i was surfing around a whole bunch of avatar/last air bender stuff, trying to put together some thoughts to write a post.
and i just can’t even stomach it. maybe cuz i’m not in the best emotional space right now, but i can’t even *look* at stills from the horrible movie. it makes my stomach just churn. i was upset before i started watching the last airbender series with my kids—because all characters of color always become white.
but—having watched the series—(we’re about half way through the second book so far)—that movie was absolutely nothing but black face. completely and totally. and the pictures are as offensive to me as the blatant blackface bullshit from the olden days. no way to make an interesting or complicated analysis or intervention. just straight up blackface (or whatever the asian/native version of blackface is).
because the series is unequivocally based in tribal communities. communities of color. asian tribal peoples. native tribal peoples. the airbender is based so heavily in tibetian buddhist monk communities—the colors he wears are what the dalai lama wears. i wouldn’t be surprised if china refuses to show this series. the water bending tribe wears wolf heads to go to battle. they have histories. they have complexity. they have been displaced because of war and genocide. women run the tribe.
i mean…this series is unusual—because there are no white people in it. it’s not that people of color are the majority, and white people are on the fringe—it’s that there are no white people. the “center” has completely shifted. i don’t even know if a center *exists*—because in a world with no white people, there are multiple stories being told, multiple relationships unfolding, multiple histories affecting the present…animals play a very big role in the series, and they have histories and relationships and stories that are told in just as great detail as the humans. there is gender shifting (literally, the avatar is buddhist and has been reincarnated several times and several of his past lives interact with his current life, literally shifting him from male to female to male…), there are fierce women who are not centered around men, there is the most touching relationship between a man of color and a boy of color i have ever seen on the screen ever.
to have white people completely take over all the roles….to become the literal center, when they weren’t even in the story to begin with…to see white people wearing native tribal dress and altering native hairstyles and peircings so that they are more acceptable…it makes me fucking sick. fucking sick. it’s not just appropriation or “playing native”—its…like…saying people of color *kids of color* are literally incapable of being real human beings in the white imagination.
m knight shayamalan should be fucking ashamed of himself.
Nobody said it was easy,
It’s such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be this hard.
Oh take me back to the start.
-Coldplay | The Scientist