Friday, May 28, 2010

Hollywood's Bad "Habitual Practice"

The casting of white actor Jake Gyllenhaul
as the "Prince of Persia" has some people crying foul.

You know, I have to admit that I’ve never been particularly convinced of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin simply because the supposed image of Jesus looks about as Jewish as I do. Indeed, it seems to reflect the artistic (and decidedly non-Semitic looking) depictions of Christ from much later times.

I was reminded of this when I read of the controversy surrounding the recently released film The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaul (left), an American actor who, despite his good looks, doesn’t look remotely Persian. As a result, I find myself agreeing with blogger and independent filmmaker Jehanzeb Dar, who says that the casting of Gyllenhall is “not only insulting to Persians, [but] also insulting to white people. It’s saying white people can't enjoy movies unless the protagonist is white.”

Following it that part of an Associated Press article that offers economic and historical perspectives on the “whitewashing” of both The Prince of Persia and another recent film, The Last Airbender.

2010 is a time of huge stakes in the movie business — when only a small fraction of the films that are released make the vast majority of the industry's profits, said economics professor Arthur De Vany, author of Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry.

Because of the financial risk, studios try to control anything that goes into a movie before its release in an effort to maximize box office receipts — from the storyline to the cast to the marketing, De Vany explained.

“They’re trying to control the initial conditions of a chaotic process,” he said. “There’s only so much room at the top.”

During the era of segregation in this country, Hollywood routinely considered race when making and releasing a film. For example, actress Lena Horne, who died May 9 at 92, saw her parts in movies cut out when those films were shown in the South.

Over time, “it’s what has become habitual practice," said Chon Noriega, professor of cinema and media studies at UCLA. “I think it’s the default setting and it takes a conscious choice to change,” he said.

And here’s Sassy Qarla's take on the matter:

It surely isn't Jake Gyllenhaal's chiselled physique in the big budget film adaptation of a popular video game that's garnered disapproval.

You betcha! One of the season's most expensive film, Prince of Persia, has sparked quite an outrage in its offensive choice of casting.

The popular video game franchise based in ethnic parts, specifically ancient Iran, comprises characters with Middle Eastern features and darker skin. The film version meanwhile, chooses to cast White actors with stereotypical depictions from the region as being terrorists or religious zealots.

One who's evidently insulted with the increasing misconceptions of Hollywood, is independent filmmaker and blogger Jehanzeb Dar, 26, who's a player and loyal follower of the video game.

When Disney studios made an announcement regarding plans to create a live-action adaptation of Prince of Persia, Dar was quite hoping it would be a 'serious story' that would thwart stereotypes and false ideologies. But what came was a slap-in-the-face for the filmmaker, when none of the film's principal cast were of Iranian, Middle Eastern or Muslim descent. Especially the one tasked with filling in the shoes of hero Dastan, none other than Brokeback Mountain's Jake Gyllenhaal.

"It's insulting that people of color - especially Middle Easteners or South Asians- are not allowed to portray ourselves in these roles. That's a big problem a lot of people in the community are having with this film," remarks Dar.

It's not the first time Hollywood has sort of gotten away with it. There was John Wayne who portrayed legend Genghis Khan in The Conqueror, comedian Peter Sellers as the bumbling Indian in The Party, and not to forget Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi character from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Besides Gyllenhaal and British actress Gemma Aterton's portrayal of Iranian characters in the dagger-wielding action Prince of Persia, we have another big budget flick, The Last Airbender.

Producers of the film are on the brink of being boycotted by fans after learning that white actors are cast in three primary roles, which loyal followers of the Nickelodeon animated version insist are Asian and Native American.

Racial discrimination needs to be eliminated in all areas of our daily living. So wake up and get real, Hollywood!

For a round-up of reviews of The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What Muslims Want
Irene Khan: Shaking Things Up Down Under
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling


PrickliestPear said...

I thought it was rather lame of them to cast a white guy as a Persian. I found it doubly lame when I saw the trailer and discovered that he's not only a white guy playing a Persian, but a white American playing a Persian with a British accent.

Jayden Cameron said...

hmmm...just as a point of interest, have you seen the recent History Channel documentary on "The Real Face of Jesus," documenting the efforts of a team of graphic experts as they use cutting edge 3D software to reconstruct the face on the Shroud of Turin. Final result looks very Jewish. Looks even more Jewish if you compare it to the face of Barrie Schwarz, the Jewish scholar who runs the leading scientific website devoted to study of the Shroud. Barrie has always maintained that the figure on the shroud exhibits many Semetic characteristics, including the hair braid at the back of the neck that was the fashion for Jewish men of the time and which is not found on a single Western painting of the Nazarene Master. I think I'll be skipping Prince of Persia, though I'm grateful that Mr. Gyllenhaul made the fine movie, Rendition.

Mareczku said...

In regard to "casting a white guy as a Persian" I think people need to realize that Iranians are white people. They are caucasians and their language is from the same Indo-European group of languages as English, Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, Polish, Hindi, etc. The point should have been that they use Iranians for major parts in this movie.

Liam said...

And Jake was obviously chosen for a cousinly resemblance to the former crown prince of Iran:

Let's not forget Iran replaced Persia by his grandfather during the latter's decision to ape Hitler's emphasis on things Aryan...

crystal said...

The only Persians I know about are Darius and Xerxes (around the time of the Greco-Persian wars) and I believe the Persians of that time, which is when I think the movie is set(?), were caucasian, if often dark haired and eyed.

Anonymous said...

ZZZZZZ. Persians are Caucasian. But the real issue is the Gyllenhaal is Jewish.

And if we're gonna play this game, let's make sure no Persian or Middle Eastern or Asian or Black actors play parts written for "whites".