More news from the Racebending front. (Do you remember Racebending? Get your Racebending primer here.) A few months back, we interviewed Michael Le, spokesperson for the grass roots organization known as Racebending.com. The group calls for a boycott of M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming fantasy/action picture The Last Airbender.
Le explained that the source material of the film, Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, is so steeped in Asian lore that despite it being a cartoon and set in an imaginary world, that it is offensive to cast Caucasian actors in the lead roles. Racebending.com holds as something of a “smoking gun” that casting calls went out with the coded phrase “Caucasian or any other ethnicity” listed next to the characters’ names. Racebending.com argues that a phrase like that would be likely grounds for a casting agent to only call on Caucasians.
After we ran that article, The Last Airbender’s producer Frank Marshall contacted us, explaining that the strangely added phrase “Caucasian or any other ethnicity” was added by third party casting agents. While Marshall admitted that his group should have had better oversight, he was not responsible for the phrasing. He then included documents that showed the initial memos from his office did not have that wording.
Today, Michael Le contacted me with similar looking documents (see below and click to expand and compare to here and here) dated two months earlier (July 30, 2008 vs September 12, 2008) that do contain the phrase “Caucasian or any other ethnicity” after the first descriptions of Aang, Katara, Sukko and Zuko.
What to make of this? Is this a cover-up? Was Marshall simply misinformed? Are these new documents for real? Racebending.com says they received these documents from an actor who was a fan of the show and sought out the casting call.
We ask you what you think of all this? Should the producers of The Last Airbender just admit that, financially speaking, they need Caucasian actors in lead roles? Or is this all much ado about nothing?