In his June 9th Answer Man
column, Roger Ebert answers another question about Airbender
Q. A friend and I got in a discussion over whether it is racist to have race be a criteria while casting a role. My friend was of the opinion that the best actor should get the role. I felt that if the part was written for, say, a young African-American male, the audition pool should be limited to young African-American males. This discussion specifically focused on the movie “The Last Airbender,” which is based on an American-made animated show called “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
Two of the characters in the show were not white, yet their movie counterparts will be white. I felt that the movie casting choice was not true to the source material while my friend thought the casting choice (from a racial perspective) was irrelevant. Is casting white actors into non-white roles a form of racism/whitewashing? Would the opposite also be racist? Or should the best actor, regardless of race or any other physical consideration, be chosen?
Colleen Stone, Woodbury, Minn.
A. It was racist in the days when minority actors just plain couldn’t get work in anything but stereotyped roles. The situation has improved. If I’d been making “The Last Airbender,” I would probably have decided the story was so well- known to my core audience that it would be a distraction to cast those roles with white actors. I’m guessing, but I suspect the American group most under-represented in modern Hollywood is young Asian-American males.
Click here to read Racebending.com's commentary
and some more stats about Asian American actors.
Ebert had previously answered a question about The Last Airbender
in December 2009, where he called the casting decisions "wrong."