7.02.2010

100th Post and Final Push!

Happy Friday everyone, and happy 4th of July and long weekend too!!! Can you smell the fireworks in the air? The 4th of July is pretty flippin' awesome, so I hope you have a good one!

Here's 4th of July trivia for you (because I love US history, srsly). Did you know both Jefferson and Adams passed into the great beyond on July 4, 1826 within hours of each other? Adams' last words were something to the effect of "Thomas Jefferson survives," but actually that was not true. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, no?

This post is sort of MOMENTOUS because it's A Nudge's 100th post! Amazing! Seriously, for us this is a big deal because there was a long while where this blog just sat around. Now it's sort of consistent enough to have 100 posts (and lovely readers like you to boot!). I think this calls for ice cream!

Lastly, many of you by now know that the casting controversy surrounding the film The Last Airbender is an important issue to me. I've briefly mentioned it here before, so I don't want to harp on this again too much. This is, however, opening weekend for the movie (and a long weekend at that - perfect timing for a wannabe summer blockbuster), which makes it time for a big nudge on the topic.

  • When you go to the movies this weekend, please consider NOT going to the The Last Airbender because whitewashing is not cool. If you must go (because I know a lot of people are excited about it), please consider going after opening weekend. Thank you.

I found there are so many people who have already said what I want to say about all of this much better than I ever could. So I leave you with a few links, a few of my bullet points, and a comic because comics are fun.

Why I Won't Be Watching the Last Airbender Movie by author Gene Luen Yang.


Link: Facepainting - A well-written essay about the TLA controversy and the history of ____face. Plus, it addresses many of the arguments made in defense of the movie.

Link: An Open Letter to Racebending.com Detractors - Michael Le of Racebending.com explains racebending.com supporters' concerns and tries to clear up the misunderstandings surrounding the protest.

Quickie bullet points on some of the concerns I've heard:
  • Why shouldn't I see this movie? Giving this film your dollars sends the message that whitewashing is okay and/or that we tolerate it enough to reward the studio for perpetuating glass ceilings for actors of color. The movie's success would also tell studios that they can get away with such practices, and would reaffirm the assumption that White actors are more marketable than actors of color.
  • The best actors were cast for the role. It's disingenuous to say this when open casting calls asked for actors who are Caucasian - or any other ethnicity, phrasing that indicates preference for Caucasian actors. Would you audition or apply for a job that asked for blonds - or any other hair color if you weren't blond? At least, it would make you think twice about applying. Also, comments by the casting director show an offensive level of cultural insensitivity.
  • There are Asians in the film, including in leading roles. The original cast had White actors in all the main roles (3 heroes, 1 antagonist). Dev Patel replaced Jesse McCartney as Fire Nation Prince Zuko. The casting of the Fire Nation was subsequently adjusted to match Patel, making it a nation filled with actors and extras of darker skinned ethnicities. Also, populating the background with extras who are actually Asian or Inuit does not make the movie "diverse."
  • It's a fantasy. The cartoon characters' race isn't explicit / their look is ambiguous. Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy as well, populated with characters whose race (other than if they're human, elf, hobbit, etc.) isn't necessarily explicit either. It's implicit from the world-building, the tradition of the story, and the intents of its originator. I don't question why Middle Earth seems mostly populated by Caucasian people even across species because I understand that the story is meant to be like a European fairytale/myth. It pays homage to the grand Nordic and essentially Western sagas and epics and the folklore of Tolkien's heritage. The Last Airbender cartoon series does this with Asian and Inuit cultures and traditions. It pays homage to them and uses themes and settings based in those cultures. I know culture doesn't equal race, but when you see an "ambiguous" bald kid with a name like Aang who looks like a monk, does martial arts, and writes in Chinese calligraphy, do you really assume he's White? And ambiguous or not, Sokka and Katara, at least, are clearly dark-skinned in the show. Taking the Asian and Inuit settings and traditions but making the representative characters of those things White says to me, "Hey, your culture is cool, but your face isn't."
  • It's just a kids' movie/ it's just a movie. It's for entertainment. First, the film is marketed as a summer blockbuster, and like another "kids'" series, Harry Potter, it has cross age-group appeal. Second, movies are a way of disseminating culture. Yes, they're for entertainment, but they reaffirm and sometimes challenge our societal beliefs and systems. Even so-called throwaway, no brainer movies say something about who we are as a society because they are products of our society. Yellowface and whitewashing has existed for so long because it keeps getting reaffirmed; kids learn to expect White as the default race. So The Last Airbender film might be more of a "big deal" in its role as a "kids' movie"; think about what it's subconsciously teaching the kids.
LASTLY, all controversy aside, it just seems like a terrible movie. It's gotten awful reviews (the Rotten Tomatoes meter is at a dismal 9%), including a HALF STAR from Roger Ebert. I didn't even know that was possible. And I do feel bad, especially for the young actors and for the original series, which will have to bear being associated with what sounds like a trainwreck.


From the fan side of it, fans are saying it's a horrible adaptation - too much exposition, bad pacing, clunky dialogue, uninspired fight scenes, and crappy effects (even worse in 3D). Worse than that, apparently characters have had all the heart and soul sucked out of them to the point where key aspects of who they are are underrepresented if shown at all. That's bad story-telling, my friends.


So yeah. If you want a family film to take your kids to this holiday weekend, take them to Toy Story 3, which is actually worth your time and money. Pixar understands compelling storytelling and genuine emotion. Better yet, watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, the original cartoon series, which I hear is up in its entirety (3 seasons) on Netflix. ;)

As always, I point you to www.racebending.com, especially their short video primer (it'll only take like 5 minutes of your time), for more information about the subject. They're civil, clear, and concise.

Thanks for sticking through that! I wish you sun and relaxation for this weekend! HAPPY 4th!

10 comments:

Sandy Shin said...

Congrats on your 100th post! :)

And THIS POST ROCKS ALL.

Do you mind if I refer to it?

Merc said...

Excellent post! And CONGRATS on 100th post, too! :D *throws flaming confetti*

Hope you both have a great 4th of July.

Lydia Kang said...

Congrats on your 100th post! What a great achievement! And I've said it here before I think, but I agree. Our family isn't going to see the movie.

Icy Roses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krispy said...

Sandy- Thanks! Of course you can refer to it. The more the word gets out, the better. I'm just flattered you think it's reference-able. :D

Merc- Flaming confetti! Your presence on the interwebs has indeed been missed. Thanks!

Lydia- You have, and I appreciate your continued support. Thanks for the congrats!

Xixi- History buff? Says the history major! John Adams was pretty awesome, even if lots of people didn't like him. I'm not so secretly in love with Alexander Hamilton, so you should BE PROUD.

It's kind of a relief the movie itself is a fail!boat, but like I said, I do have some lingering sad feelings about it (mostly the bad association now attached to the Airbender name). You sound busy, but if you're ever bored and need something to watch, A:TLA is a short 3 seasons (of short episodes)!

Weronika Janczuk said...

I remember my 100th post. It was quite the achievement, for sure, for sure. CONGRATULATIONS and some belated confetti.

And I agree with Sandy - the post rocks freakin' all. Love it. How is it that I've never stopped by this blog before? That makes me the most terrible of losers, yes, it does. And I am going to change that. Here is to many more read and commented on posts, though the comments . . . aren't as consistent as the reads. :)

WritingNut said...

Congratulations on your 100th post! And it's a very good post too! :)

Krispy said...

Weronika- You are many things but a loser is not one of them. I know, I've lurked around your blog. (Wow, like that didn't sound creepy...) Welcome and THANK YOU!!!

WritingNut- Glad you think so, especially since I tend to ramble and make everything convoluted. XP Thanks!

Angela Brown said...

Okay, so I realize I'm really late to this party, so late in fact that there is no party, but I had to say this: I love this post.

The information provided is great. Your opinions are backed with sound truths and I just plain agree with your opinion on this matter.

Now, I did go see the movie. I did not hurl in the movie theater, but I did stare at the screen in confusion, horrified, dumbfounded but determined to watch it all the way through because I paid my hard earned money darn it!

I did go home and cry. The Last Airbender is one of my all-time favorite series, and this is comparing it to live action and sitcoms. Everything about it was sucked out of it, leaving behind some husk of a movie that broke my heart. A coworker and I, who both saw the movie, had a pow wow about it and shredded it to bits. I was so hurt. The tears sting my eyes even now thinking of how the Last Airbender was reduced to a movie flop that will be on the most hated movie lists for eternity.

Sophia Chang said...

One of the main reasons I liked you guys' blog immediately was b/c I saw your anti-race-bending sign on it.