Monday, June 7, 2010

Jake Gyllenhaal Stole Gamer's Video Game and Identity

... metaphorically.

Sara Haghdoosti is a 22-year-old Iranian-Australian feminist writer, active with GetUp! Australia, and has been a lifelong fan of the the Prince of Persia video game series, ever since the very first game for the PC.

So she was very excited when the Prince of Persia movie was first announced... and then very disappointed when the movie was first released.
Why does she feel the Prince of Persia movie took computer games the she loved as a child and ruined them in a movie based on those video games as an adult?

She explains:

"As a child I loved the computer games. They weren’t just fun, they gave me an easy way to talk to and relate to others over something that was special to me and my heritage. As an adult, I feel like the movie has totally wiped out that aspect of it. The movie has reduced my identity, my heritage and my cultural background to lighting and make up.

Why should we care about the casting of the latest Hollywood epic action film? Castings of movies like the ‘Prince of Persia’ are important because we know that media images have profound impacts on our identities. "

Nick Mahatmas also explains and points out that the physical and cultural identities are whitewashed or papered over in his review of the film. To wit:

"Are non-white characters being played by white people? Of course! Everyone already knows that Jake Gyllenhaal is the titular Prince Dastan, but he's not the only blue-eyed Persian in this flick. There's two older brothers, one a blue-eyed guy who looks sort of like a Mormon Jesus Christ, and another, angrier brother who is at least dark-complected, but he looks more like Zack de la Rocha than anything else. (Next up for Disney—Martin Mull IS Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope: The Imax Experience.)... Persia is a pretty neat place, actually. Maybe one day someone will make a cool fantasy movie about it. "

M. Night Shamalyan-directed The Last Airbender, the live-action movie based on the Nickeloden cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, has encountered similar protests and charges of erasing and whitewashing all of the pan-Asian influences of the show-- changing the Chinese calligraphy to nonsense glyphs, and casting all of the principal lead characters, who were Asian in the show, white white actors instead. There has even been an activist group, Racebending that has been writing about and addressing the controversy for nearly two years.

What do you think we can do, as gamers and as activists and people who care, about the distressing tendency of whitewashing or under-representation? Will you vote with your wallet? Write letters? Speak out to your friends? Or if it doesn't affect you, do you say it's not a big deal? Why does or does it not matter to you?

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