Katara(l), Ang(c), Sokka(r)

Netflix

‘Lack of people darker than light beige REALLY is jarring’: Netflix’s live action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ trailer causes a stir over ‘whitewashed’ casting

'I like it besides Sokka and Katara being light.'

 

Nina Hernandez

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Posted on Jan 23, 2024   Updated on Jan 23, 2024, 5:02 pm CST

Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender are in uproar after a recently released trailer for the Netflix live-action adaptation caused a stir with its “whitewashed” casting. They took to X to protest.

Netflix released its trailer for Avatar: The Last Airbender earlier today. The new fantasy series will premiere on Feb. 22.

But some fans aren’t as excited for the show after seeing the trailer. X user @dumbdotcomm wrote, “the sokka casting and lack of ppl darker than light beige REALLY is jarring.”

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon that aired from 2005-2008. Although not the characters’ ethnicities are not explicitly stated, the cartoon depicts siblings Katara and Sokka as having brown skin color.

In the replies, one user wrote, “Ppl keep staying on Sokka but Katara is also several shades lighter than she actually is supposed to be as well like.”

Others said that while it bothered them, they are still optimistic about the overall quality of the forthcoming project. X user @hoodopulence said, “I like it besides Sokka and Katara being light.”

X user @InspectorNerd wrote, “Not only is he whitewashed but he lacks the sass and charisma that made Sokka’s sarcasm so likable.”

A user replied, “To my understanding he is of Cherokee ancestry. She is Akwesasne first nation.”

Kiawentiio Tarbell, who plays Katara in the series, is indeed a First Nations actor and singer-songwriter born in Akwesasne, Ontario, Canada. 

Actor Ian Ousley plays the role of Katara’s brother Sokka. The Texas-born Ousley’s management called him a “mixed-race, Native American” who is a “Cherokee tribe member.” Some outraged fans accused Ousley of lying about his heritage, but others defended him. 

There are more than 400 unrecognized indigenous tribes in the U.S., and the process of gaining federal recognition is resource intensive and favors communities with resources and connections.

One user reminded others that Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzo quit production of the live-action adaptation in 2020 due to creative differences after more than two years of development work on the project.

Fans made similar complaints about the casting of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2005 adaptation, which some called “racebending.” 

The Daily Dot reached out to Netflix via email for comment.

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*First Published: Jan 23, 2024, 5:00 pm CST