M. Night Shyamalan took an interview with the Washington Post where he reiterates much of the same “blame anime, not me” and “where’s my cookie for making the most culturally diverse film of all time?” rheoric that we’ve seen in earlier interviews in regards to Racebending.com. Here’s the relevant excerpt:
JC: I know you’ve gotten this question quite a bit, but I have to ask it because — I’m sure other members of the press have told you this, too – I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from the members of the Racebending group, especially in the days leading up to the release of this film. And again, they’re expressing their concerns about the lack of Asian or Asian-American actors cast in the film. What is your response to that at this point? Do you have anything further to say on that issue?
MNS: They’re misguided.
MNS: They’re aware I’m Asian, right?
JC: I would think so.
MNS: And that Dev [Patel]’s Asian, and Assif [Mandvi]’s Asian, and everybody’s, I mean – it’s incredible to think that there’s a correct Asian here. They don’t own this series. They don’t own all these cultures. The word Avatar is a Sanskrit word. So it’s all cultures that are put together. There’s no correct background here. They should ask: why does Noah Ringer look like a duplicate – a duplicate – of the cartoon guy? Why? He’s a dupe.
Anime is based on ambiguous facial features. It’s meant to be interpretive. It’s meant to be inclusive of all races, and you can see yourself in all these characters. My daughter saw herself as Kitara and now her friend who’s Hispanic sees herself as Kitara, and that’s totally valid. This is a multicultural movie and I’m going to make it even more multicultural in my approach to its casting. There’s African-Americans in the movie … so it’s a source of pride for me. The irony that they would label this with anything but the greatest pride, that the movie poster has Noah and Dev on it and my name on it. I don’t know what else to do.
JC: Does it offend you that they’re defining Asian in what you perceive as a limited way when you consider yourself Asian?
MNS: I think it’s convenient for their argument. Their issue isn’t with me. Their issue is with the artists that invented anime. The story of “The Last Airbender” is an ambiguous story. These cultures are not defined. There is no Inuit woman who looks like Kitara. That’s not the reality of things. That’s not the way they’re drawn. Talk to the people who drew them. So you’re talking to the wrong person. I’m actually doing a very culturally diverse movie. In fact, I believe it’s the most culturally diverse tent pole movie ever made. And the series will be, if we’re lucky enough to make all three, without a peer — without a peer — one of the most culturally diverse movies ever made. It doesn’t have, like, a token person. The entire landscape will be ethnically diverse. That’s the entire point of the series.
I just can’t even believe that having achieved this – I’m the one that fought to get this movie made – having to do all of this and the opportunities I’m getting to do this in this way, and bring all these cultures to the table and all these ideas to a mass audience. 85 percent of the audience will have not seen the show. Right? Around the world. And I’m going to introduce them to all of this. Like the Uncle Iroh character is literally the wisest person in the movie and I believe Shaun Toub [the actor who plays him] is Persian. I forget where he’s from, but he’s clearly not white. On and on.
And Dev is what the movie’s about, his character, where he goes is what the movie’s about. Just that I have to defend this is — it’s outrageous.
I love the “Dev Patel’s Asian — how dare you call me racist?” statement that starts off this new tirade. Classy, Mr. Shyamalan, classy.