- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2010

Casting calls

“I have a feeling that the controversy surrounding [casting for ‘The Last Airbender’] won’t die down anytime soon. At a recent roundtable event, several journalists gathered to chat with [director M. Night] Shyamalan about the film … inevitably, the conversation steered towards the race issues surrounding the casting of the film’s leads. Specifically, the casting of white actors in the roles of Sokka and Katara, and Dev Patel in the role of the villain. …

“Fans of the series’ cultural diversity find the film’s casting changes bothersome for several reasons. Primarily, because the show is one of the few media properties that features characters that look like minorities in lead roles. That it’s a children’s property makes that all the more important.

“When asked about the casting issues, he responds: ‘Here’s the thing. The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It’s intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point.’ ”

- Devindra Hardawar, writing on “M. Night Shyamalan Responds to ‘Last Airbender’ Race Issues,” on March 30 at SlashFilm

‘Come a long way …’

“The most alarming detail about Monday’s bombings in Moscow is that they may have been committed by female terrorists …

“Explanations of the motives of female suicide bombers have stuck to a few female friendly tropes: Young and psychologically disturbed, revenge seeking, or naive and under the sway of charismatic male influence … . But researchers who study female suicide bombers have found that none of those are true, or any more true than they are for men … .

“Instead the rise of the female suicide bomber has been motivated by something else entirely: They are remarkably effective. In her dissertation [author Lindsey] O’Rourke discovered that their attacks were almost twice as lethal as the attacks of men. A female suicide bomber is more likely to be successful, and kill 9 victims, as opposed to 5.5 for a man.

“They have the advantage of surprise, and societal norms often prevent security officers from searching them thoroughly. Also, as British agencies discovered, women in Muslim societies can hide 12 pounds of explosives under a chadora. Women, it turns out, make excellent terrorists, and recruiters have not failed to notice that.”

- Hanna Rosin, writing on “Who Is a Female Suicide Bomber,” on March 30 at the Slate blog Double X

Remember when …

“There was a very brief period after World War II when Americans were accustomed to taking orders from government and when government was accustomed to organizing big institutions to further its agenda. This was the era of the big TV networks and the establishment media. This was the time when news anchors were the ‘voice of God’ - as ‘60 Minutes’ creator Don Hewitt called them. Walter Cronkite, one of the most overrated figures in American public life (though still far short of Edward R. Murrow), used to end his broadcasts by saying, ‘And that’s the way it is.’

Not ‘and that’s the way we see it.’ Or ‘and that’s the news we thought was most important.’ But ‘that’s the way it is.’ As if the chain-smoking humps of the CBS newsroom had an oracular insight into the objective, ontological, existential reality of the moment. Truly, they were the voice of God, in their own minds.

“But it didn’t used to be that way. America’s media landscape throughout the 19th century and for much of the 20th was more freewheeling, more open, more democratic. That’s not to say the truth didn’t matter, or that it shouldn’t now. But the press used to be open about its preferences, biases, and ambitions. The mainstream media lie about theirs.”

- Jonah Goldberg, writing on “Free Association Isn’t Free” on March 29 at National Review

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