians, or Eskimos, or baboons, they could have. Their creation. They did not, perhaps because they had more freedom on another world with creatures close to, but not, humans. I’ve seen the pictures from the animation, and the casting was quite close. A very nice transition from Animated to Live Action. Except, of course, in the eyes of those who can seen nothing but Racism….

                      Your desperate “honest question” comes from a tortured mind, one unable to accept that Hollywood is quite, quite amoral, and Racism is bad for the bottom line, and partying with their peers. Sad, and indicative of a wounded soul.

                    • Comment by Keith B:

                      Hah, there’s a comment depth.

                      Perhaps if you had been more reasonable, you would have said something like “What about the movie The Spy Next Door? That was a romantic comedy starring Jackie Chan.” And I would have said something like “You have a point, although he only got the part after a large number of other roles. Why don’t we look at actors that have done a romantic comedy in their first five mainstream movies?” and we could have gone from there.

                      Instead, you insulted and mocked me.

                      Saying “they did not draw them Asian enough” is a bad argument. The characters of Neon Genesis Evangelion are drawn “white”, though they are clearly Japanese (sans Asuka). Anime style frequently obfuscates this, which is why there’s the perennial question “why are characters in anime white?”

                      The actors they got for the main cast do definitely resemble their animated counterparts. I am not disputing that. Though looks aren’t the only thing–note how they change Iroh’s appearance because they found a good actor for him.

                      I bring up Earthsea because the author herself has stated that the race of the characters is an important point in the story.

                      I can accept that Hollywood can be amoral, though I am not convinced it is (in many regards, not just race). And just because racism is bad for the bottom line doesn’t mean people don’t do it (consider the store-owners in the mid-20th century that wouldn’t let black people shop there).

                      You accuse my mind of being tortured (it isn’t), and wonder why I can’t just accept your view on things. I could turn that question right around and ask why you can’t accept that maybe there are still vestiges of racism in our entertainment industry–but I get the impression that my merely asking the question will cause you to once again insult me, make assumptions about my mental state, and to talk definitively about my soul.

                      It feels to me like you want very much for me to one of the doom-and-gloom extremists who cries racism at every slight, real or imaginary. Even though I’m not. And it feels to me that the position of immediately rejecting anyone who raises the point to be just as intellectually precarious.

                      Just because “wolf” has been cried way too many times (which it most certainly has) does not mean there is not occasionally a wolf among the sheep.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

                      Well, if you want people to be reasonable, you have to prime the pump. Let’s look at your statement about leading men. “I haven’t seen a mainstream romantic comedy from the past decade that starred and Asian male as the lead role. Why not? Coincidence (my statistics treat that as unlikely)? Or is there something else going on?”. Not reasonable at all. Nope. Two choices given. “Coincidence or something else….(Could it be Racism? I didn’t say it. I just made it the only possible reason, but I lack the courage to actually say it out loud. Good thing we haven’t seen this before, people might start forming patterns!). So when I slap you with reality, pointing out a fine, mainstream romantic comedy starring an “Asian” male, one you missed because you are so consumed with hate, anger, and racism, you, in the manner of Leftists everywhere, cry about being attacked. You cry about being reasonable, and try to move the goal posts, proving my point. If I were to follow up with your new conditions, you, as a Leftist and Racist, would just move them again. We’ve seen this game before. It’s pathetic and sad, and the fact that you would try to use it at this date, with a straight face, shows how wounded your soul is.

                      And your comment about Earthsea is pathetic and sad as well. You try to “Argue to Authority”, because Race is not central to the plot or characters. I read Earthsea, and I didn’t even notice “Ethnic groups”. Instead of pointing out how race is important in Earthsea (Because you can’t), you have to drag out “But the Author said!”. But she didn’t say it in the book, so no one with any sense cares. Just you and the other racists, with your pathetic scrapbook of authors and other creators saying something you can interpret as making Race important. How much of your life have you wasted making this idiot, pointless scrapbook? Put down the Girl.

                    • Comment by Keith B:

                      Yes, I committed the logical fallacy of bifurcation. I gave only two options: coincidence or something else. Instead of the the third choice I missed…something else something else. My bad.

                      Yes, I missed that movie. I never saw any trailers for it, and I never saw a cardboard stand in a theatre. I might simply have missed its window of being out. It happens.

                      In terms of moving the goalposts, yes, I admit that I did. Perhaps if you prove me wrong again, I’ll move them again. Okay. Obviously, there’s no way we can convince each other on this one, without obtaining real numbers and comparing them to real demographic data.

                      Is there a reason you continue to insult me by calling me a “Leftist” and a “Racist”? It does very little at convincing me you might be right about anything.

                      “Cry about being attacked”? I’m sorry that I, after getting repeatedly insulted and mocked, finally take umbrage and say something about it. Obviously, I should just let myself be browbeat by your referring to my “sick soul”, my being a “leftist”, my being a “racist”, my “tortured mind”, my “eyes clouded by hate”, my being “pathetic” and “sad”?

                      It still feels to me like you are wanting for me to be and act like a certain particular person you have in mind. Because you keep referring to actions and thoughts that I do not actually do/have. I still get the very strong sense like all you want to do is tell me what a horrible person I am for not believing like you believe, and whenever I bring up a counter-argument, I receive vitriol in return.

                      All in response to what was very much an honest question. And instead of pointing out where the assumptions I may have had prior to asking were wrong, I was jumped on by being told my soul is “sick”.

                      So, dare I make an implication of insult? Whose soul is more sick: the one who asks an honest question (even if on poor assumptions), or the ones who deign one question sufficient to proclaim the status of the asker’s soul?

                      And, who is this girl you refer to? I have referenced none.

                      In either case, I get the impression our host would rather curtail these discussions. It also seems like you and I are essentially talking past each other: I ignore your questions, you call me a Leftist Racist, I take offense, and so on and so forth. Around and around we shall go, because neither of us is willing to compromise our worldview (yours, that you are Right and I am a Sick Leftist Racist, and mine that I am trying to confront a potential injustice and that you are simply unwilling or unable to even look at an injustice that might actually exist and insult me as a result). These are, it would seem, mutually incompatible.

                      So now, having probably insinuated several insults against you, I say we should probably declare a DMZ (as I don’t think even a truce would work), and be done with it.

                      As a gesture of goodwill in this, I will let you have the parting shot at me.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          We have here a case where, to produce some light family entertainment, a non-white director hired an actor, Noah Ringer (whose race I cannot tell by looking at him, and which I do not care about, since I am not a racist vermin) to pretend to be a character from another planet named Aang (whose race I cannot tell by looking at him, and which I do not care about, since I am not a racist vermin) who is a cartoon drawn in the Anime style, and Anime style usually omits any racial features at all, so that they tend to look generically human rather than members of a specific race. Generally, no person attributes to any Anime characters any race at all, unless he is a racist vermin.

          Now you have the presumption to ask me on what grounds I call it a disease of the soul to be obsessed with racism, race quotas, race-baiting, and race not in some real world area like equal rights under the law, or hiring or housing, but are instead obsessed to the point where light family entertainment casting decisions are scrutinized with the care and scientific precision of Nazi eugenicists to determine if the race-portrayals of M. Night Shyamalan were in keeping with the the rule that whites must not pretend to be non-whites. (Whether you also think non-whites must not pretend to be whites is significant here, for if you do, you are a racist vermin, and if you do not, you are a hypocrite, or, at least, someone who proposes a double standard.)

          Instead of explaining myself again, I will ask you a simple question.

          You claim that Noah Ringer is disqualified from pretending to be Aang on the basis of his race. He is “too white” to be allowed to pretend to be Aang.

          My white son from time to time pretends to be Aang. He runs around the living room telling Appa too dodge the fireballs. Is he disqualified from pretending to be Aang? Should my son only pretend to be characters that “look white” to the eyes of diseased racist vermins?

          What about my oriental daughter. Is she disqualified from pretending to be Katara, or any other character in the Airbender universe? Should my daughter only pretend to be characters that “look yellow” to the eyes of diseased racist vermins? Should she be not allowed to pretend to be Saavik from STAR TREK, on the grounds that nonhumans from planet Vulcan “look white” to the eyes of diseased racist vermins? What about T’Pring? Was she “yellow” looking enough in the eyes of a diseased racist vermin that your notion of justice would allow my daughter to pretend to be her?

          What about the icon my Jewish wife uses to represent herself in facebook? It is a picture of a Bollywood actress that looks almost exactly like her. Is she disqualified from pretending to be an Indian because diseased racist vermins like you approve of her race or disapprove of her race? I have had diseased racist vermins from the left-of-center side of aisle criticize her and condemn her from using that icon, because Jewesses are not allowed to pretend to be Indians.

          I have been in the same situation as M. Night Shyamalan: diseased racist vermins accused me of being a racist. (Because I used the term “white slavery”, which is still the legal term for it, for coerced prostitution.) My family has been accused of racism on grounds equally as frivilous. My editor has been accused of racism. The job where my wife once worked was accused of racism. My profession has been accused of racism. My vocation has been accused of racism. My nation has been accused of racism. My church has been accused of racism.

          At this point, I am so sick and tired of the accusations, not one of which has ever been true or close to true, that I cannot bring myself to take your accusations seriously.

          You judge people, including actors you don’t know and directors you have not met, on the basis of their skin color rather than on the content of their character. Your analysis of the situation is only skin deep.

          Why are you even concerned with what race Noah Ringer is? What if he has a black great-grandfather, or an Oriental half-sister, would that make him non-white enough to allow him to sit in the front of the bus?

          To be concerned with the political correctness of race to the point of obsession is sick, sick, sick. Even talking about this topic makes me feel greasy.

          Please do not bring this up again.

          • Comment by Keith B:

            Wow, you’re putting a lot of words into my mouth.

            I never claimed Noah was disqualified to be Aang. I never claimed any of the actors were disqualified to be their characters.

            I have not claimed any specific person to be racist (in fact, in another post, I explicitly state that I don’t think any specific person in this is, and certainly I make no claim about Shyamalan being so). I have not accused you of being racist.

            I am not obsessed with race.

            So I would appreciate it if you would stop putting words in my mouth and insulting me, much less insinuating that you know the state of my soul.

            My primary issue is as follows:
            1. It is clear that the creators of the series intended for the characters to be of non-white ethnicity, though admittedly certain aspects of “race” and “ethnicity” are meaningless when outside of the context of Earth geography.
            2. When the studio did the casting call for these characters, they asked for actors of “Caucasian or any other ethnicity”, not even “Any ethnicity”.

            This, to me, seems both untrue to the source material and problematic in the larger context of the roles non-white actors are offered in Hollywood. And I think that brushing these under the rug saying “It’s not a problem, and if you think it is you are a vermin and have a sickness in your soul” is not a good way to address the issue, and if there is a problem, not a good way of fixing it; and if there isn’t a problem, not a good way of getting people to believe you.

            To answer your simple questions, I have no compunctions with those situations of pretending you gave. I don’t see why there would be an issue; I pretended to be Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu in a Star Wars role playing game the other night, and that’s right in the same vein as you’re describing, as my skin is way too pale and my hair way too light for there to be any confusion between him and me.

            What I desire is a world in which, if you take a sample of the latest say, 100 movies in a particular genre, the demographic breakdown of the lead (top-billed) actor would (within a statistical range) mirror the demographic breakdown of the United States (or world) [allowing for historical fiction and age issues if necessary]. Not by being forced (mandated quotas are bad for reasons I know you already understand), but because it happens to be that way when they do their casting process. This is what we’d (statistically) expect if the Hollywood casting process were truly demographic-neutral. Race happens to be one of those demographics (and one that’s easier to see).

            When I look at the slew of movies advertised in theatres and in previews, I do not see that. It’s closer than it was say, 50 years ago, but it’s still not there. It appears to me that far more than 75% of the top-billed leads I see are white (if I had to come up with a number, I’d say 90%). Though I also will admit human fallibility and possible confirmation bias; I would be interested to see the actual numbers run.

            I saw this movie as a golden opportunity to possibly change that number, and am somewhat disappointed that they didn’t, but if they truly picked the best actors for the job, so be it.

            (Sidenote: if we assume Noah is white, then 75% of the lead 4 is white. Nifty.)

            I will not bring the subject up again, unless you again choose to insult me and then argue against the things “I” believe, even though I don’t actually believe them. A bullied man must, after all, fight for his honor, right?

    • Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

      It’s ridiculous to accuse a non-white director of having pro-white racism. He says he picked the people he thought fit the part best. I believe him. After all, his film was one of the most racially diverse I’ve ever seen. The water benders were white up north but looked like esquimoux down south. The air tribe was a mix of everything. The fire guys were Persian. The Earth guys are Asian (so Toph will be Asian.) So, if the guy says that he picked his main characters based on look and fighting skill, I believe him.

      • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr.:

        It is a very common practice among the Racist Leftists. “Race traitors”, “Uncle Toms”, any number of terms to marginalize “ethnics” who leave the reservation. Look at what they did and tried to do to Clarence Thomas. The Left has very little problem with actual Racism. You can make a very strong case that they invented Modern Racism (see if Mr. Wright will let you borrow “Leftism Revisited”). When they speak of Racism, as a rule, it means refusal to accept the little box they want to keep you in……

  14. Comment by Tommy Tanaka:

    I’ll admit I was mildly concerned about the RottenTomatoes rating. I read all of the “It’s racist!” comments, and even went further and read external reviews and found Shyamalan’s explanation for his choices, and decided that people were being silly and PC and basically looking for something to complain about. The other complaints were potentially more valid, but (aside from already agreeing that I was going to see the movie) decided I’d rely on my general observation that I’m usually in complete disagreement with professional movie critics. Probably my biggest concern was that in the trailer I saw, the martial arts moves that went along with bending looked a little goofy.

    I enjoyed it. It wasn’t a great movie, but it was at least as good (in terms of the specific complaints the critics had) of any other movie I’ve seen recently. Once the movie got going, the bending moves didn’t feel as out of place. The friend who had no pre-knowledge of Last Airbender did not find the plot at all murky or difficult to follow. It perhaps could have done with more comic relief, but as you say Shyamalan was going for a more serious story. I don’t know if I’ll buy it on DVD, but I probably will get it from Netflix to see if it has repeat value.

    One thing I really liked about it: Fire benders actually needed to have fire to bend. That irked me in the cartoon more than anything else. Air benders can bend air around them. Earth benders can bend earth around them. Water benders can bend water around them. Fire benders… can summon fire from nowhere, and then bend it. I don’t think the cartoon would have been weakened in any way by doing it exactly the way Shyamalan did it… We all have our specific issues that break suspension of disbelief, and that was mine in the cartoon.

    So yes, racism accusations were silly and inane, and any problems people had with acting or plotting would have been as valid leveled against anything else Hollywood puts out. IMHO, YMMV, contents may settle during shipping.

    • Comment by Foxfier:

      Fire benders actually needed to have fire to bend.


      Well, guess that means I’ll be out of the room when my husband finally netflixs it.

      Between the Rule of Cool, the established setting with spirits and all, and dragons being involved in teaching firebending, I never had an issue with the inner fire. It was sort of hugely important at several points.

      Guess I’ll just go read Embers on instead. -.-

      (I am glad other folks enjoyed it, it just makes me sad to see how much screwing a great notion took.)

      • Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

        >Fire benders actually needed to have fire to bend.

        Actually, it was really cool because Iroh didn’t need fire. The scene when he showed off what he could do was one of my favorites.

  15. Comment by Foxfier:

    *looks at the cast* Most of them STILL don’t look like their characters– and I don’t mean race, just bearing or aura, or feel or that something where you get a notion of what someone is like from how they stand, move and look.
    They just don’t *look* right.

    Add that to my pet peeve of screwing up the style-as-character-development for Zuko, and you mentioning they screwed up Iroh, and I have even less desire to see yet another movie doing less than well to a show I enjoyed.

  16. Comment by Foxfier:

    I can’t believe I didn’t ask before…. Did they have any of the funny animals? Cow-Chickens, Moose-tigers, Bear-(roll a d-20)?

  17. Comment by Kate:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I honestly felt like I was the only person in the world who enjoyed this film. I defended it from virtually everyone, even those who normally have the same taste as me.

    I didn’t think it was perfect but what was done well, was done really well and a number of things were done better in the film than in the cartoon in my opinion. It is great to know I am not alone in liking this film!

  18. Comment by Melody:

    I guess no one can be right 100% of the time…

    I respect you Mr. Wright, but how the filmmakers could have taken such gold as the television series was and turned it into such drivel is a crime against art.

    Secondly, there are many cues in the series as to the racial identity of the characters. That they are drawn with wide eyes is itself after the asian anime style and is designed for better emotional range. In the original, great care was given to such details as clothing, hair, and architecture. Katara and Sokka wear actual clothes and hairstyles of Inuit tribes. Aang wears the clothes of a Tibetan holy man. Toph and her people wear Korean clothes. The fire nation is a blend of imperial China and Heian Japan. One thing I love about that series is that it teaches people that Asian people are not all the same. I would sooner confuse an Englishman with a Scot than I would confuse a Japanese man with a Chinese one.
    Also, you seem to have missed the story detailing how the studios advertised “White or any other ethnicity” in the casting call for the main cast while desiring Asians first when it came to the extras. If one is to oppose the PC police, it’s important to recognize real cases of racism, or one loses the moral high ground completely. Denying Asian actors just work in roles designed for them is unfair and racist.

    They even went to the trouble of hiring multiple martial arts experts and basing the different bending styles off of them, so that each nation/element would have unique movements. The fighting in the movie was far less impressive.

    Have you actually watched the series? I’m led to the conclusion that perhaps you have only watched a few episodes. You should have taken $50 of those $70 dollars and purchased the boxset for your clan. It would have led to many hours well spent.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Yes, I saw and adored the series, and I own it, and I have watched it multiple times, and I can quote large sections of dialog from memory. I agree that the live action movie was less impressive than the cartoon: how could it not be? That cartoon is maybe the best animated series I have ever seen, bar none.

      Yes, I am aware of the wording of the casting call, and yes, you are a sick, sick racist freak for being obsessed with such minutia. My hatred for racists and race-baiters like you is too great for me to continue this discussion in a polite fashion. I suggest you drop the topic.

      “Denying Asian actors just work in roles designed for them is unfair and racist. ”

      You just called M. Night Shyamalan a racist, and, by implication, everyone who worked on the movie, and everyone who enjoyed it. You are a liar.

      • Comment by Melody:

        I don’t recall calling you a racist, nor implying that everyone who made the film was a racist. I think the casting agency is racist. It’s simply unjust to deprive the best people for the role of a job for the same reasons that affirmative action is wrong. It’s also something that has happened with many films over the years. A sad irony is that Mako himself started a theater for Asians because of the difficulty they had getting roles.

        And, this is so far from the standards of polite behavior I am accustomed to from you. I was the one who defended your wife from the howling wolves who incorrectly called her racist. If you like I can copy/paste her thank you. I’ve been reading your blog for almost five years now, and thought of you fondly as an internet acquaintance.

        Since when did you join the rabble? I am feeling deeply hurt right now. I used to look up to you.

        • Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

          John just lost it. I’m pulling him out of the pit now and dusting him off. He’ll be back to apologize for you after the Spiritual Cleansing. (I think after what happened last summer, he has this idea that people who call people racists are attacking his wife. So he’s gotten hyper sensative.) I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive him once he crawls back into the sunlight.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Allow me to offer you my deepest apologies. It is not my place to judge you or anyone. I am sorry.

          If it is any comfort, I do adore the cartoon, and I do agree the live action film is not as good.

  19. Comment by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright:

    Geesh! John! Calm down!

    People can have a differnt of opinion and not be evil. They can even be misled. Calling people name NEVER makes them more willing to see the light, and sometimes alienates those who would be on your side.

    I thought you were above Argumentum Ad Bacculum.

  20. Comment by Mike:

    Finally, a voice of sanity. I have no idea where the smear campaign for this film started, but it really got out of control. Another case of the tail wagging the dog.

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