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Racism in movies is a tricky animal. Put too many Caucasian people in a film and immediately you're racist for ignoring the minorities in America. Put too many so-called "ethnic" people in a movie and all of a sudden you're a racist if they aren't portrayed as perfect creatures of God, living in wealth and decadence. There's a thin line that has to be toed but not crossed in order to make everyone happy, as ridiculous as that sounds, and making a movie that's going to be completely "color blind" is near impossible.
M. Night Shyamalan is currently under fire for supposedly ignoring said line and crossing over into straight up racism by casting his next film, The Last Airbender, the way that he did. The director, for his part, claims he cast the most ethnically diverse movie of all time. The folks over at Indie Movies Online (an interesting place for an interview about this movie to pop up considering the recent unveiling of the film's budget) sat down with Night to discuss these accusations and learn the meaning behind his casting choices.
The main complaint the people who are all butthurt about the cast is that all the "dark skinned" people are bad guys and the white folk are the good guys, which he eloquently claims couldn't be further from the truth.
"The whole point of the movie is that there isn't any bad or good. The irony is that I'm playing on the exact prejudices that the people who are claiming I'm racist are doing. They immediately assume that everyone with dark skin is a villain. That was an incredibly racist assumption which as it turns out is completely incorrect."
He goes on to explain each race and his motivations behind casting them, and it all makes a whole lot of sense. Just because Dev Patel is Indian and controls the element of fire doesn't make him a bad guy, it just means that he has dark skin and that's the power he was born with. Even I thought he was a bad guy, mostly because I'm totally unfamiliar with the series as a whole, but nonetheless I thought he'd be the opposition. If you have the same thinking, you should read M. Night's explanation of his casting process so you can maybe go ahead and truly enjoy what looks to be a film that's big huge fun.