Boycotts Urged Over White Stars in Prince of Persia, Last Airbender

airbender_brief.jpgIf it's summer, and there are a pair of mainstream blockbusters about Persian and Asian warriors ready to open, then count on a "yellowface" controversy to saddle both on the way to release. Such are the scenarios facing Prince of Persia and The Last Airbender, both of which are presently on defensive as unfortunate casualties of the Slowest News Day of 2010.

The LAT on Sunday filed from both fronts, first documenting actual Persians' displeasure that fake-Persian Jake Gyllenhaal was portraying the titular hero of Prince of Persia. No one would comment from the production side, though a previously used Jerry Bruckheimer gem was dusted off for historical context: "Persians were very light skinned. [...] The Turks kind of changed everything. But back in the 6th century, a lot of them were blond and blue-eyed." While not easily swallowed by the film's outraged critics, this little-known historical detail was indeed confirmed by Disney's Middle Eastern sensitivity consultant, who has reached out to skeptical cultural organizations to insist that Prince of Persia is the "anti-300 [...] If we went back in time 1,700 years to the mythological era, all Iranians would look like Jake Gyllenhaal." What? Then why are the bad guys in the trailer and TV spots so much swarthier than Gyllenhaal? Not very Aryan, pal!

Meanwhile, Manoj Night Shyamalan doesn't have that excuse for The Last Airbender. The filmmaker cast young Caucasian actor Noah Ringer as his adolescent hero Aang, who, along with his pals, engage the Fire Lord and Co. in a battle to save the world. I'm fairly sure Asians weren't Aryan whenever this one was set, but the director was able to stem a bit of the protest around the casting by replacing Jesse McCartney with Dev Patel as dark prince Zuko and installing Native American Maori actor Cliff Curtis as chief baddie Ozai. Manoj addressed this last year in an interview with the paper ("Ultimately, this movie, and then the three movies, will be the most culturally diverse tentpole movies ever released, period. So if I'm failing the bar, I'm not sure whose bar is set higher than this movie"), but now an organization called Racebender is coming right and urging a boycott.

Paramount has offered to screen Airbender for the group once its 3-D conversion is completed, but has released a statement in the meantime:

"The movie has 23 credited speaking roles -- more than half of which feature Asian and Pan Asian actors of Korean, Japanese and Indian decent. The filmmaker's interpretation reflects the myriad qualities that have made this series a global phenomenon. We believe fans of the original and new audiences alike will respond positively once they see it."

Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's, though? Still racist. There's your bar, Manoj.

· A whitewash for 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' and 'The Last Airbender' [LAT]


  • here we go again says:

    I'm Asian American and I find this debate highly amusing. These are two privately-funded films and they can cast anyone they wanted to. As someone who've actually watched Prince of Persia, I think Jake Gyllenhaal is an excellent actor and it is sad to see people say he didn't deserve his role because of his ethnicity. Besides, he even looks like the original game character.
    But of course, every time I expressed my sentiment on privately-funded directors casting actors as they saw fit, people whom were so quick to jump the "racist" bandwagon slammed me for "kissing up to white people." Apparently, those so-called "anti-racism" people don't think a minority can disagree with them. I don't condone racism by any means, but neither do I condone forcing privately-funded directors into casting minority actors.

  • Tab Numlock says:

    Asia was actually once full of Aryans. They just dug up a bunch of tall, blond and redheaded mummies in Western China. Educate yourself. Aryans pretty much founded all civilizations including kicking off China by giving them the wheel, horse and bronze. It's highly likely the ruling class of the central American civilizations were Caucasoid. If you want to understand the past, look at the present. What people are responsible for modern civilization?

    • Liz says:

      Sounds to me your a little biased. Up till now, it is still a mystery as to who invented the wheel and when the wheel was invented. The oldest wheel found in archeological excavations was discovered in what was Mesopotamia and is believed to be over fifty-five hundred years old. Whether the inventer of the wheel or the first person to introduce bronze was "white" is just something you cannot know. In terms of red haired people and their influence in China: The transference of Buddhism into China is because of the Tocharian people. Many of them had red hair and blue eyes. Bottom line, 1) North-western China and Eastern Europe is a place where complexions and facial features vary and perceived ethnicities can be blurred. 2) The flow of new information, ideas and technologies has been exchanged back and forth between different groups of people throughout the Old World (Asia, Africa and Europe) resulting in modern civilization. To give one group of people the credit for modern civilization is simply idiotic.

  • WhiteRabbit says:

    Racist is a hate word. In the 60′s, anti-whites forced ALL and ONLY white countries to bring in millions of non-whites. Then anti-whites forced ALL and ONLY white people to “integrate” or face penalties for being “naziswhowantokill6millionjews.” Now anti-whites are praising and counting down the days till ALL and ONLY white children are minorities and extinct EVERYWHERE. That makes it genocide. “Anti-racist” is a codeword for anti-white.

  • Joseph Evers says:

    We need to point out that they are Jewish to the boycotters. Brown folks always say Hollywood has too many whites, but it's actually nearly all jews. They should boycott it having too many jews and lacking diversity. They'd then be attacked for "anti-semitism". Opposing too many whites is allowed in ZOGs but opposing too many jews is not allowed in ZOGs.