NO KILL I (glockgal) wrote in racebending,

The Last Airbender: who is to blame?

Across the board, critics and fans have been wholesale panning M Night Shyamalan for the fail of The Last Airbender. On top of that, Shyamalan has had to face the 'race issue' question in interview after interview and - as we've seen in recent posts to this comm - that he just keep regurgitating the same excuses, and digging himself deeper.

As a director and a writer - yes, Shyamalan has failed. The man has a film-maker ego typical to many film-makers (think Bay, Schumacher, Cameron...). But what about the issues has had with this movie since 2008: the casting discrimination? What about the racial problems in the film - which Shyamalan has also taken full credit for? Is he really 100% to blame for EVERYTHING that happened since the casting was released?

The more the media and fans focus their ire on Shyamalan and Shyamalan alone, the more people lose focus of the reason behind it all: institutionalized (or systemic) racism.

It's almost comical, in a way, how easy it was to create a scapegoat in Shyamalan. He's happily taking credit for everything: he wrote the script, he scouted the sets, he cast the film, he produced it, he directed it; apparently, he did everything in TLA except act.

But Shyamalan's decisions and actions were not created in a vacuum. In fact, his perceptions of what 'diversity' means was not created in a vacuum either. Contrary to what he keeps insisting, he did not cast or create The Last Airbender all on his own. But with the critical failure of the movie, it's become quite convenient that he is so willfully and constantly stating this - and it's really convenient to blame him.

But convenient for whom?

After The Last Airbender, Shyamalan's career and reputation are likely on the line. Yes, he has been slagged countless times for his past movies; but for the first time, his incompetence leads to the much public/media questioning his racial identity and integrity. So what about Paramount Pictures and Frank Marshall? Why are they completely exonerated, simply by not being present in any of this backlash? So far we've heard barely anything from the producers or the studio. As far as Shyamalan's interviews are concerned, he paints Paramount Pictures and the producers as hapless, harmless operators of good faith who placed all of their trust in him. So the studio and producers will point only to Shyamalan and say "place the blame on him. Don't look at us."

After all the backlash, after all of the reviews slamming of Shyamalan and the bitter fan's glee in seeing him go down in flames - the media will eventually judge that TLA's discriminatory casting policies is NOT a case of racism or white supremacy, it's just 'typical PoC prejudice' against each other. What they'll see are East Asian Americans (that's us...according to the media) slamming South Asians (Shyamalan), and vice versa*. People will congratulate themselves for concluding that 'well, everyone's a little racist!' and then move on to the next white-washed Hollywood film with eager anticipation.

The producers, Paramount Pictures - heck, Hollywood itself - will get away scot free. They currently feel no inclination or media pressure to address their own contributions in perpetuating (and publicly defending) institutionalised racism in Hollywood. "See?" they will say, "It was a PoC who did it! Fight amongst yourselves! Blame him, not us! We're just naive innocents in all of this. Sort this out yourselves; us people in power have NOTHING to do with yours or Shyamalan's racism issues."

The failures of this movie do not rest on the shoulders of one person alone. It is a product of systemic racism in the entertainment machine of Hollywood as well as within audiences. And continuing to fight systemic racism in the media is what we at must continue to stand for.

* despite our publicized statistics that show otherwise, the media equates with 'Asian-American activists'. In the US/Canada, 'Asian' is interpreted as 'East Asian'. As for Shyamalan, as a singular Indian-American director in the largely white world of Hollywood, many people have used his words as an assumptive, generalized representation of Indian/South Asian prejudice.
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