Why I liked Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

It’s not because I’m in India, and very few English-speaking films of any merit are released here.

It’s not because I’ve played the game, ’cause I never have.

It’s not because the special effects were very nicely done and not over-wrought.

It’s not because of Jake Gyllenhaal (although, he in no way, shape, or form is offensive to mine eyes).

No, I liked this movie because it moved (the plot never lagged for me), it made me care about the characters, it was exciting to watch, and it had action–FEMALE driven action.

Princess Tamina, played by relative new-comer Gemma Arterton (who ironically portrayed Io in the re-imagining of Clash of the Titans, which I reviewed here), who is more than just a pretty face. Arterton’s Tamina is womanly, but she is not frail.


When we first meet the Princess, her peaceful city is under attack from the Persian forces. She commands her advisers to take action and tells them she will be in the chapel praying. Truth be told, I groaned inwardly at this scene. “Oh Christ,” I thought to myself, “here we go–princess in her tower in need of saving.” So the princess prays as her city’s walls are breached, and a special, assumingly mystical-magical door of light opens. More fighting, cut to the princess handing something wrapped up tightly in cloth to a man servant with orders to get it to the temple.

But then… the movie turns the whole shrinking violet/princess in a tower trope on its head. Sure, the princess becomes war booty (pun intended, tho truth be told there is no sex, only a little kissing (this IS a family friendly Disney movie after all) and not until much later in the movie). The eldest of the three princes of Persia wishes to marry her in order to create an alliance between her people and his.

She’s all set to refuse–goes so far as to say she’d rather die than marry a Persian–until she sees that our hero has some-how acquired the Magical Mystical Object.

But our princess is no idle idol, oh no. She has a plan.

She goes to Persia, allows herself to be presented to the king, making snide, snarky comments to her captors the entire time (in fact, the banter between her and Dastan, the hero, is razor sharp and full of little goodies!), impresses the king with her sharp wit and he “gifts” her to his youngest adopted son.

(Stay with me, people, I know the idea of “gifting” an unwilling woman is repugnant, but stay with me.)

And then all hell breaks loose. The king dies through nefarious means, the young prince, Dastan, is accused of the murder and must flee for his life.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

Right off the bat, Princess Tamina takes charge. As they’re fleeing the city, SHE directs traffic (go this way if you want to live!). Granted, its her city, but still. Better yet, he LISTENS to her. He doesn’t just bullheadedly gallop his way through the city, he follows her orders. In another scene, when our hero and heroine have been captured by the smarmy ostrich-loving desert bandit (portrayed hilariously by Alfred Molina), and she’s forced to work as a racetrack bar wench, it’s Tamina who comes up with a way out of that particular mess and NOT Dastan (he’s too busy trying to figure out how to get a daggar out of his sleeve to see the necessity of a mob-based diversion).

Second point: She has a mission and, despite the fact her people are a peaceful people, she will do ANYTHING to complete that mission. Even if it means sticking around a dude who she really doesn’t like. Even if it means going places she won’t (and doesn’t like). Even if it means she has to pick up a sword (or dagger, or whatever–cause SHE DOES, and with a decent ability to do so) to fight. Even if it means she has to do things she doesn’t want to do (such as the aforementioned serving wench “job”–which, kudos to the writers for not making THAT particular moment into a sex-slave harem moment). Even if means she has to kill. She has a job, she sticks to it with a determination that I don’t think is often attributed to female characters in fantasy based movies. Furthermore, she doesn’t need no stinkin’ man to help her. Sure, she’ll let him come along–but mostly because he wont’ give the damn magical article back and he is, by virtue of male physiology, stronger than her.

But lets pause here a second. Sure, Dastan may be stronger than her, but she’s smarter. She dupes him at LEAST twice, if not three times throughout the movie. She plays on his honor induced hero-complex once–pretending to faint under the hot, hot sun, only to konk him on the head, knock him out, and escape with the magical object. She later TAUNTS him:
Tamina: Such a noble prince leaping to assist the fallen beauty.
Prince Dastan: Who said you are a beauty?
Tamina: There must be a reason why you can’t take your eyes of me.
Prince Dastan: [stutters] You’re… I…
Furthermore, her taunting kind of calls him on the “maleness” of his gaze–which is pretty cool if you think about it.

Lastly, and MEGA SPOILER ALERT, the ending.

In the penultimate moment of the movie, our hero and heroine face the Mega Baddie in battle. This was another moment, to be honest, I was prepared to slap myself on the forehead. I mean, seriously, these are the moment in which the princess is *usually* put in peril just so the hero can save the girl, save the world, and secure the happily ever after.

Except no. After some nifty special effects in which there is a lot of sand and crumbly buildings falling into the sand, we find our hero grasping the edge of a precipice with one hand, and Tamina with the other. We expect our hero to haul her up and then himself.

Except… no.

Tamina tells Dastan that she does not matter–the fate of the world does. If the Big Baddie goes through with his plan, the sacrifice that the small girl child made eons ago to protect the world will be for naught. She tells Dastan to let her go. And when he won’t, SHE lets go. She sacrifices herself, willingly, to save the world. And Dastan doesn’t even get to save her.

While, on the one hand, I can see how this is repugnant to some–I mean my God, why doesn’t Dastan sacrifice HIMSELF so TAMINA can save the world!– but in the end, its not HER story, really (the title would be Princess of Persia: Sands of Time if it was). But hang in there, there’s one more scene.

So, naturally, Dastan wins, Baddie fails, the world is righted. Dastan is changed by his journey–which no one but he remembers as he righted time. He confronts the Baddie once again, emerges victorious once again (though it is not his hand that fells the Baddie, but rather his brother’s WHICH is a nice development of one of the side plots), and once again finds himself in the position of being gifted a bride: the Princess Tamina.

However, rather than approach her and be all “I love you, don’t you remember me?” the writers actually did something pretty neat here. He approaches Tamina as though she is his equal vs. some prize to be won. Better yet, there is no ZIP! ZOWIE! moment of remembrance on the part of the princess, but rather a moment where it is clear that theirs will be a partnership. Indeed, the movie does not end with a kiss but rather a handshake.

Which, again, is pretty cool if you think about it. It implies that there is time for them to learn about each other, grow as a couple, and rule as equals.

Overall, I gave Prince of Persia: Sands of Time 3.5/4 out of 5 stars. I was prepared NOT to like this movie: it’s an adaptation of a video game (which rarely come out well), it’s set in a time when women weren’t treated well, and I couldn’t buy Jake Gyllenhaal as “Persian”. But I went, I saw, I LIKES. And sure, it has its moments of “Oh Lordy!”, and it definitely is not 100% true to the Persian/Arabian culture (Gyllenhaal speaks in a weird Cockney-American accent for parts of the movie). Its not an Oscar contender by any means, but its fun, funny, and *mostly*gender fair.


  1. says

    I’ve just completed a guest review for “Heroine Content” (whoo-hoo!) and I’ll let that speak for me, but: I agree mostly about Tamina. Still didn’t like the film, though.

  2. says

    I’m glad to hear this movie had some good points, because:

    I couldn’t buy Jake Gyllenhaal as “Persian”.

    This bothered me SO MUCH. L.A. has a huge ex-pat Persian population. You’re telling me we couldn’t find one gorgeous guy with acting skills among them? Really?

    The handshake you describe at the end is really intriguing. I noticed the posters for the movie kind of forced your eye to her more than him, but didn’t dare hope it meant she actually did anything important in the story. That’s cool.

  3. Tina says

    Jake as “Persian” was my least favorite part of the movie, and, honestly, it wasn’t bad enough to detract from the pleasure of watching. He didn’t peg the accent, he didn’t *really* look Persian (he more or less looked sweaty and greasy) but his chemistry with the other actors was spot on. BTW–I don’t think a single “Persian” person was cast in the movie–his elder brother is played by one of the dudes who played horse people’s princes in Lord of the Rings as was their father–he was the King of the Rohirrim. So… yeah.

    But if that’s the WORST thing I/you/anyone can find to say about a movie that was adapted from a game, then I’ll take it! Maybe its a step in the right direction?

  4. Re says

    Unlike you, I found Jake Gyllenhaal incredibly offensive to mine eyes. I’m sorry, but when I look at him in Prince of Persia media, all I see is a White body controlling representations of ‘Persian’ culture. Ultimately, I don’t agree that erasing minority people and treating marginalized identities as exotic costumes to be worn by Whites is a step in the right direction at all. This is whitewashing, pure and simple, and I refuse to support Hollywood racism with my money.
    From your description, it does sound like Prince of Persia can be read in a feminist way, but I would like to ask: does this feminism include women of color?

    • says

      Re, I would say the resounding answer there is no, since Tamina’s actress is English. This sort of intersectionality is deeply frustrating to me. I almost hate it more when a story does one “minority” group a better-than-average turn while slapping another in the face than when a story just misrepresents everyone but the white men.

      On a side note, I believe many Persians consider themselves white, and that’s been bothering me in all the news coverage putting this in terms of race. I’m not sure what’s the best way to express it – in terms of nationality, perhaps? That bigots want to limit whiteness not to a skin shade but to certain nationalities, so “white privilege” doesn’t get spread too thin? The point stands either way (that actors of Persian or at least Middle Eastern descent/origins could have been cast, but probably weren’t even considered). I just wanted to note this, since the tendency to “deny whiteness” to certain light-skinned people is deeply ingrained in Western culture and adds a whole other problematic layer to this mess.

  5. Re says

    Jennifer, with regards to Persians considering themselves white:
    Thanks for bringing that up, as it’s something I hadn’t paid much attention to. I’m not the kind of PoC who can pass as White, but because I’ve done a bit of activist work/research with Native Americans and Arab Americans, my baseline assumption tends to be that it’s better to consider ethnic groups of non-European origin non-White. This is clearly problematic, as you point out, and certainly something for me to think about.
    I suppose in this case, I’d argue that ‘ethnic groups’ could be a more accurate term, especially given the persistent Orientalism that is often imposed onto Persian and Arab identities.

  6. says

    Originally Posted By Re
    I suppose in this case, I’d argue that ‘ethnic groups’ could be a more accurate term, especially given the persistent Orientalism that is often imposed onto Persian and Arab identities.

    That makes sense – I wasn’t happy with “nationalism” but wasn’t sure of a better term. Thanks!

  7. says

    See, here’s where I’m going to defend this movie a little bit.

    #1–it’s based on a video game. If you look at the recent movies adapted from video games, most of them are crap. Additionally, most of them are crap in which the main character is a gun-totting individual, or a kick-boxing ninja who has to save the girl. Or, if its a woman, she’s a hyper-sexualized woman who’s boobs get more chatter than her potential coolness (I’m looking at you Boob Radier). So, while perhaps the choice of casting isn’t the greatest–the “white” dudes and dudettes as “Persian”–it’s still not a bad representation. At least the MC is some-what flawed and at least the female MC gets some action other than standing around waiting for someone to save her.

    #2–The representation of culture in this movie, aside from *maybe* the outfits, *maybe* some elements of myth, and *maybe* some settings, is not meant to be accurate. If you went to/viewed this movie with expectations of seeing a highly emotion drama period-piece than your expectation will be sorely met. This is not a period piece movie but rather Disney’s interpretation of a video game and as such, falls squarely in the realm of fantasy, which is often (but not always) a genre that isn’t kind to its female characters.

    #3–If we go on the assumption that this type of movie, as it is a Disney movie, is going to draw families and young people, and that a large portion of those young people may be female, I’d rather these young females see an active female character than a passive one regardless of whether or not the actress is white, brown, yellow, purple or polka dotted. I think that impression is important first, the cultural/national/color politics second (which is NOT to say they aren’t important). Tamina is active.

    The movie has it’s faults, yes. All of the faults everyone pointed are EXACTLY why I was hesitant to see this (Jake=Pretty but not Persian, video game adaptation, inaccurate representation of culture, commodification of the other, etc.). It has many of them. BUT if you take it for face value, AND you look at the female character (which, you’ll note, is what I choose to focus on) and you can suspend your disbelief and silence (or at least muffle–that’s what I did) that nagging little voice in the back of your head it’s actually an enjoyable movie.

  8. Robin says

    I’ve been trying to work up a coherent comment about “whiteness” versus “Caucasian-ness”, which seems to be the problem we’re running into here, but it keeps turning out all ramble-y. I don’t think I have enough anthropological knowledge to do it justice. Maybe someone else who does can articulate it here?

    For now I’ll just say that my roommate has seen Prince of Persia and deemed it much better than she expected from a video game adaptation, so I might just be convinced to pay the darn ten bucks to find out for myself.

  9. says

    So what you’re saying, for a mediocre, politically confused movie telling an ethnic story with a white cast and with only one woman, it’s actually pretty good? :)

    But I hear you. I recently recommended Ghosts of Mars – yes, that one – despite being an awful, boring mess, simply because the cast is as diverse as you’re likely to see. And Tamina can be appreciated.

  10. photondancer says

    it’s true that Jake doesn’t look Persian (as well as not being Persian, which may or may not be a separate issue) but he does look like the character, especially in later versions of the game, because the character doesn’t look Persian either. That presumably had a lot to do with casting him since he’s not known for being an action movie actor. Also the ‘Persia’ of the game looks a lot more like popular depictions of the Arabian Nights to my eyes, so there’s not an awful lot of authenticity in this situation to begin with. Nonetheless I agree it was stupid to cast a fair blue-eyed man rather than someone who actually looks like he might have been born under a bluer sky than England’s, as Maugham once put it.

    With regards to the question of whether Persians are ‘white’ or not, I wish the impossibility of answering this sensibly made more people realise how idiotic the notion of race is in the first place.

  11. Anemone says

    There are blue-eyed blond Persians, so some Persians are definitely white, while some are definitely not (even within the same family). Unless white Persians have “exotic” names you might never know their ethnicity.

    Caucasian = bone structure, not skin colour.

  12. Re says

    From an anthropological standpoint (I’m a graduate student of cultural anthropology), race is both socially constructed and very real. The biological basis for race is irrelevant to the cultural realities; we treat race as real, and thereby negotiate a reality in which there are major consequences of being perceived as or self-identifying with a particular racial identity.
    With regards to American Whiteness, perceived membership in the ‘White’ racial identity leads to quite a bit of privilege. (Peggy McIntosh’s lovely paper, ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,’ laid out much of this concept quite nicely.) However, ‘White’ is also taken to be the default state.
    In this context, depictions of the Persian and Arab world are all too often marginalizing, objectifying, exoticizing. Prince of Persia follows this trend of appropriative media by suggesting that Persian identity is the exotic trappings, and that Whites can be racial tourists by throwing on certain articles of clothing.

    Tina, to answer your points more explicitly:
    1. I don’t accept that just because other movies in the genre are bad, we should give video game-based movies a free pass on oppression.
    2. Similarly, I can’t accept that a movie entitled ‘Prince of Persia’ isn’t supposed to be about Persia/Persians. Yes, this is a fantasy world. But it’s a Persian-based fantasy world, and as such Persian actors should be the default.
    3. Yes, we can assume that this movie is going to attract a lot of young female viewers. Many of these young female viewers are going to be/have been people of color. This movie, like the vast majority of mainstream movies, sends a clear message that you have to be White in order to have a heroic role. I don’t believe that gendered oppression can be separated out from racial/cultural oppression, and I do care about young PoCs being inundated with these messages that their bodies are devalued in American culture.
    It can’t be a trade-off. It’s important to celebrate the ways in which media gets it right, but we cannot do so at the expense of the ways in which it perpetuates oppression.
    I am taking Prince of Persia at face value, and all I see are White faces.

    Sidenote: from The Other Patrick’s review, it seems like the movie doesn’t actually pass the Bechdel test (please correct me if I’m wrong!). So, not actually that great on the female empowerment front.

  13. says

    Okay, this morning I read Tina’s response in this comment thread and wrote a note to the other editors not to let it through moderation for the moment, as I had written to her about some issues of white privilege that I thought she should consider before posting it. However, at the very same time, another editor approved the comment. Long story chopped short: it looks like everyone read it and has been responding to it anyway, so I’ve restored it. And now here’s my basic response to it:

    However good Tamina is as a female character in isolation of all other factors, the representation still fails because she is typed as a Persian woman. There’s a lot of white privilege involved in not seeing this as a big problem. Now, I have no problem with seeing Tamina as a better-than-usual representation of women *despite* this failing. But the failing must be acknowledged, not defended.

    The CASTING is what I find unforgiveable and indefensible. It’s just wrong to type characters as “Persian” then (I presume) completely disregard actors of Persian or Middle Eastern descent out of your casting process. IMO, the big problem is NOT that culture is being depicted inaccurately – movies screw up white history/culture representation on a regular basis, after all. The problem is that Hollywood deliberately casts Caucasian people because only Caucasian people have box office draw because only Caucasian people have the resume to bring in the audience because they only cast Caucasian people. It’s a circular trap that people of other colors/ethnicities can’t break.

  14. says

    Re: Yes, IIRC, this film fails the Bechdel test, by default so to speak. I don’t think the Bechdel test is a very good tool for analysis, but it’s a nice starting point.

    On that matter, now that I think about it, it’s quite possible that after the first fifteen minutes or so, Tamina only ever talks to Dastan. As ruling princess, she gets to say a few lines, and then of course she is presented to be married off, but afterwards I think all conversations go through Dastan (while Dastan also talks to Alfred Molina’s sheik, his brothers, his uncle)

  15. says

    At the risk of (further) opening a can of worms, I would like to throw this out there.

    Jenn and Re make excellent points. And I don’t disagree with them what-so-ever. I am fully aware, and fully agree, that the depiction of race within Hollywood is… monotone. Hollywood almost always (if not always) substitutes Caucasian for whatever ethnicity it is they wish to portray. The history of cinema is also littered with women of color who either have to “cover” (such a Merel Oberon, who was of Welsh-Indian descent BUT, in order to pass often told people her mother was the maid), are assigned roles that are often parodies of ethnicity, or don’t get roles at all despite talent (Lena Horne had some such problems). I don’t dispute that fact. And its a problem–a HUGE problem that Hollywood has failed to address time and time again.

    But in light of that,and perhaps despite of, I think its important to recognize the small victories within media. While the “Persian” characters in this movie are not portrayed by ethnically Persian people, the FEMALE character is portrayed better than most female characters in this type/genre of movies. She has some agency–is it perfect agency, no. But its SOME.

    Do I wish that Persian actors had been casted? Most definitely. Do I believe that elements of “whiteness” and “privilege” coincide in this movie? Yes, absolutely. They are the very reason that I was leery of seeing this movie. And there’s a host of other factors that aren’t just right either. However, at the end of the day, the movie still portrays a female character as something more than just a pretty thing for the male protagonist to save. While I don’t think this allows the movie a free pass in the genre (video game adaptation/action-adventure), I do think its worth acknowledging and maybe even doing a (very) small fist-pump in the air.

  16. Anemone says

    Jennifer, Persians are Causasian. It’s just that most of them are not white Caucasians.

    I agree that the casting is a fail. However, I wonder what people would say if the film had been cast entirely with Persians, but with leads even whiter than the current leads?

  17. says

    Originally Posted By Anemone
    Jennifer, Persians are Causasian. It’s just that most of them are not white Caucasians.

    *sigh* I really don’t understand the term “Caucasian” at all.

    I agree that the casting is a fail. However, I wonder what people would say if the film had been cast entirely with Persians, but with leads even whiter than the current leads?

    Interesting question. It could send a really ugly mixed message: yay, Hollywood is hiring non-Anglos… but only if they pass for Anglos. (I’ve heard “Anglo” used as a term for whites of Euro/British descent, specifically – that’s how I mean it here, just in case it’s yet another race term I’m confused about!)

  18. says

    I just wonder what would happen if Iran made a film about the US-American Civil War and cast Oded Fehr as the young Abe Lincoln etc.

    Interestingly, this (or at least something like it) is already happening in other areas of the world. Indian actress Kareena Kapoor (she’s one of Bollywood’s biggest and most influential stars) has been selected by one of Bollywood’s most influential producer/directors to portray Marilyn Monroe.

    Now here’s my question (and I do NOT intend this to be inflammatory or snarky or anything, I’m truly curious) and I’ll try to phrase it as generically as possible (meaning I’m not pointing a finger at any specific movie). If its considered negative to have a “white” actor portraying an ethnicity, if I understand the argument, because it is an inaccurate portrayal of that ethnicity (if only on based on visual conceptions of that ethnicity/race) is it wrong to, for lack of a better word, reverse cast in this manner? Kareena Kapoor is not white–she’s Indian. Does this reverse the “privilege” polarity, or is this an “enlightened” move on the part of the industry as a global entity?

    Again, asking because I’m curious.

  19. Anemone says

    My take on the matter is that when a white person portrays a person of colour, it’s an act of colonization, whereas the reverse isn’t. (Particularly since people in the US doesn’t seem to care what other cultures do.) And I’d definitely watch something with Oded Fehr as Lincoln. :)

    Jennifer, I can see why you’d get confused as to the meaning of Caucasian, if it’s traditionally been used by the US government as a synonym for white. Here’s where I was coming from: Caucasian race.

    And when I suggested that an all Persian cast might have even whiter leads, I wasn’t thinking in terms of Hollywood, I was thinking in terms of an independent Persian film that might somehow cross over into the North American market. Hollywood doing it would be pretty strange. I can’t see them having the nerve to try.

    It just bugs me when racial stereotypes mean certain people don’t get to portray their own racial group even though they belong there as much as anyone else.

    “Anglo”, huh? As compared to Latino? Beats WASP. Or English.

  20. says

    Skip this comment if you’re not interested in race terminology – it’s kind of off-topic, but still relevant, so I’m posting it anyway.

    I followed Anemone’s Caucasian race Wikipedia article to the Aryan article to the Indo-Iranian to the Persian, and found this:

    The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means “Land of the Aryans”

    But the original classifications were linguistic, and later anthropologists redefined Aryans to be more Nordic, which is where Hitler got his ideas about “the Aryan race” being blond/blue and tall.

    And yes, not only does the US use “Caucasian” to mean “white,” but culturally, I think most white Americans assume Jews and white hispanic/Latinos don’t see themselves as white, which is untrue. It’s… very confusing.

    For anyone curious, here’s an explanation of “Anglo” as I was using it:

    It is often used alone, somewhat loosely, to refer to people of British Isles descent in The Americas, Australia and Southern Africa.

    The word shouldn’t refer to white non-Brit Europeans (Anglo is derived from Angles), but I have heard it used to describe whites in general here in the US. I guess it’s presumed most white Americans are of British descent, and that may even be true.

  21. says

    Tina: I don’t think it’s wrong for a white actor or actress to portray a character that would realistically not be white, per se, in that I don’t think it’s important to keep the racial (or sexual – can you say genderial) specifics realistic. However, there are two things I consider to be bad:

    1) there are not enough good roles for non-white actors and actresses anyway, and taking those away where the film is not explicitly about race and culture (i.e. black “urban” films) deprives those people of the few other roles they might land (and the audience is deprived of representation) – and the same thing is *not* happening the other way round. Will we get a black spiderman? I seriously doubt it. People got upset that Idris Elba, a fucking great actor, was cast as Heimdall in the comic book movie Thor.

    2) there is a difference between the powerful taking roles for them and the powerless appropriating roles for them, respectively. It’s all assimilated into the ruling culture, the default Persians are white (except for the villains), and the default adventure film is cast with a single woman. Making a film like “Ghosts of Mars” where almost every character is female or non-white or both feels subversive just for the fact of that casting decision, the opposite would be (aside from typical and boring) cementing the hierarchy instead.

    I hope that wasn’t too clueless on my part. :)

  22. says

    People got upset that Idris Elba, a fucking great actor, was cast as Heimdall in the comic book movie Thor.

    He is also SO INCREDIBLY HOT that even after I determined The Wire just wasn’t exactly my thing, I couldn’t stop watching it until the third or fourth season.

    Hmm. I never thought of it, but maybe the reason no big Hollywood stars turn me on is that it’s such a homogenized set. Not only mostly white, but they all tend to fall into 2-3 looks. After a while, they seem a dime a dozen and the look becomes boring. There’s a whole world of gorgeous and attractive people out there in all sorts of varieties, and variety really IS the spice of life.

  23. Patrick says

    I agree that there is a difference between casting whiter actors in non-white parts and the reverse.

    The use of “Anglo” to mean white people in general, or people whose lineage goes back to the British isles specifically, really irks me. It erases people’s ethnic identity (I’m Irish-American, I an NOT AN ANGLO). It’s no different from using the term “Mexica” to refer to all Latino people.

    I remember an especially offensive use of “Anglo” when Star Wars Episode II came out, and a group advocating for better representation of Latinos in Hollywood were condemning it. Were they bothered by the fact that the Star Wars Galaxy appeared to have only a single Latino character (Senator Bail Organa)?

    No, they thought that Jango Fett and the Clone Troopers presented a negative stereotype of Latinos. They recognized that actor Temuera Morrison is Maori, but stated that “Anglo audiences would read him as Latino.” I don’t think I need to explain how offensive that statement is.

    (And that’s not even getting into how apparently “mercenary bounty hunter who is so awesomely badass that the Grand Army of the Republic uses him as the sole template for its army of incredibly badass soldiers” is a Latino stereotype. They also stated that “Anglo” audiences would read the “parade ground” scene at the end of the film as “hordes of interchangeable Latino immigrants” instead of a Triumph of the Will reference.)

    Sorry for the rant, but the generic use of “Anglo=White” is as vile as any other attempt to erase ethnicity.

  24. says

    Other Patrick–totally makes sense and I totally agree. It often feels like, these days, that if one is an actor (using it in the gender-neutral sense here) of ethnicity/race these days, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to star in some sort of low-budget indie movie. Mainstream Hollywood makes little room for ethnic actors. And even then, I think there’s a certain degree of dumbing down that happens to make the race-based roles more palatable for white audiences (I’m thinking specifically of the movie Monster’s Ball (with Halle Barry)and Precious,though admittedly I have not yet seen the later only read critique of it).

    I followed Anemone’s Caucasian race Wikipedia article to the Aryan article to the Indo-Iranian to the Persian, and found this:

    The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means “Land of the Aryans”

    Here’s a fascinating thing about this little gem that I learned my first trip to India.

    The Nazi party back in the day did a bit of research in an effort to legitimize their claims of superiority. Someone ran across the same tib-bit of info that Jenn posted and appropriated (read: twisted) that info in order to establish the idea of “Aryan” as white, which in turn made the race of Aryans (which the Nazi party claimed to be) one of the oldest races of humans. If I remember correctly, the “Land of Aryan” actually extended into parts of India and was subsumed into Hindu culture. They (the Nazis) also appropriated the swastika which is actually an incredibly beautiful symbol of cyclically eternal nature of life/death/rebirth(if you draw lines out from the “arms” of the symbol, you’ll note they never cross). So I wonder, in part, if the concept of “Aryan” equally “white” isn’t a 20th Century conception.

  25. photondancer says

    I feel a bit sorry for Tina, whose review has been well and truly derailed but still: can I just say how much I loathe the use of the word ‘caucasian’ as a synonym for ‘white’? it is based on a blatant falsehood and totally flummoxes real Caucasians (in the geographical sense) when they learn about it.

    The logic that Persians can’t be ‘white’ because they don’t have blue eyes fails to impress me since I know too many ‘whites’ with grey/brown/green/hazel eyes. And if you refuse to classify them as ‘white’ for reasons of privilege, you’re left in a bind because they certainly aren’t ‘black’ or ‘asian’. Heck, I saw that when I was a kid except I was looking at Italians rather than Persians. Hence the numerous subdivisions of the ‘3 great races’ theory, which is a crock. (There’s a good overview of the lack of any physical/genetic basis for race in the book “What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee” by Jonathan Marks, incidentally.)

    Since Prince of Persia does not purport to be a documentary or even to be set in any real version of Persia, I find the casting stupid rather than offensive. Are the people howling down Jake and co. for not being Iranian the same ones cheering the casting of a ‘black’ to play a Nordic god who was specifically renowned for his white skin?

  26. says

    Actually, Persians do sometimes have blue eyes.

    I… there are just no terms for race that aren’t problematic. I don’t even feel comfortable labeling myself, and never really did.

    It often feels like, these days, that if one is an actor (using it in the gender-neutral sense here) of ethnicity/race these days, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to star in some sort of low-budget indie movie.

    It doesn’t “feel like” it – that might as well be a the rule, because… okay, here’s a familiar story to any screenwriter who tried to sell a non-issue movie with a minority lead character to Hollywood:

    Exec: “Why does it have to be a woman/black guy/LGBT/insert minority here? Your movie isn’t about being a woman/black guy/LGBT/insert minority here, so why can’t it be a white guy? I mean, GOSH, what if we could get Tom Cruise???OMG-SQUEEE!!11!!”

    No “minority” lead will have the box office draw of a white dude because they don’t have the resume because they never get cast because HW only casts white dudes *unless* the movie is about How Hard It Is Not Being A White Dude. Therefore actors from marginalized groups are stuck with “genre” movies or tiny/Dead Meat Guy type roles in bigger movies. Once in a great, great while, you get a Will Smith who somehow slips through the cracks and proves he can pull in an audience just like white guys.

    Talk about yer self-fulfilling prophecies (never casting non-whites because they don’t have draw because they’re never cast). What we’re looking at here is an aggressive extension of that philosophy: even when we DO make a movie about people of a certain ethnicity, we can still squeeze Brit/Euro-descended whites into those roles.

  27. SunlessNick says

    I just saw this today, so sticking with the topic of review itself…

    But lets pause here a second. Sure, Dastan may be stronger than her, but she’s smarter. She dupes him at LEAST twice, if not three times throughout the movie.

    The time he steals the dagger from her it’s in her sleep.

    And when he won’t, SHE lets go. She sacrifices herself, willingly, to save the world. And Dastan doesn’t even get to save her.

    It fits. I don’t mean the story, I mean her. As you said, she’ll do whatever it takes to finish her mission, and here that means die. I like it because it’s a definite choice she makes, and it’s a choice she makes for the sake of the world, not for the sake of Dastan (most scenes of this ilk that didn’t involve him rescuing her would involve her getting between him and the villain’s blade).

    Also, giving her life for the world is repeating the feat of that long ago girl who offered to trade her life for the world to stop the Great Sandstorm. (And it would be nice to think the gods accepting that is what allowed Dastan to turn an ostensible world-ender into several weeks of turned-back time).

    but in the end, its not HER story, really (the title would be Princess of Persia: Sands of Time if it was).

    Gotta say though, to my ears “Princess of Persia” scans much better than “Prince of Persia.”

    Better yet, there is no ZIP! ZOWIE! moment of remembrance on the part of the princess, but rather a moment where it is clear that theirs will be a partnership.

    Although it does take her something like five seconds to work out the gist of what’s going on, which is nice.

  28. Keith says

    I loved The Sands of Time game for two reasons:
    1) It was written so well that I actually cared whether the Prince “got the girl”
    2) He didn’t.
    I could go on, but instead I just want to go play it again.

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