Well, I lied.
"That's just the way Hollywood is."
We know. We don't like it.
"What did you expect from M. Night Shyamalan?"
Considering he got into it in the first place because his daughter wanted to dress up as Katara for Halloween? A bit more than this.
"Why are you so surprised?"
We aren't surprised; we're angry.
"They're just trying to make money."
Remarkably, that fails to make everything okay. Besides, one of the reasons Avatar was successful in the first place was its diversity; why will changing that help them make money?
Just What Is "Asian"
"The characters don't look Asian to me."
At a guess, that would probably be because your default is white, and you only think characters are Asian if they have funny-looking eyes. That is not the way Avatar is made.
"It's not even set on Earth!"
No, it's not. It's set in a world based primarily on the cultures of East Asia. Why should there even be white people in a world like this?
"The Water Tribe are Eskimos, not Asians!"
The Water Tribe probably does draw much influence from the Inuit people, although possibly from the people of Polynesia as well. They're still not white.
"There's no way you can think Aang/Ty Lee/Jet/Cabbage Man would be Asian."
Really? Why not? Because they don't have squinty little eyes? Judging by their cultural background, they sure seem Asian to me.
"How do you know they're not white?"
They write in Chinese, they dress like various East Asian cultures, their buildings resemble those of various East Asian cultures, they use East Asian martial arts skills, plus any number of additional things which I don't feel like recapping here but which shouldn't be hard to find. Oh yeah, and the Water Tribe are freaking brown.
"You're the ones being racist and ignorant by lumping Asians into one group!"
Actually, the characters in Avatar are pretty diverse. I don't see how there's any "lumping" going on.
"Members of the Water Tribe have blue eyes!"
This is generally accompanied with, "Earth Kingdom means green eyes, Fire Kingdom means gold eyes," and the like. The point still stands: eye color does not trump the overwhelming Asian influences. Also? That's what contacts and CGI are for.
"[insert one-shot character here] had a European name!"
Only if you really stretch it. Even then, pretty much everything else is some kind of Asian.
"The show was only INFLUENCED by Asian themes! It's mostly an original fantasy world!"
Really strongly influenced. Strongly enough, in fact, that casting entirely or even mostly white people would be offensive.
Sidestepping the Issue
"It's not about race, it's about ACTING SKILLS."
Oh. I guess that of the millions of Asians and other people of color in North America...none of them have acting skills? And these four kids, who happened to be white, obviously do?
"I don't see how you can say it's gonna suck based off a cast list."
Well, considering the cast list in question...but really, we're not saying it's going to suck based off a cast list. We're saying it's offensive based off a cast list.
"The show isn't even a real anime."
No, it's not. It's still not about white people.
"If you're really an Avatar fan, you should have faith in this movie."
Being a fan has nothing to do with having blind faith in everything that's spun off the main series.
"Ken Watanabe says, 'Talent over ethnicity.'"
Ooh, the good old appeal to melanin. How about no. This extends to any other "Some Asian I know or have heard of said it was okay" defense.
"Why didn't you complain about Memoirs of a Geisha?"
How do you know we didn't? And assuming you're right: that would probably be because we weren't fans of the source material. We're fans of this.
"Everyone's getting way too angry over this."
Yes. Because it's really upsetting to fans of the show.
Did You Really Just Say That?
"Kids need to be able to identify with these characters."
Why the hell wouldn't white kids be able to identify with an Asian or Inuit kid in a role? Also, why are we assuming that "kids" are always white?
"They can use makeup/CGI to make the actors look right."
Yeah, they could. That's even more offensive.
"You're being racist against whites!"
This one gets whipped out in response to such things as "no one wants to see a bunch of white kids pretending to be Avatar characters" and the like. Even if reverse racism exists, which not everyone agrees that it does, wanting actors of color to play characters of color is not racist against whites.
"This movie is targeted at Americans."
Protip: not all Americans are white, and the ones that are can live with a cast of color.