It’s been a rough couple of days for Netflix’s live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. First, the show’s original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko left the production, citing the traditional ‘creative differences,’ and now Joey King has had to quash a rumor that she auditioned to play Katara.
The 21-year-old actress, currently on many people’s radar following the popularity of The Kissing Booth 2, released the statement following her discovery of folks’ vehement opposition to her supposed involvement, having this to say:
“I have 0 involvement in this project and didn’t know this project even existed until I logged onto Twitter today and my timeline was flooded with these rumors. I do not believe a white woman should play a character of color. Not me or any white woman for that matter.”
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It’s not clear where the rumor originated, but coming alongside DiMartino and Konietzko emphatically stating that their vision for the series was not being adhered to, it’s not doing the production any favors. While it’s entirely possible that some wires got crossed somewhere regarding King’s potential involvement, the timing is suspicious and we can only hope that some Netflix executive didn’t get it into their head that white actors should be considered to play some of the entirely POC cast.
All nations in the world of Avatar are inspired by real-world peoples, and the Water Tribe, the society Katara grew up in, is heavily derived from Inuit culture, so to have a white actor play her would be a bad look, especially right now when daily headlines offer reminders of the multiple ways ethnic minorities are disregarded in favor of white people.
While the whitewashing of the heroic characters was a significant issue of the much-maligned live action movie from 2010, where Katara was played by Bates Motel’s Nicola Peltz, it was also quite simply a terrible film that painfully misunderstood what made the animated series so beloved. As such, there’s now the risk of some people deciding that white actors would be okay in Avatar: The Last Airbender as long as everything else is adhered to, which is almost as tone-deaf.