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we saw wut u did thar, paramount
For the 29384754th time, the characters are Asian 
6th-Aug-2010 12:19 am
The Avengers - Default, AA
Ugo.com has posted an interview with the A:TLA track team. Amongst a lot of stuff about the awesome music that we know and love is this quote by Benjamin Wynn about starting up at the beginning of the series:

"We went out to lunch and started talking about the show, how the story takes place in an alternate world and the characters. Everyone is ethnic...Asian, but not from any specific Asian country. It was kind of like a non-descriptive ethnicity."

So... yeah. I'm not exactly sure what he means by "non-descriptive ethnicity," but he still says that all the characters of Avatar: the Last Airbender are Asian. I suppose based on this quote you could cast them all from India or Thailand or Mongolia if you really wanted to, but the point remains; Aang is not white.
6th-Aug-2010 04:26 am (UTC)
For some reason, I'm remembering something from Mike and Bryan or one of the cultural consultants about how they didn't want any of the characters to be a specific Asian race (example: to be blatant about Zuko being Japanese) because they didn't want to vilify any specific race.

This way we have Asian heroes and Asian villains and nobody is stereotyped.
6th-Aug-2010 04:44 am (UTC)
Okay, that makes a lot more sense. When I first read it seemed like he was saying the Asian influences in the show were generic influences, like how a lot of other shows will take an Asian character and basically give him/her a pair of chopsticks and a straw hat and call it a day.

But I figured he meant something different because Avatar is obviously above that.
6th-Aug-2010 05:24 am (UTC)
I read that and squeed out loud. <3 Oh man how badly I want to love on The Track Team. ^_^

'Course, the naysayers will probably still say it's not worth shit unless Bryke says it. *can't roll eyes hard enough*
6th-Aug-2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
'Course, the naysayers will probably still say it's not worth shit unless Bryke says it.

Which of course Mike and Bryan have (in interviews before the movie, in the artbook) but naysayers interpret it as:
a) "Well Mike and Bryan say everything in the world is Asian...but they just mean the world/architecture/food/writing/clothing/culture! THAT STILL DOESN'T MEAN THE PEOPLE HAVE TO BE."
c) "There's one specific element in one specific episode that Mike and Bryan say is based on something not Asian, thereby rendering the entire cartoon 'ambiguous' (aka white)!"
6th-Aug-2010 06:58 am (UTC)
hey, if you haven't already, there's a link to the Track Team's Myspace page,


and on that Myspace page is a petition for an ATLA soundtrack.


6th-Aug-2010 08:19 am (UTC)
So this makes... how many people who actually worked on the series that have come out and said that they're Asian?
6th-Aug-2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
-Cultural Consultant Professor Siu-Leung Lee
-Animatic Director Dao Le
-Giancarlo Volpe
-Sifu Kisu
-Mako, founder of the East West Players
-Dante Basco
-Aaron Ehasz
-Alison Wilgus (Zuko's Story)
-I think Nina Matsumoto did too, but I'm still searching for her post about it for verification :P

Anyway, I saved the staff's individual statements in this post too, if you're interested :)
6th-Aug-2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
I would guess that he meant none of the countries map perfectly onto real countries (since you mention Mongolia, there's an episode with musicians, some of whom are playing the morin khuur, a specifically Mongolian instrument--I can't remember if they were in Earth or Fire).

Not the best way to express it, but on the spot in an interview. :/
7th-Aug-2010 02:13 am (UTC)
there's an episode with musicians, some of whom are playing the morin khuur, a specifically Mongolian instrument--I can't remember if they were in Earth or Fire

Fire Nation, The Headband, I think.
8th-Aug-2010 07:11 am (UTC)

Sometimes the Pan-Asian and Pan-Native American content of the show got really blurred in many ways as the writers often cross-referenced cultural aspects. It was done in such a liberal way, that it sometimes seemed a little odd and confusing. (Though entertaining for the story's purposes).

From what I do know from my own knowledge and own experiences, I hardly think that Katara and Sokka are real Inuit names. Hakoda certainly doesn't sound like one (I am pretty sure it's a Japanese surname). The closest connection that I got from anything remotely resembling the linguistic origin of Sokka for example (other than it really being a creative name from the writers!) was that it sort of resembles the name of the autonomous republic of Sakha in Arctic Russia.

No surprise that the name there is from a name for the Yakuts, an indigneous Arctic people in Siberia but "Sakha" is actually a Russian name for them, and the Yakuts are a Altaic-Turkic people (like the Mongols) and not closely related to the Inuits.

It was often quite amusing sometimes to see how certain characters were often mixed up in their cultural depictions. Like characters who were depicted as Native Americans (like the Boiling Rock Warden or most notably the Sun Warriors) having East Asian names. Ditto for depictions like in that episode of the Sun Warriors, whereby the writers/artists show were cross-referencing/mixing ancient Aztec and ancient Chinese artforms and designs and mythologies. Although I must admit from a creative standpoint, it's unique storytelling.

I am not sure what to make of that factor in the story sometimes. And I am sure other Asians and Native Americans who watch the show wouldn't either.
8th-Aug-2010 07:43 am (UTC)
There was a lot of "blurring" but what consistency they had really offered realism. For example, Ba Sing Se is all Qing Dynasty-- it would be more jarring if the architecture was Qing Dynasty but some characters were walking around in Tang Dynasty dress and others were going around in Kimonos and then some random person over there was in a Ao Dai and another in a Hanbok.
10th-Aug-2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
That can work if the narrative is intentionally trying to portray a cosmopolitan setting in which a lot of distinct ethnic and cultural groups are wearing characteristic native clothing; in downtown New York, I imagine it's quite possible to see an Indian in a sari or a Jamaican in a Rasta snood buying produce from plain folk in bonnets. (Perhaps we'll see that sort of eclectic mix in Republic City.)

(It spectacularly doesn't work when it represents a Critical Research Failure--cf. Koreans in kimono and Belgians in lederhosen.)
9th-Aug-2010 06:52 am (UTC)
I'm sure a similar "blurring" happens a lot in European-based fantasies, although perhaps more a blending of time periods than geographical areas. I don't think it really takes anything away from the story.
10th-Aug-2010 05:21 am (UTC)
Blurring happens with geography as well as time in Eurofantasy; it is actually a giant peeve of mine, although mostly for reasons ATLA manages to avoid (lack of distinction between the fantasy cultures). Sometimes that kind of blending works and sometimes it really, really doesn't.
14th-Aug-2010 03:31 am (UTC)
"Hakoda certainly doesn't sound like one (I am pretty sure it's a Japanese surname)."

Hakoda may be a reference to the Inuit character Koda from Brother Bear.
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