A whitewash for 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' and 'The Last Airbender'
Since its release, the video game franchise Prince of Persia has become notable for the acrobatic grace of its dagger-wielding, balloon pants-wearing hero as well as for what the games didn't do: affront gamers of Middle Eastern and Muslim descent with stereotypical depictions of people from the region as terrorists or religious zealots.
Independent filmmaker and blogger Jehanzeb Dar, to name one such player, remembers his favorable first reaction to the swashbuckling action game, which is set amid the sands and ancient cities of Persia (as ancient Iran is known) and follows a hero with a magic sword caught between forces of good and evil. "You could see clearly the protagonist had distinct Middle Eastern features and darker skin," said Dar, 26, who pens the blog Muslim Reverie from Langhorne, Pa. "People could develop some respect for that culture instead of seeing it vilified."
So when Disney studios announced plans for a live-action adaptation of Prince, Dar held out hope it would be a "serious story that would dispel a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions." Then came the bad news regarding "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (the movie which arrives in theaters on Friday). None of its principle cast members are of Iranian, Middle Eastern or Muslim descent. And playing Dastan, the hero and titular heir to the Persian throne in the $200-million tent-pole film, is none other than Hancock Park's own Swedish-Jewish-American prince, Jake Gyllenhaal.
Personally, I think Gyllenhaal's casting had more to do with the way Hollywood works when casting any movie: the spin the Wheel of Current Celebs and go with whoever the needle lands on. (There are different Wheels for different movie genres and key demographics, of course, otherwise Dastan might have would up being portrayed by Adam Sandler or something. Sorry for the nightmares, PoP fans)
That, or Hollywood is just a bunch of racist bastards. I dunno.
Prince of Persia looks kind of interesting, though, Gyllenhaal notwithstanding. I hope the reviews are decent.