My name is Willow and I'm upset, confused and feel incredibly insulted. There are several conversations happening right now about the Avatar: The Last Airbender live action casting. And I keep seeing stuff like this:
"But there's no ASIA in that universe, so how can they be ASIAN? Plus, Ang is so light skinned and he has big wide ROUND eyes so he's obviously white & Zuko is at least mixed. But really the Fire Nation is the only one who's anything remotely Asian...."
And it hit me really, really, REALLY hard that white people have absolutely no problem with the central villains of the piece being Asian. But the heroes (and one anti-hero) are so OBVIOUSLY white (or at least half-white).
And on top of that, it hit me that even WITH the trappings of the fantasy ghetto; the architecture, language, names, writing, symbols and marital arts of East Asia it was never obvious to this group of people that this was a Non-Eurocentric, non white-centric fantasy.
I'm reminded of seeing a sliver of a post by Elizabeth Bear where she ended up having to prove that there are black people who have red hair and freckles by posting PICTURES. Because someone couldn't quite take the author's word on her work that her characters were. not. white.
I'm trembling at the realization that because I don't want to write about characters of colour in ethnic fantasy ghettos - then my characters won't be seen as not being white. If fricking AVATAR characters aren't obviously Asian, then what the fuck hope do any characters I write have?
If I say brown, will everyone who is white think 'Oh, they have a tan'?
If they're dark with anything but brown eyes, will that been seen as further proof of their whiteness in the eyes of everyone who isn't me?
Do my male characters have to be big and muscular and very dark skinned with no name in order to be a person of colour?
Will my hero, no matter what, be seen as white? Because all these people need is a honky is the only thing white people can see? Because that's what they're saying about Avatar. That of course Aang is white. He saved the day!
I am shaking in my anger and my fear and my mind blown wtf and... I think, my hatred. Right now I seriously, seriously hate white people. No doubt this feeling will pass, especially as seeing how I have relatives various groups in the world would look upon as white. And I love those relatives dearly.
But right now? I'm hating.
I hate the fact that two very white guys, went out of their way to create a non-white, non-Eurocentric fantasy world and apparently for quite a few people, they failed in that task.
I hate the fact that people are bringing up LOTR as a defense of seeing whiteness in Avatar. As if LOTR wasn't primarily about a Euro-centric, specifically British-centric white mythology as Tolkien himself wanted it to be..
I hate the fact that unless you're as dark as burnt walnut with a flat nose and bright white teeth and big lips - then in fantasy you won't be seen as being of colour.
I hate the fact that unless someone specifically refers to a character in stereotypical, caricature terms they won't be seen as Asian.
I hate that there are so many people who cannot see how they're using white as the default.
I hate that there're people asking me why I'm upset, cause skin tone doesn't really matter, what matters is the heart of the story.
I hate and despair.
ETA: A Letter Writing Campaign Against Avatar:TLB's White Casting