When Shyamalan came under fire, he didn’t remain calm, but instead expressed his confusion at having been the target of such negative remarks, especially considering that he’s not white himself (via The Atlantic).
“You come up to me, the one Asian filmmaker who has the right to cast whoever I want, and I’m casting this whole film in this colorblind way where everyone is represented. I even had some dirt as African American that’s obviously not on the show, but I wanted to represent her too!”
However, that planned segment never materialized – as the film ended at the end of the Book of Water and before the Book of Earth. Shyamalan was expecting to do a sequel, possibly a trilogy, but that was never going to happen. Addressing his frustration further, Shyamalan said, “It’s annoying, this stigma, that the first word on the most culturally diverse film of all time is this accusation. And here’s the irony, it has nothing to do with the studio system. I had full say in the casting. So if you have to point the racist finger at me and it doesn’t hold up, shut up.”
So did it stick? The answer to that can vary from person to person. But some critics have defended Shyamalan, saying that while he made an obvious mistake, that misjudgment was not due to malice or bigotry. In fact, sometimes it’s wiser not to add hate to criticism, as it stifles the opportunity for learning and growth. What fans can hope for now, more than a decade after The Last Airbender’s release, is that other filmmakers — and Shyamalan himself — have learned from his mistake.