Commentary: We need to boycott “The Last Airbender”

Sasha Pohle-Anderson

By Sasha Pohle-Anderson
For Northwest Asian Weekly

These days, many people think that cries of racism are false alarms — after all, we live in a society where race doesn’t matter, right?

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. The popular animated TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has been made into a live-action film by director M. Night Shyamalan. The original series is a beautiful homage to Eastern culture, set in a fantasy world heavily influenced by Japanese anime and founded in the philosophies, religions, and cultures of Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, India, and Inuit tribes. The movie adaptation, however, portrays whitewashing and outright racism. Each protagonist that has been cast is white.

Because of fan protests, some roles were recast, but only for the villains. In the original, the two main characters — heroes — are dark-skinned Inuits. All the characters are Asian. The main protagonist Aang was even modeled after the Chinese American son of Avatar’s martial arts director, Sifu Kisu.

To all movie-goers, I send out this request: boycott “The Last Airbender.” Send Hollywood the message that it needs. We will not fund racism, nor will we tolerate such contempt of Asian culture.

The casting is quite ironic. Mako Iwamatsu, one of the voice actors of Avatar, founded the East West Players, an Asian American theater organization that has a history of fighting discrimination. The organization also helped Filipino American Avatar voice actor Dante Basco begin his career. In other words, even the behind-the-scenes history of Avatar is one of fighting racism and helping Asian Americans break into mainstream media. There is no such objective for “The Last Airbender.”

Many argue that anime-style faces are racially ambiguous. And while this is true in some cases, culture and skin tone are always clear. Avatar’s creators explicitly stated that they wanted to create a mythology based on Eastern culture, and it shows. Regardless, the heroes of the film are white, while the extras and villains are Asian, Middle Eastern, or Latino. The Eastern cultures gave the original show so much beauty, and the film has cut this out.

Fans weren’t interested in Avatar despite its Eastern influences but rather because of them. Many Asian American fans are able to see themselves in Avatar’s characters. A 13-year-old Filipina American explained, “Katara was one of my favorite characters because she was … dark-skinned, and just awesome. Once I saw the casting for her, I lost that self-esteem.” Not only does whitewashing send a horrible message to Asian Americans, it deprives them of acting roles that were literally designed for them.

Some argue that in casting whites, the director is ensuring more viewership, but M. Night Shyamalan has enough fame for this to not be an issue. “Avatar” also has thousands of devoted fans who aren’t just willing to see Asian leads; they protest any other option.

I am a Caucasian high school student, and I don’t want to see only Caucasians in films. There are plenty of Asian actors and new talent that could have been used for this movie. People say it would be hard to find Inuit actors. However, “The Last Airbender” was filmed partially in Greenland which has an Inuit population of 88 percent.

It is clearly too late to change the casting, but there is still something you can do. Make sure that its creators don’t profit from the film. They have turned their backs on an Asian fantasy world that could bring so much hope to Asians and people of all races. This discrimination isn’t exactly surprising, but it doesn’t mean that we have to resign ourselves to it. Nothing will change unless we change it. Boycott, and spread the word. ♦

Sasha Pohle-Anderson will be a senior at Lakeside high school this fall. Her interests include art, philosophy, history, and language. She has taken six years of Latin and is beginning to teach herself Japanese.

Sasha Pohle-Anderson can be reached at

76 Responses to “Commentary: We need to boycott “The Last Airbender””

  1. optimistic says:

    Thank you for your informative article. I enjoyed reading it. I hope you keep writing articles like this to keep people informed.

  2. Allan Kato says:

    Sasha, maybe you’ve read this, maybe you haven’t, but this is M. Night’s official response to charges of racism in the movie The Last Airbender. Perhaps now you have seen the light:

    • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

      Yes, I have seen it. (I have also refuted his arguments in it in the comments below.) Haha, seen the light? You make your opinion sound like some sort of religious cult.

      To name one of the points for you, Shyamalan says Zuko is the “actual” hero. Of course Zuko becomes a hero (later in the story line), but he is an antagonist for 2/3rds of the story. Aang is the main character and hero, not Zuko. And if Zuko is the “hero” of Shyamalan’s work, then why is he described as “evil” in so much advertising for the movie?? (They could have used adjectives like ‘conflicted’ or ‘angry’ which convey that he is an antagonist while leaving the possiblity of becoming a hero open) Instead, Shyamalan succeeded in contradicting himself and badly covering it up by making Zuko “evil” (which he never was in the original) AND a hero (which he only became later). Secondly, one token Asian actor is NOT ENOUGH and it will NEVER be enough. Shyamalan had no good reason for making Aang white.

      Why does he insist that this be a “diverse” movie so that it can include other races? The original was diverse in ASIAN cultures, not world cultures. It is not necessary to put black or white actors into a movie that never had black or white characters.

    • Ron says:

      Hi Allan,

      I am struck by a quote from Malcolm Gladwell:

      “This is not a great moment for listeners in American society. The public conversation is dominated by those whose minds are unalterably made up, and we have come to view the man or woman whose views remain steadfast, even in the face of overwhelmingly evidentiary assault, as a kind of moral hero. Those people are not heroes, of course. They’re usually just stubborn.”

      Sasha is not a listener, and like those that Gladwell refers to she believes she is a hero because of it.

  3. Ivan says:

    “it’s only racist if you are…” hahaha. Ang ain’t white and i do notice most of the bad guys is minorities but hey hollywood be like that. what else is new? change it? meh, i’ll just watch hk or korean movies instead and bootleg the american joints.

  4. Andrew says:

    There are not facts supporting this article. Only speculation and dramatized rhetoric. Go swing your sword at the ghost Sasha. Ron and I will go fight the real battles. People are DYING because of a racist health-care system. People are DYING because they are forced into a sub-society that promotes gang violence and drug use. People aren’t dying because M Night decided to cast white people.

    • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

      Andrew, commentaries are mostly opinion, just so you know. And yeah, people aren’t dying because of this movie. Clearly. But there’s still a problem. It still needs to be fixed. I think subtle points like this are often looked over. People underestimate how much the media affects us. There’s a reason so many teenagers are suicidal and have low self esteem. There’s a reason some children believe they have to be white to be American. The media is to blame for a lot of things.

      • Andrew says:

        Since when do children want to be white? Every other kid I see wants to be a straightshooting gangster. And if you want to attack racist, bigoted media, start with fox news. At least it isn’t even a debate weather or not fox news is racist. Boycott Arizona. Boycott Bible Belt Bigots. All the bad guys are minorities? Did you even watch the series? Zuko is one of the protagonists about 2/3rds through the series. And not just a protagonist, he is the paradigm of redemption and freedom to choice one’s own path. So unless Zuko is recasted as a white teenager, I don’t see your point. A minority being a hero isn’t racist.

        “There’s a reason so many teenagers are suicidal and have low self esteem”.
        Yeah corporate marketing. Probably from products you buy daily.

        • Andrew says:

          Wait…do I really have to argue weather or not the makers of this film are racist? If anyone who participated in the production of this film felt even a little bit uncomfortable with it being racist, don’t you think they would have said something? Having a film labeled racist will kill sales. You honestly believe that the producers of this film care more about forwarding their so called “Racism” than turning a profit? That’s not how the world works.

          • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

            I don’t care what they’re trying to do or what they think they’re doing, I care about the message that they end up sending to the public. The villains are dark. The heroes are pale. That’s not okay. End of story. And, no, in fact Zuko is an antagonist for 2/3rds of the story, not a protagonist. He becomes a hero in the last season. In the movie, it just looks like white poeple teaching Asians how to be good guys.

            • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

              And ‘since when did kids want to be white?’ Are you really asking me that? Here I’ll even give you an example. A friend of mine (Pakistani) wants to be Caucasian and thinks she’s ugly because she has dark skin. It’s not natural to think that. She only feels that way because of our culture. The Last Airbender reinforces that message. If it had been done right, the movie would have given kids dark skinned heroes they could look up to and feel proud of. But no.

              • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

                Clearly we disagree and that’s not going to change. If you have any new points to make, go ahead and make them. Otherwise, let’s leave it at this.

                • Ron says:

                  Sasha, I have a new point to make.

                  The interpretation of any “message” is a two way street, that is equally dependent on both those who send the message and those who receive it. The interpretation of any message is highly subjective.

                  You are correct in saying that it is not natural for your friend to “think she’s ugly because she has dark skin”. However, there are many dark skinned people who have seen plenty of “white predominant” movies that do NOT feel ugly.

                  I would argue that if someone can feel ugly simply by watching a movie, then that person has deeper issues. If our culture is fully to blame for her feeling unattractive, then why do not ALL dark-skinned people feel that way? In fact, most of my dark-skinned friends (and I have plenty), are very proud of being dark skinned. Most of my white friends to tanning on a regular basis to make their skin darker because they think dark skin is beautiful.

                  The answer is simple – not all dark-skinned people interpret the cultural message as you and your pakistani friend do.

                  If a “message” is open to such a wide interpretation, then how is it fair to blame those who “send” it?

                  Perhaps if you could prove that the interpretation of the racism message in the last airbender was consistent – in other words, nearly ALL dark skinned people who saw it thought it was racist and were offended by the casting.

                  I doubt that would be the case, but to prove it you would need to poll minorities who saw the movie, obtaining a unbiased and large sample size.

                  Also remember that as the one making accusations of racism, the burden of proof is on you.

                  Now, you will say that this was just a commentary and opinion. Fair enough. But exactly what is wrong with backing your opinion with numbers, rather than individual examples of people you know?

              • Andrew says:

                “It looks like white people teaching asians to be good guys”.
                Obviously you didn’t see the series because Zuko’s redemption comes from inside himself, not because of Aang’s group.

                Your one example is completely meaningless. I could say that I have a young friend who suffers from PTSD, but that doesn’t mean that the majority of kids have PTSD. That’s not just a faulty argument it’s faulty logic.

                Spot has four legs. Spot is a dog. All dogs have four legs.

                Friend thinks she’s ugly because of skin color. Friend is a child. Children think themselves ugly because of their skin color.

                • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

                  I was talking about the movie, not the series.

                  This is so stupid.

                • Andrew says:

                  “This is so stupid”
                  Ad Hominem Arguments are a sign of defeat.
                  I think I’ve made my points. Good luck boycotting this movie.

          • Ron says:

            Thanks for your comments Andrew. I do want to reiterate that as much as I disagree with Sasha, I do expect good things from her in the future, as enthusiasm and conviction are powerful tools that I find missing in youth today. I find her logic flawed, but her prose is strong and her soapbox is not easily crushed.

            You make many excellent points and of course I agree with you wholeheartedly. You are especially right in that there is absolutely no incentive for film makers to be knowingly racist – it is financial suicide.

            I am not sure whether you saw the statistic I mentioned below – If you google “racist movie” you get 9,360,000 hits. If you google “racist health care” you get about 1.5 million FEWER hits. I do not see how Sasha can say that “subtle points like this are often looked over”. By “this” I presume she means racism in hollywood. If anything, the google numbers would suggest that racist health care is actually what is being looked over, and racist movies get alot more commentary on the internet.

            I have a very simple explanation for this (feel free to let me know whar you think). The problems of racist health care and inner city crime/drugs are very complex and difficult to solve, and involve a great deal of thought, insight, and a knowledge of economics, politics, sociology, statistics and psychology.

            Hollywood, on the other hand, is fairly unsophisticated. It requires a far lower knowledge base to call a movie racist, and the solution (boycotting) is also very simple.

            Sasha probably now realizes that the problems you and I mention are far more serious than “the last airbender”. However, not haven yet been college educated, she lacks the tools to write intelligently about a racist health care system, let alone provide a solution for it. She therefore chooses the easier target of hollywood as a means to express her obvious (and appropriate) frustrations about racism in general.

            While I promised not to be patronizing, I suppose I can understand why a high school student would want to focus on a “problem” that she is better equipped to address. I trust that Sasha will one day be an impressive voice on the topics of gang violence etc. once she completes her education.

            However, most commentaries on a “racist hollywood” are written by college educated adults – they have no excuse. For example, the article “Hollywood, once again, says no Asians need apply” written by Mark Lee, a fully grown and I presume fully educated adult who wanted to pick on the movie “Extraordinary Measures”. Surely, a fully educated and mature person would be able to go after, say, the racist health care system rather than Harrison Ford?

            Thanks again for your comments.

            • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

              I believe I was talking to Andrew, but alright…

              You’re saying a large number of people have to be offended for something to be wrong. (I completely disagree.) I am trying to show them that it is offensive because they know little of the issue. Statistics wouldn’t really help here, because my intent was not to report numbers, but to change them. There was also a word limit on this commentary, and I had to cut a lot of stuff out. Our discussion has changed a lot, but I want to remind you that originally I was tackling The Last Airbender, not all of Hollywood and all of the sentiments it gives every one of its viewers.

              The reason some children feel ugly by watching many of these films? Come on, it’s not because they have deeper issues — they are YOUNG. This movie was primarily for young kids and that’s why it is especially worrisome. Ten-year-olds are still learning how to fit into the world, and they don’t know how to recognize racist messages that we see easily and will more quickly internalize them.

              You know, it really beats me why you two are commenting so much if this is such an unimportant issue to you in comparison to others. At this point, I am getting tired of this discussion.

              We’re all being huge hypocrites here. Let’s all go and do something useful instead of arguing with people we fundementally agree with.

              • Andrew says:

                If you can point out hypocrisy on either of our parts, I welcome it.

                I completely agree Ron. Taking in interest in tackling racism is very important. It is, however, important to know who and what to lash against. I’m sure you(Ron) have had to make tough choices throughout your career as an intercity doctor. Fighting an enemy that is as steadfast and vigilant as racism requires that we pick our battles wisely. And once again, I agree; Sasha is attacking an issue she is equip to deal with. When you decide to post your ideals on the internet, you are accepting the role of one who is speaking to all audiences; be they college students, doctors, teenagers, racists, bigots, etc. It is with this that I feel a talented effort from you Sasha is being misdirected toward an issue that even Ron(One who has dedicated his life to fixing a broken world on this matter) finds insignificant and lacking in factual support.

                Intelligent discussions of race and differences of opinion are never a waste, and if people(including myself) aren’t careful, they just might learn something from them.

  5. Andrew says:

    In the creation of the video game “Resident Evil 5” the creators decided to make the primary enemy of the game in chapter 3 Africans who wore tiki masks and hurled spears. Is this game racist? No, the creators are just stupid. I believe the same concept applies here. The casters weren’t racist, they were just stupid. The theme of tolerance throughout the series was completely skipped over. Why? Because almost everything about the original series was skipped over. They don’t even pronounce Aang’s name correctly.

  6. Akima says:

    I don’t know why so many are concerned about representation in the movies. Movies are not and never have been, (and never will be) an accurate representation of reality.

    The animated series was one of the best I have seen in a long time. At the heart of that series, there was a powerful story about compassion and friendship,understanding, and overcoming differences. The story, while it borrowed from many cultures transcends the issue of race….I wish all of you that are complaining about racism could learn from it.

    • Ron says:

      A very solid point, Akima. If we look hard enough, and have a rather pessimistic view of the world, we can find racism in nearly EVERY movie. However, as I pointed out below, IT’S A MOVIE. It is a form of art, which means it is subject to individual interpretation. You chose to have a much more optimistic view.

      What Sasha attempted to do is tell people how we SHOULD interpret the film, and that her interpretation is the “correct” one. People who can not think for themselves all cried “racism” with her.

      In order for the movie to be racist, there must be clear evidence that asians were deliberately discriminated against in the casting BECAUSE they were asian. Or, that asians were cast as villains BECAUSE they were asian. Sasha has no evidence. Her article is filled with innuendo, inference and interpretation, but no fact.

      • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

        Guess what, Ron, it’s called a commentary and it’s supposed to be opinionated. Actually, it contained fact as well. Read it again.

        • Ron says:

          Opinion without logic, evidence, or a willingness to listen to other viewpoints is called bigotry. I am aware of all the facts you stated, my point was that they do not point to racism.

          • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

            Oh dear, because I’m speaking out about racism I’m bigoted?? You need to get your definitions straight man!!! Hahaha. To be sure my article was very opinionated but it also had evidence and logic connecting the points. We simply disagree about how to interpret the facts. There is really no point in talking about this further because we will never agree, and frankly I don’t care.

            • Ron says:

              Bigot (from wikipedia): ” is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices. The correct use of the term requires the elements of intolerance, irrationality, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs”

              Just because you are speaking out against something you find offensive does not exclude the possibility that you are a bigot. In fact, most bigots speak out against something they find offensive. In short, my definition of bigot is spot on :)

              Also, my comment dated 7/20/10 at 2:34 am was clearly addressed to Akima, and not you. You chose to reply to me on 7/21/10 even though you had previously said on July 13, 2010 at 10:19am that “After this comment, I am not replying to anything you write”.

              In summary, you replied to my comment addressed to Akima to re-initiate a discussion with me (which you said you would never do), and now you do not like where it is going, so you decide to get flustered and dramatic about it? Either discuss with me, or not. I find your aggravation amusing, but frankly am beginning to feel sorry for you because you do not have the conviction to finish what you start without throwing a tantrum.

              • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

                Ron, calm down please. There’s a line between finding a conversation pointless and unproductive and being intolerant. I have not insulted you (although you have insulted me). I commented because I wanted to correct you. Unfortunately, this conversation has devolved like our previous one into something completely pointless. I was hoping it wouldn’t. I was wrong.

                Go ahead and think I’m flustered by your badly constructed arguments. I’ve listened to you but now I’ve heard enough. There’s a certain point where we’ve both heard each other’s ideas and neither of is going to say anything new or change our minds.

                We can both agree that racism is bad, right? Let’s leave it at that and stop wasting energy.

                • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

                  Also, a note: in modern English usage, bigots are “persons hostile to people of differing race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation and religion”. Call me close-minded if you really need to insult me to save your pride, but a bigot I am not.

                • Ron says:

                  Uh….how many people do you think actually read this page? You actually think that I am posting comments for pride? Wow….I was just assuming that this was a discussion between you and me (and a few other people I could care less about).

                  Hmmmm….I spent the past 3 years providing medical care to a phenomenally poor black population of children. The average family income was $18K and the average number of children per family was 4. I worked 6 days a week for literally no pay, because I believe they have a right to be healthy and we have hard evidence (in the form of peer reviewed, data based articles) that our health care system IS racist. I was able to do this because I had previously received $250,000 in MERIT BASED scholarship for my education, which permitted me to help the minorities that need it, and not just the majority who can afford it. Did I ever talk about it? No. I just recognized the problem and then tried to fix it in a way I knew how.

                  So….do you actually think I need to insult you to save my pride?

                  I am not exaggerating when I say that at least one dozen african american children who should be dead are alive today as a result of my actions, either entirely or in part. I have cared for hundreds of others. The parents of one of my patients actually called me a ch*nk, but I was not offended because she did not know better. I doubt you would have been as forgiving.

                  So, other than picking on M. Night movies that did not live up to your expectations, or making other public rants “supporting” minorities, or accusing an asian (M. Night is asian) of begin racist against Asians, what have you done lately?

                  I thought so.

                  If you google “racist movie” you get 9,360,000 hits. If you google “racist health care” you get about 1.5 million FEWER hits. Is it not pathetic that more people write about “racism” in Hollywood than they do about racism in life or death matters such as health care? People like you only contribute to this problem.

                  On behalf of myself and the inner city doctors who I have worked with (yep, I showed them your article and the “ridiculous” verdict was unanimous) who have truly battled for the victims of racism, I say your article is pathetic and belittles the struggles that minorities REALLY face. You seem to have drive and good intentions, so I encourage you to work hard and have a career where you can focus on what truly needs fixing and then help to fix it.

                  P.S. I have been writing out of principle, not pride.

                • Ron says:

                  Sasha – read on, I promise to be nice.

                  Do you really think I would bother arguing with a student if they were apathetic about racism? Of course I am impressed by your social concern, which is why I said you have “drive and good intentions”. As much as I disagree with your logic, reasoning, and content, I never had a problem with your prose or voice.

                  My major question for you is – do you really want to use that voice to attack hollywood when there are so many other problems? And do you not think that racist people use your type of article as an example of how society “over-reacts” to racism?

                  I argue with racist people all the time, and they invariably use articles such as yours to demonstrate how racism is blown out of proportion. Quite honestly, I spend more time trying to defend articles such as yours than I spend arguing about racism. They are a distraction.

                  My experience caring for black children was not a job either – it was essentially volunteerism. I deferred obtaining a real job so that I could learn to be of service, and I worked very hard before that so that I would not need a job immediately.

                  You should not think it unreasonable that I am holding you to “adult standards” as you put it. You should be flattered. You will undoubtedly think me unreasonable, but I rather be that than patronizing.
                  Did I once suggest that your views are less valid because you were a high school student? No, I did not. I only asked that you back your views with both evidence and action.

                  If you fulfill your potential, I promise you that this will not be the last time someone challenges you to do this.

              • Ron says:

                Oh, and the income for these families wasn’t all obtained legitimately, if you know what I mean

                • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

                  That’s not what I meant by pride, but whatever. It doesn’t matter anymore. How old do you think I am? I am certainly old enough to have a job, but I’m in high school. I do service work to do my part to fix problems in my community, but unlike you I literally cannot have a fulltime job. You’re judging me by the standards you would use to judge another adult. I am legally a child, and this article is my first written work in print. Call it “pathetic” as much as you want. How many high school students do you think even care about racism?

                  Thank you, and goodbye.

                • Ron says:

                  Please read reply above

    • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

      It’s precisely because of Avatar’s message that I am doing what you call “complaining”.

      I couldn’t fit all the info into this article because there was a word limit, but go ahead an research all the insensitive remarks that were made by Paramount and Shyamalan.

      I don’t want this movie to be a representation of real life, but a representation of the original cartoon, which was ASIAN. Movie’s aren’t real life, but the Asian actors that need jobs ARE real and need these roles!

      • Ron says:

        There is no doubt that there are fewer asians actors than there are white actors. However, that in itself is not a significant statistic. The number we should be looking at is the percentage of asians who try to pursue a hollywood career who actually make it. After all, fewer asians in hollywood could easily be a reflection not as many asians wanting to pursue an acting career. I know alot of asian people, I also know alot of white people. Although it is only personal experience, I can say that I know of many of my caucasian friends who want to be actors. None of my asian friends want to be actors. This is not racism – it is simply that different groups want different things, and there is nothing wrong with that.

        For example, there are very few asian NBA basketball players. I do not think that the NBA is racist – a major factor is that there are fewer asian basketball players to choose from because fewer asians actually want to play basketball.

        In the same way, if there are fewer asian people who want to become actors, then there will be fewer asian actors. This is not a result of racism.

        Given that, a very reasonable explanation is that M. Night chose white actors not because he hates asians, but because there were more white actors to choose from. Specifically, there are more white, small, child actors who could have played the hero role to choose from.

        This is certainly not impossible, and perhaps people should rule this out before making such serious accusations?

        • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

          Haha, oh dear.

          Clearly there are more white than Asian actors in the US. However, there are certainly enough Asian actors to cast The Last Airbender. End of story. The movie was filmed for a time in Greenland which has an 88% population. I said that in my article but I have a suspicion you didn’t read it fully.

          Maybe some Asians don’t want to be actors because they only get crappy roles as villains or extras?

          • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

            *88% Inuit population

          • Ron says:

            Not end of story. And I did read your article fully. It is not a matter of whether there is sufficient number of asians to cast a movie. It is a matter of whether there are enough to CHOOSE FROM. Say for a simplified illustration there are 100 asian actors available, and there are 1,000 caucasian actors (the real ratio is probably much higher). Sure, there may be enough asian actors to actually cast the movie, but a director is allowed to have some CHOICE.

            It would be ridiculous to argue that someone is racist because they did not use every single available asian actor to cast a movie. Just because the director could not find the right actors among the 100 asians, and had a easier time finding the right actors among the 1,000 caucasians, simply because he had MORE CHOICES, does not make him racist.

            The 88% inuit population is an unimportant statistic. The number you do not provide is the number of available inuit ACTORS.

            “Maybe some Asians don’t want to be actors because they only get crappy roles as villians or extras?” Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe asian culture focuses on becoming doctors or lawyers or dentists. Maybe asians do not have access to acting schools. Maybe asians do not receive support from their families to become actors. There are many possible explanations, and your explanation is not necessarily the right one just because you say so.

            But racism is a pretty serious charge, and I think we need to do better than “maybe” before we accuse M. Night of it.

            • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

              That’s why I said ‘maybe.’ God, there is hardly a point discussing this with you. Neither of us are going to change our opinions. But I’ll just mention one last thing.

              Brandon Soo Hoo is a 14-year-old actor. “Soo Hoo has trained for five years in Tae Kwon Do with the American Tae Kwon Do Association(ATA) and holds a black belt. He is currently training in extreme martial arts and Wing Chun Kung Fu. Soo Hoo has also received training in weapons such as the bō staff, sword, and the nunchaku.” He also happens to look like Aang. “Also, in 2009 Soo Hoo was nominated for and won the award for Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor award at the Young Artists Awards for his role as “Tran” in Tropic Thunder.”
              So he’s a martial artist AND a good actor. Seems he was overlooked. I wonder why? I think people want to believe Hollywood isn’t racist anymore, and that this can be explained by “needing more views” or “the best actor for the part” but frankly, it’s quite obvious that Shyamalan did not try to find Asians for the parts. Because if he’d tried, he would have FOUND some.

              • Ron says:

                I can think of at least ten non-racist, perfectly realisitic reasons why Brandon was overlooked for the part. The question is: can you? A bigot would not be able to, since bigots are unwilling to acknowledge other possible explanations.

                My next question is, is if you can think of ten non-racist reasons, did you eliminate them with some degree of evidence before concluding that your accusation of racism is correct? It seems like if you are going to have a racism theory, you should eliminate the other possible theories 😉

                • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

                  Of course there are reasons. And they aren’t very good. I think you are too trusting of authority. 😛

                  I think you are only embarassing yourself by insulting me. Is it really necessary? Using ad hominem attacts only makes you look like you’re losing.

  7. The actual genders and races of what the elements represent are in Rodney St.Michael’s book, Sync My World: Thief’s Honor GA SK. (

    Air = Yellow “race” = Males = Scholars.

    Water = Small Browns = Females = Shamans.

    Earth = Blacks = Lesbian = Social Ubuntu Business Class.

    Fire = Whites = Gays = Military, Militant Business Class.

    Ether or Metal = Big Browns = Bisexuals = Working Class, Bi-military

    (females & bis go together like Katara & Sokka or brown females and males).

    Therefore Aang should be Chinese.

    Katara should be a Malay like a Filipina.

    The Earth Kingdom should be African.

    Zuko should be White like Hitler, Alexander the Gay or Gen. Arthur McArthur.

    The Fire Nation’s army should be like the fiery Sacred Band of Thebes (an ancient elite gay army that Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell troops would be envious of) or the Sturmabteilung, the much-feared homosexual stormtroopers of Hitler.

    And the Slumdog Millionaire (casted as Zuko) should be Sokka.

    This film is just as messed up as the movie Angels and Demons. The branding of the priests were incorrect.

    But anyway, from the guy who gave you the Sixth Sense, which did not portray childhood schizophrenia accurately or anywhere near the real world, what do you expect?

    Bisexuals love horror and terror. They also scam people, just like the Wizard of Oz. The old Oz film which is also about the Elements is understandably all-white because they were ignorant back then. People have higher standards now, and realism is a must.

    But M.Night, the Wizard of South Asia also has lessons for everyone after conning them:

    1) Clearly, when people don’t play roles that fit them, everything is messed up. (e.g. “male” clergy in what should be a female realm, forbidding gays in the military which is their territory)

    2) Whites are not fit to play the leading roles of Air and Water in the world scene. Leave that to the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, Korea and South East Asia).

    3) Arabs are not necessarily the greatest evil in the world. Occasionally, they float like Ether to the ranks of Water. It is fiery whites that fit the role of Lucifer or Satan.

    4) By acquiring objective reviews from leading critics, they have agreed themselves that these are all factual objective realities.

    Thus, the Wizard, even if he is a con man, is also an accidental pseudo teacher. Partly, it’s called sunyata or “emptiness.”

    • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

      Um, I hope you’re being sarcastic because you just made a **** of a lot of incorrect and incredibly offensive generalizations about so many different groups, some of which I belong to.

      The original series is called Avatar: The Last Airbender and has nothing whatsoever to do with “Rodney St.Michael’s book, Sync My World: Thief’s Honor GA SK. (”

    • Emma says:

      BEST COMMENT YET my favorite is “Bisexuals love horror and terror. They also scam people, just like the Wizard of Oz” right, **** that mean old wizard.

  8. Ron says:

    One more point – Traditionally, the role of “opponents to racism” is taken on by minorities. Ms. Pohle-Anderson is white. Therefore, she is playing a role that is traditionally played by minorities. Following the absurd logic that she uses in her commentary, Ms Pohle-Anderson is therefore racist, as she is a white person who is playing what is usually a non-white role.

    Sounds quite silly when you put it in a different context, does it not?

  9. Ron says:

    This really is the most ridiculous article I have ever read. First, let me say that I am 100% Chinese American, and also spent a significant part of my life living in southeast asia. Second, portraying asian characters with non-asian actors is NOT racist. Is it moronic? Perhaps. Is is laughable? Absolutely. But I am tired of people speaking on behalf of “minorities” such as myself and crying racism over every act of stupidity. If having a non-asian actor play the Airbender is racist, then what would you call the imprisonment of japanese americans? “More racist?” How about the slavery of african americans? “Even more racist?”

    Racism, THE TREATMENT OF A RACIAL GROUP AS BEING BELOW ANOTHER RACIAL GROUP. is a serious problem that is not helped my ignorant people who suspect that every act has a discriminatory motive.

    We should boycott the movie because it was terrible movie. That is all.

    Ms Pohle-Anderson, I am going to assume that if you are mature enough to provide social commentary, you are also mature enough reply to this comment and engage is a debate about your claims of “racism”. After all, shooting off your opinions is not really worth anything if you are not willing to stand by them.

    • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

      The reason this movie is racist (and treats Asians as if they are below Caucasians) is that the heroes are white and the villains are Asian; the message the movie sends is that white people are the superior “good guys” while Asians are the inferior “bad guys.” Also, white actors were preferred over Asian actors in portraying Asian characters. This fits your definition of racism perfectly. I don’t see why you disagree with me on this.

      If you think that by doing this I am “shooting off opinions” believe what you will. I care a **** of a lot about this subject. I have given speeches on it, attended protests, written to multiple authorities and told my friends and family.

      About your other comment…well, your logic is ridiculous. Anyone can speak out against racism—it doesn’t matter who you are. For example, men can be feminists and straight people can be activists for gay rights even though they are not part of the groups they are fighting for. I am white and I have a right—and obligation—to speak out about racism even though I am not a minority in that respect.

      I don’t see what you’re trying to say by bringing up slavery and Japanese internment. Of course those were horrible things that happened in our country. However, they are things of the past. What we all have to realize is that while we’ve come extremely far since then, we still have problems in this country. They may be smaller and less obvious, but they still need to be fixed. For example, women have the vote but many people are still sexist. No one is enslaved but many people are still (clearly) very racist. Just because these problems are less extreme doesn’t make them insignificant.

      Do you have children? Do you want them to have role models that look like them on television?

      • Ron says:

        So what about movies that have white villains and Asian heroes? Are they “racist” too? The number of movies that have white villains FAR outnumber the ones that have Asian villains, yet no one comments about the supposed “racism” there. In fact, hollywood is FULL of movies where the hero is one race and the villains are another, yet you only choose to focus on “The Last Airbender”.

        Regarding my other comment, of course anyone can speak out against racism. Just like anyone can choose to portray an asian character with a non-asian actor.

        They are either both racist or both not racist (I think they are both NOT racist). You can’t use the same logic to attack someone else AND defend yourself at the same time.

        • Ron says:

          My point regarding Japanese internment and black slavery is that there IS real racism going on in this country. Job discrimination, unequal opportunities in school, racial profiling. These are serious problems…perhaps you should write something about those issues instead of whining about a MOVIE.

          • Ron says:

            Racial profiling = treatment
            MOVIE does not = treatment

          • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

            The reason I’m focusing on The Last Airbender is because I’m a huge fan of the original series. That’s it. Also, racism against white poeple isn’t exactly an issue, now is it? It doesn’t matter if the villains in a movie are white. That doesn’t send the same message becuase Caucasians are not a minority in America.

            No matter how you look at it, speaking out about racism is not racist. Minorities AND non-minorities have “traditionally” taken that role. I’m sorry, but I cannot follow your convuluted logic.

            The Last Airbender IS an example of job discrimination! It’s not just entertainment, it’s an opportunity for Asian American actors to get roles and get paid.

            If you think this is so stupid why bother commenting? Haha.

            • Ron says:

              Let me get this straight…you are against racism, except when it is against white people? Racism is racism, it does not matter what race it is. There are plenty of parts of the country where whites are NOT the majority. Discrimination against them is not any more acceptable that discrimination against anyone else.

              And I already said that speaking out about racism is NOT racist. My point is neither is portraying a traditionally asian role with a non-asian actor.

              • Ron says:

                Oh…and your reason for focusing on the Last Airbender is “because (you) are a huge fan of the original series”. It’s nice to see that you focus on “racism” that pertains to YOU. Maybe you should try to speak up on behalf of the discriminated minorities that you do NOT have a personal stake in?

                • SashaRocks says:

                  Shut up Ron.
                  You should be happy that some people like Sasha at least cares about racism against Asians, or any racism at ALL, whether it’s in a MOVIE or OTHERWISE.

                  If you’re going to complain, why don’t you really make it worth your while and actually go complain to people who call Asian people ch*inks or do things that ARE RACIST against Asians (or other races)?

                  Attacking Sasha and her opinions just because this issue “isn’t important enough” (according to you) makes you sound like some conceited brat that can never be satisfied.
                  Now like I said, if you care about racism so much, then get off your butt, stop commenting about this article, and do something about REAL RACISM.

                • Ron says:

                  Wow SashaRocks….it sure is easy to speak with conviction when you do not have to actually put your name behind it.

                  Saying that Sasha cares about racism because of her article is like saying I care about health care because of something I didn’t like on an episode of “House”.

                  Of course, the fact that I spent the past 3 years working 6 full days a week providing free health care to poor african american children from East St. Louis (ranked as the most dangerous city in america a few years ago) is probably a more realistic indication of how much I care about both racism and health care (98% of my patients were african american).

                  But no…I am sure that you think my opinions about “Last Airbender” are a better reflection of how much I REALLY care about racism.

                  Oh…and I’ve been called a ch*nk before. I thought it was hilarious.

                • Emma says:

                  WOW, Ron. I have so much respect for you because you put your REAL name behind your posts (and we can tell it’s your real name, unlike all these other people who could be faking it, we don’t know). Really brave of you man. Makes your points MUCH more legitimate.

              • Ben says:

                Wait, you spend your time providing health care to people? Curing colds? Do you really think that’s the most important problem in the world? Excuse me, I spend my time jumping in front of bullets hurtling towards towards small orphans. Clearly I’m morally superior and thus I win.

                I mean WHAT THE **** DUDE? yeah, racist health care is more important, but that doesn’t mean this ISN’T important. using your logic we should all shut up and only complain about genocide. they’re are people dying all over the world but doesn’t mean we should limit ALL other discusssion about ALL other things.

                • Ron says:

                  Actually Ben, I would be happy if people talked more about genocide , although I suspect that it is not nearly as controversial as issues of health care or movies, which is why genocide is not discussed as much. However, as I mentioned above more people are focused on the issue of Hollywood than on health care, which is ignorant. You said it yourself…”yeah, health care is more important”. So why is it LESS “googleable” than discussions about movies? I will be happy if more people discuss genocide than health care, but that also means I get irritated when people put movies like “airbender” front, center and above issues like health care. Everything should get it’s due attention.
                  Oh…you can’t cure a cold. But I have cured sepsis and cancer


                • Ron says:

                  and great work with the orphans…be careful….it would be a shame to lose a opponent to Hollywood racism such as yourself over something like that 😉

                • Ron says:

                  Thanks Emma, my life would not be complete without your respect. Actually I have provided more than enough information on my posts for an intelligent person to figure my identity…..

          • Ron says:

            For victims who survived the internment camps (my wife’s grandfather was one of them), how do you think they feel when you define “racism” as something you saw in a movie??? It’s pretty insulting, I can tell you.

            • Sasha Pohle-Anderson says:

              After this comment, I am not replying to anything you write.

              I do care about racism towards all races including Caucasians, I simply said it is much less of a big deal here in America.

              How do you know I don’t speak on behalf of other minorities? How do you know I don’t belong to more minorities than you are aware of?

              I don’t define racism by this movie. I SEE racism in this movie, and it may be a much much much less extreme example than the internment camps, but it still needs to be fixed. I think the men and women and children who survived the internment camps would want their culture to be respected and would want to be represented by their own media.

              Don’t bother replying. If you do, I won’t read it.

              • Ron says:

                And THAT is how I win a debate.

                • Dan says:

                  No, you lost badly

                • Alice says:

                  I agree with Dan. You lost really REALLY badly.

                • Ron says:

                  Dan and Alice – seriously? You’re going with “because I say so?” as the basis of your opinions? I would be delighted to listen to your reasoning, but just saying “your wrong” without any reasoning is pretty unimpressive.

                  Even less impressive is stating that “I am going to end this discussion right now because I no longer want to consider any reasoning you want to provide”, which was essentially the approach used by Sasha.

                • SashaRocks says:


  10. Raj says:

    I am not surprised by M. Night’s casting of whites for Asian role. Indians in Bollywood are slowly whitewashing their own films. More and more white actors (No, not Eurasian), but white. Recent actors have been English, white, Icelandic, German and Australian cast as Indian women, all decked in Indian jewelery. There are only one or two Eurasian actors. This kind of thinking is part of our culture. I dont like it and I boycott such movies even before I boycott Arizona….

  11. sk1ds says:

    It’s pretty racist and anybody who differs is having the same opinion as racist people and the KKK. People just have to ask yourself, how many Asians are there really in starring roles? How many young Asian kids in hollywood? Just look at the history of Asians that were replaced by whites. The evidence is just there and only racism can only make a person ignore that. Again, people have to answer these questions and look at the history and lack of Asians in hollywood. The ones who ignore this are simply racist…and unfortunately, there’s too much racist people around.

    Patrick, all of the racists and KKKs are clapping for you right now. Say whatever, you guys all have the same opinion.

    • Ron says:

      I notice that there are very few Asians playing professional basketball, even fewer than there are in hollywood. I guess the NBA is just racist.

      Oh, wait, I guess the fact that we are shorter and we historically do not have a lot of interest in basketball might have something to do with it.

      Has it ever occurred to you that there are fewer asians in hollywood because fewer asians are interested in the entertainment industry?

  12. Patrick says:

    There is no racism in this movie. This is the same “wolf” cry that we hear for just about EVERY single movie that comes out now a day that has such a diverse variety of race as opposed to a movie that is all ONE race (i.e. all white, all black, etc.). There is no way that anyone, ever, could make a movie with such diversity without someone, somewhere calling foul. “You made all the bad guys [fill in the blank of a race], that means your racist and so is your movie!” Come off it. Why do you insist to create racism by demanding that different races should be treated differently? That Indians, Mexicans, African Americans etc. have to be treated differently when it comes to casting them for roles then white people? This is what South Park calls a “Savage Hypocrisy”. The only thing boycotting Air Bender because of race is going to do (if anything) is create a racist view of who they hire for roles (“No, we cannot hire them, their Asian, people might think we are racist”) and the flood of films with NO race diversity. Is that what you really want?

    • Joann says:

      Listen, the film may be diverse with people of all sorts of ethnic backgrounds but the film is racist. Not because of it having all sorts of backgrounds, but because these characters were originally ASIANS which were not the same ethnicity as the actors. We should boycott the film for this reason. If M. Night wanted to be a diverse film as you said, then maybe he should have wrote his own film (not based on a popular television show). Only then, he will receive praise for his work. But this is ridiculous and I’m happy everyone else is agreeing with me.

    • Prisma says:

      There is no racism in this movie? Two of the main character’s names are KATARA and SOKKA does that sound like European names to you? NO. These are Asian names. Then why the cast is white while their names are Asian? Its ******* retarded.

      Can you please tell us which of these names sounds like a name of a white person?


      Those are the names of other water tribes characters, obviously based on Inuit tribes. I am not against white people since I am a white European, but when I saw The last Airbender those Caucasian actors really looked completely out of place.
      Everybody in the souther village was Asian except Katara, Sokka and their grandmother. Everybody in the northern water tribe look white/Europeans. Yeap, a Caucasian princess named YUE. Wow thats a very white name, isn’t it? I don’t know who convinced Night Shymalan that by casting white people in the leading rolls audiences would like it more. I believe by now they must have realized that decision was not very smart.

      I hope there will be no more sequels of this abomination, and if they do made a sequel I will not pay to see it.

      • Ron says:

        My name is Ron, which is short for Ronald. I am 100% chinese american, spent a significant part of my life immersed in Asian culture living in Asia. I was given that name at birth because my father wanted to honor a close friend with the same name.

        Ronald is not an asian sounding name. In fact, it is Scottish. Yet I am Asian. Based on your comments above, I am sure that you are perplexed by how someone with a “white name” could be anything other than white. That is because your comments are idiotic.

        Your suggestion that the name “Katara” should not belong to a european is more racist than the movie itself.


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