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Avatar: The Last Airbender Casting Controversy Continues

Online protests hoping to protest the casting of M. Night Shyamalan's live-action take on AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER are continuing.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY reported in December that Shyamalan offered the roles of Aang to karate-trained Texan Noah Ringer; Sokka to Jackson Rathbone (TWILIGHT); Katara to Nicola Peltz (DECK THE HALLS); and Zuko to Jesse McCartney, all Caucasian actors to portray Asian characters.

The casting announcement sparked a controversy, and many accused Paramount and Nickelodeon of "whitewashing" the film. Rathbone told MTV News earlier this month that, "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."

Some of the blogosphere protest was documented on gossip site i09. And a letter-writing campaign was started on a LiveJournal Page.

Via CARTOON BREW, comic book artist Derek Kirk Kim is protesting as well: [AVATAR is] wholly and inarguably built around Asian (and Inuit) culture. Everything from to the costume designs, to the written language, to the landscapes, to martial arts, to philosophy, to spirituality, to eating utensils! -- It’s all an evocative, but thinly veiled, re-imagining of ancient Asia."

He continues, "Imagine if someone had made a “fantasy” movie in which the entire world was built around African culture. Everyone is wearing ancient African clothes, African hats, eating traditional African food, writing in an African language, living in African homes, all encompassed in an African landscape...but everyone is white. How offensive, insulting, and disrespectful would that be toward Africans and African Americans? How much more offensive would it be if only the heroes were white and all the villians [sic] and background characters were African American? (I wince in fear thinking about THE LAST AIRBENDER suffering from the latter dynamic -- which it probably will.)"

Writer Madeline Ashby also pointed out that studio casting of animes AKIRA and COWBOY BEBOP have handed the lead roles to white actors, excluding Asians. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Levitt are both attached to AKIRA and COWBOY BEBOP just got Keanu Reeves to star, although Reeves is of Hawaiian and Chinese descent.

The AVATAR film, titled THE LAST AIRBENDER, is set for a July 2010 release. Shyamalan is writing, directing and producing the film.