Airbending or Racebending?

In 1991, Asian Americans protested famous Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce’s casting as the Eurasian Engineer in the NY Broadway production of Miss Saigon on the grounds that it was insulting to have a white actor use yellowface to play an Asian role. Yellowface, which is when a white actor literally paints his face yellow and tapes down his eyelids to make them more “flat,” or when white folks control the representations of Asians on stage and film, was not new. The Good Earth (1937), among many other early- and mid-twentieth century films, also used yellowface because a very white Hollywood refused to cast Asian American actors (Anna May Wong was an exception, but even she couldn’t snag roles such as Olan in TGE). Remember Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)?

1937, 1961, 1991…2010? Paramount’s The Last Airbender? What are they thinking?

From the petition:

The practice of casting Caucasian actors to depict ethnically Asian protagonists—while Asian American actors are relegated to play antagonists, supporting characters, and background extras—is insensitive, condescending, and woefully outdated… Ethnically Asian characters should never be depicted by Caucasian actors. In this day and age, casting white actors to play Asian characters–even going so far as to ‘whitewash’ the Asian fantasy setting—is simply ignorant and unacceptable. These choices have taken the film away from the integrity and dedication to cultural accuracy that fans respected in the animated series.

To learn more:

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