This Thursday I want to call attention to a website that’s been in this blog’s links-sidebar basically since its inception. I came across Racebending.com around the time it began, and their stance on equality casting and representation in the media is one of the many reasons I decided it was time to start writing more about what I thought mattered.
As their name might suggest, the site came about as a response to M. Night Shyamalan’s film adaptation of the Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender. The entirety of the series was set in a distinctly Asian-inspired universe, and the casting decision was made to have the majority of the protagonists be played by Caucasian actors. The change is starkly apparent in the image below:
And for those of you who don’t think Zuko is a villain, click on the link for a thorough explanation.
The organization did a great amount in revealing the decisions that went into the making of the film. Most importantly was their breakdown of the casting calls that read “Caucasian or any other ethnicity,” and how the language affects those who apply for the roles as well as hinting at what they are looking for. They also exposed the blatant racism used by casting director Deedee Rickets, who was quoted as answering the question “Are you at a disadvantage if you didn’t wear a costume?” with the following:
Absolutely not! It doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage if you didn’t come in a big African thing. But guys, even if you came with a scarf today, put it over your head so you’ll look like a Ukrainian villager or whatever.
Although the movement was not enough to sway the studio, producers, or director of the film, the site stays up, continuing to work towards educating the internet on when and where whitewashing is taking place, and what people can do to stop it. They also take care to call attention to those who are advancing the role of minorities in the media, giving credit where it’s due.
Most recently the blog has been concentrating on the upcoming film Cloud Atlas, which stands out due to its use of “yellowface” by various actors. While the directing Wachowski siblings and others have cited the theme of reincarnation and the fact that actors of colour will also be playing White roles, media liaison Mike Le lays out the stark difference between the two. In an interview with the radio station Vocalo 89.5 he explains the tradition of yellowface in cinema as a means of controlling the perceptions of a race, and the damage it has done and can still do.
All in all, Racebending.com is run by people who are doing good things, and who care about representation whether it be based on race, gender, or orientation. They strive to see the media reflect the immense amount of diversity in our world, and that alone should be worth checking them out.