When he came under fire, Shyamalan didn’t stay silent, instead expressing his confusion at being the target of such negative remarks, especially considering he’s not white himself (via The Atlantic).
“You’re coming at me, the one Asian director who has the right to cast whoever I want, and I’m playing the whole movie in this color-blind way where everyone is represented. I even had an earthly kingdom part as an African-American, which obviously isn’t in the show, but I wanted to represent them too!”.
This planned section, however, never happened – as the film ended at the end of Book of Water and before Book of Earth. Shyamalan was hoping to make a sequel, possibly a trilogy, but that was never going to happen. As Shyamalan continued to explain his frustration, he said, “It’s infuriating, this stigma, that the first word for the most culturally diverse film of all time is this category. And here’s the irony, this has nothing to do with The studio system. I had absolute say in the casting. So if you need to point the racist finger, point it at me, and if it doesn’t stick, then shut up.”
So, did it stick? The answer to this may vary from person to person. But some critics defended Shyamalan saying that although he made an obvious mistake, this misjudgment did not come from malice or bigotry. Indeed, sometimes it makes more sense not to add hate to criticism, as it stifles the opportunity for learning and growth. What fans can now hope for, more than a decade after “The Last Airbender” was released, is that other filmmakers — and Shyamalan himself — have learned from his mistake.
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