Does Netflix Plan to Sexualize and Whitewash Its 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Live-Action Reboot?

The animated Nickelodeon original Avatar: The Last Airbender recently hit Netflix, leaving viewers to wonder when the live-action reboot will come to the streaming platform. And, more importantly, how will new series pay homage to the original animated version, while also adapting for a live-action portrayal? 

The show was initially slated to pull on the original creators’ vision — with both operating as executive producers on the series. Recent production staffing changes have led to concerns among fans regarding the series’ commitment to the show’s original storyline and thematic undertones.

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzo stepped down from the Netflix reboot 

Recently, the original show creators — Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko — stepped down from the Netflix reboot, leaving Airbender enthusiasts to wonder what went wrong behind-the-scenes. Why have the two stepped down, and how do Netflix’s overarching plans for the production contradict what the two had in mind? 

Taking to Facebook, DiMartino explained the choice to step down, noting that he and Konietzo were hired as “showrunners” and told that Netflix would remain “committed to honoring” their vision. Yet, he goes on to explain, “look, things happen,” which led both to reevaluate their priorities, ultimately ending with both their exits. Following this, various speculations began to emerge, and one has gained steam. 

Some theories posit that Netflix is going for a more mature vibe with older characters and sexual undertones. And, some worry that the streaming giant will whitewash what should be a predominantly Asian cast of characters.  

A Change.org petition arguing for age appropriateness and proper diversity is circling the internet 

Following the announcement that DiMartino and Konietzko were stepping down, a petition for the Avatar reboot to feature culturally and age-appropriate characters began circling the internet. 

The petition argues that diversity must be paramount and that the characters should be minors (as they are in the animated show). The series is about kids — forced to confront mature challenges with an adolescent mindset. Remove the “kids” part, and the show loses part of its intrigue and originality. 

Refinery29 also recently compiled fans’ comments surrounding the original showrunners’ exits, noting the same concerns as the petition: that the show will cast actors who are far too old and do not represent the show’s diverse demographics. 

Many fear that the original showrunners stepped down because their vision began to slip through the cracks — their groundbreaking work, which remains ever-relevant in its natural form, likely began to transform into something unrecognizable. While such news has yet to be confirmed, the action alone speaks volumes to a fan base now suffering from a loss of excitement. 

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