I don’t post much about TV stuff because I don’t watch a lot of TV. But when I do, because my tastes have always been eclectic and a little weird, I tend to watch weird eclectic stuff. Thus was born my love of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a children’s cartoon. Yeah, I know. But I fell passionately in love with this show, because it’s frankly some of the most original fantasy I’ve seen in a very long time. Like most good children’s shows, it’s made an effort to appeal to adults as well, through complex subject matter and multi-layered jokes — to great and successful effect. I watched the finale episode at a party with 20 other twenty- and thirtysomething adults, all of whom were literally holding their breath and cheering at various points. Yeah. Over a kids’ cartoon. It’s that good. Go rent/buy it and see for yourself.
But let me be blunt: one of the things that hooked me about this show was that it was set in an all-Asian world. And it wasn’t fucked up. OK, let me clarify. You know how usually, when there’s an Asian character in an American TV show, he (or more frequently she) ends up as the martial arts master, the (white) hero’s submissive love interest, the dragon lady vamp, or the magical elderly person dishing out nonsensical proverbs and occasionally a can of whoopass? The thing is, all of these stereotypes are present in Avatar to some degree. But because the whole world is Asian, they’re lost in a sea of non-stereotypical, non-exoticized, perfectly normal human beings. How amazing is that? Not only that, but Avatar actually depicts different Asian ethnicities. Though this is a fantasy world, there are clear allusions to the Inuit, Koreans, Mongols, Tibetans, several flavors of southeast Asian, various Indians, and more. The Chinese- and Japanese-analogues of the story actually come in several varieties (Earth Kingdom and Fire Kingdom, Kyoshi warriors, etc.). Better still, while there are lots of martial artists in the show, the vast majority of people in this world wouldn’t know a punch from Hawaiian Punch. Just like most people anywhere. I know, huh? Good shit.
Given all this, I wasn’t surprised that M. Night Shyamalan, twist-director extraordinaire, was drawn to the material in order to make a live-action film. I was actually excited about his direction when I heard. I don’t like all his movies, but at least he’s not some no-name music video director. So it sounds like he’s chosen his cast for the film.