Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino made a public exit from Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the show earlier this month, claiming that the new version strays too far from their original vision. This has sparked fear among fans that the remake will whitewash the show, and they’ve made it clear that they won’t take that lying down.
Following the departure of Konietzko and DiMartino, a group of Avatar diehards who are calling themselves the ATLA Fans have launched a petition against the streaming service on Change.org to demand that its Last Airbender adaptation has “cultural representation and age appropriation.” In other words, they want assurances that the live-action version won’t whitewash the source material or age up its characters.
The petition’s demands read:
“We fear that the casting of the live-action will lack proper cultural representation, and we DEMAND that all the cast members are properly representing their character’s origins; for instance, the cast members for Katara and Sokka MUST be Native, not white but NATIVE.
“[We] demand that there are NO colonizer/colonized romance in the live-action series. Pairing any fire nation members with other nations is wrong because it fits the colonizer/colonized dynamic, which is extremely offensive towards Native individuals.”
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Concerns that any future live-action versions of Avatar would deviate from the source material in these ways go way back, beginning with the reviled M. Night Shyamalan version in 2010. While the initial involvement of Konietzko and DiMartino seemed to allay those fears where the Netflix adaptation is concerned, their exit from the project has the streaming site facing a growing fan backlash now.
The original creators did not specify how Netflix’s adaptation strays from the animated series, so it could well be the case that some characters will retain their original ages and ethnicities, despite the apparent differences from the source material. However, Konietzko and DiMartino’s exit doesn’t bode well for the streaming giant and the fans have every right to question what direction this thing is heading in.
No doubt Netflix is fully aware of the discontent surrounding its handling of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but its official statement in response to it was somewhat terse. Hopefully, they’ll take these concerns on board, and if their differences with Konietzko and DiMartino are as irreconcilable as they seem, fan pressure might at least see the project’s creative team course-correct to realign it with the original creators’ vision.