Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

New BSC Review Column

Yep, as the title might subtly suggest, I just posted my latest BSC Review Column, in which I basically try to explain why Avatar: The Last Airbender is guilty of "cultural appropriation" and is still motherfucking awesome, while M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender is essentially blood libel and segregation on the silver screen.

Another day, another shitstorm in the SF Café. A couple of months back, some of you might recall, it was one Young Turk turned Old Guard with an ill-fated article on international SF, a Caesar of dubious pontification that met a Senate of aggravated responses. Others said all that has to be said about the article at the time, and it’s sorta blown over now, so I’m not going to add my dagger; but in a couple of the responses (or responses to responses,) as the entrails slipped to the ground, fingers were pointed and the dread words whispered: cultural appropriation. As in the quote above, the link was made.

Yes. Another day, another shitstorm in the SF Café. Only today it’s a shitstorm about a Hollywood adaptation of a well-loved cartoon series — the film being M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, the original series being Avatar: The Last Airbender, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and aired over Nickelodeon. And the shitstorm? Well, that’s circling around a problem that emerged the moment its cast was announced, with three of the four main characters being utterly whitewashed in the eyes of many fans of the original series. In the world of the show, the three heroes have roots clearly riffing off Buddhist/Shaolin monks (Aaang) and Inuit/Eskimo tribes (Katara and Sokka,) while the antihero/villain Zuko’s culture equally clearly riffs of feudal Japan; and the characters are drawn with appropriate skin tones. In the film, three out of the four are played by lily-white European-American actors. You can guess which one is played by an actor with actual Asian roots, right? Only the antihero/villain has dark skin, funny enough.

Forget airbending, the fans said; this is racebending...



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