Sunday, May 2, 2010
Race and Contemporary Hollywood Part 01
Okay, this post was prompted by this film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ys-bUD_Uj4
First and foremost let's address this troubling film. As I'm sure you all have noticed, the film is titled the Prince of Persia, which is based on a video-game franchise of the same title. Now barring the fact that the game franchise was from its outset developed by white American developers, lets examine the real problem here. Jake Gyllenfuckinhaal, while a phenomenal actor in his own right, is a white fuckin' male! I don't care how one may try to spin it, there's no way around that.
So, while Persians may be part of the "caucasoid race", actual Persians (i.e.-Iranians/those people that Washington and the rest of the West seem to want to bomb to Hell) and I would be inclined to disagree with them being considered white enough to be portrayed in film by a Swedish/Jewish male. I'm sorry, it just doesn't fly Hollywood. Seriously, there are so many great Iranian actors and the best you could do was Gyllenhaal? Seriously? Please tell me you're kidding, because if your excuse is that the audience needs someone they can relate to, I can tell you that between 40 and 30% of Americans aren't going to be able to relate to Gyllenhaal (myself being part of that number).
Then there is the problem of the female lead and, boy oh boy, is it a problem. Gemma Arterton is English. That's right, she's straight up from the land of Fish 'n Chips. Now, I know what you're thinking, especially if you didn't click on the link, "Well what's wrong with that Vagrant?" I'll tell you in two words. Ethnic Face. Yes, Ethnic Face. While in the past we limited this title to depictions of African Americans (i.e.-black face) I'm sure we can all acknowledge that every race and ethnicity has been portrayed by a white man in cinema. One infamous example being Charlie Chan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Chan). Gemma Arterton continues this "proud" tradition of Ethnic Face, though not quite as blatantly, by taking up the role of Tamina who is, quite obviously, some subset of the "ethnic princess/ethnic concubine/ethnic minx/ethnic whatever other stereotypical female role you can think of". Seriously, two for two already? I don't even want to know what the rest of this "diverse" cast looks like (but I can guess you've got at least one POC who will end up dying 20 minutes into the film. Sarcastic YAY!"
But then again, knowing that it is going to be produced by Walt Disney demystifies the whole situation. After all, these are the people who brought you that gem of a film titled The Princess and the Frog (Proceeds to vomit profusely into a bucket). And this brings me to my next point. Hollywood is seriously laying on the stereotypes mighty thick even in the 21st century and this is a major problem. All one needs to do is look at a Queen Latifah movie, an Ice Cube movie, etc. And that's to say nothing of the roles that men and women of colour are pigeon holed into, especially women of colour. I doubt you'll see Bai Ling ethnic facing a white russian bride in searching for her white husband, played by John Cho, who presumably died fighting the Nazis though she refuses to believe that.
Seriously, this reminds me of a Paul Mooney skit that appeared on Dave Chappelle: http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/index.jhtml?videoId=219442
Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Part 02 of this rant will be up a little later.