Can You Whitewash (Potentially) White People?

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    It pisses me off that Othello always played by blacks, taking away the one great role for actors of mixed Arab-Berber descent.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Reason to rejoice:

    In previous incarnations, the general idea was to have “the good guy” played by a white dude and “the bad guy” played by an authentic representative of the country in question. (Or, in the case of Disney cartoons, have the good ones have Caucasian features with skin tints appropriate to the setting and the bad ones have overstated stereotypical features… see, for example, Aladdin.)

    But the bad guy in this one? Ben Kingsley!

    So that’s progress.Report

  3. Avatar Scott says:

    Sounds like Dar has way too much time on his hands. It all comes down to money, as the studios want a name actor that can bring in the bucks, no more, no less.Report

  4. Avatar sam says:

    Jesus, what would he have made of Sabu in the The Thief of Baghdad?Report

  5. Avatar Paul B says:

    I long for the days of classic Hollywood, when Greeks were Hispanic and Hispanics were Greek.Report

    • Avatar scott in reply to Paul B says:

      @Paul B,

      That makes me laugh. Anthony Quinn was cast as just about every ethnicity during his career.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to scott says:

        One of the (many) things I loved about Hill Street Blues was its total disregard for its actors’ ethnicities. Joe Spano was wonderful as Henry Goldblume, but I didn’t believe he was Jewish for one minute. There was nothing remotely Italian-looking about Ken Olin’s Harry Garibaldi. And who played Irish cop Joe Keenan? Naturally, Hector Elizondo.Report

    • Avatar sam in reply to Paul B says:

      @Paul B,

      Heh. I saw a lot of references to Zorba the Chicano back in the day.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I couldn’t care less about the race aspect. I just want to know when my local multiplex is going to go back to showing a few films that aren’t aimed at 14 year old boys. About this time of year the endless kiddie matinée starts to become grating.Report

  7. Avatar Brett says:

    I could see Gyllenhaal’s character fitting in the spectrum of “Persian”, and particularly “ancient Persian” (considering that the capital city, in the games at least, was Babylon).

    I’m a pretty big fan of the game trilogy that inspired this movie, so I’m definitely giving it a shot (and unlike some other video game movies, it looks like they’re actually trying to make this into a serious franchise).Report

  8. Avatar Max says:

    If it weren’t that the information provided by the post is thouroughly accurate, I’d smell satire.Report

  9. Avatar North says:

    Prince of Persia’s nuthin compared to Avatar (or rather The Last Airbender). In that case we have rolls for two Inuit children being filled by two Caucasians; the title roll for a mainland Asian boy being filled by a Caucasian and the roll of Japanese characters being filled oddly enough by an East Indian boy.Report

  10. Avatar Zach says:

    I presume the blogger here is talking about actual cultural background and not skin tone. There are actual Persian actors in the business, right? Because the skin tone in the video game is within the spectrum of white, which, as you note, is consistent with some of the folks who’d be considered Persian. The briefest research shows that Persian royalty’s usually portrayed as light-skinned in period art, as well.

    Far and away, the best phony racial portrayal in Hollywood history is Charleton Heston’s angry Mexican in Touch of Evil. The most odious is blackface in, well, any application (except for Fred Astaire’s tribute to Bill Robinson in Swing Time, which is still unseemly at best). On the flip side, you’ve got Omar Sharif going white in Dr. Zhivago.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Zach says:

      @Zach, Basically. But I’m not really sure beyond skin tone why you need a Persian actor? Or possibly worse what middle eastern means here. Should every part for a Mexican be played a Mexican? Or at least Latinos only?Report

      • Avatar Zach in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

        @Chris Dierkes, I’m not saying that it’s a valid complaint. Just that it might not be about skin tone alone if at all. As long as its not for the purpose of perpetuating a stereotype or done out of some misperception that the actors of the race in question can’t act (two reasons blackface was primarily used), I don’t care. Chuck Heston as the proud Mexican law man is fine by me if sort of hilarious.Report

  11. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    For phony actor, how about Sam Jaffe in “Gunga Din,” …man, loved those shorts!
    “Sawebe, sawebe!” …sorry about the spelling.Report

  12. Avatar Will says:

    Reminds me of Patrick Wayne as Sinbad.
    Middle Eastern or not, Jane Seymour is HAWT!!Report

  13. Avatar hass says:

    Iran is a multiethnic society, which includes “black” Iranians and “Asian” iranians and blonde-haired blue-eyed Iranians. The vast majority of Iranians are Caucasian. You could not tell an “average” Iranian apart from an average Greek or Italian. So stop with the “White” thing already.Report

  14. Avatar Nancy Irving says:

    Iranians I have known have been very eager to point out that they are not Arabs and are in fact “Aryans.” I.e., the “same race” as Europeans–whatever that may mean.

    As for the origins of Ashkenazi Jews, you need to update your ideas, which seem to derive from fringe theories now associated only with right-wing anti-Semitism–i.e., that European Jews are not “real Jews” and are not of Middle-Eastern origin. (This is the now entirely discredited theory that Ashkenazi Jews descend from converts made from among a people called Kazars. At one time this was regarded as a legitimate possibility, but genetic studies have shown it to be false, so only crackpots still believe it.)

    Genetic studies done starting in the 1990s have confirmed that European Jews are primarily of Middle-Eastern origin, and are related genetically to other Jewish groups, with only a minority of their genetic material deriving from the European peoples among whom they have lived for more than a millennium. I.e., a small amount of intermarrying, but basically Middle Eastern, just like Sephardic Jews.Report

  15. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Aryan (i.e. white/Indo-European)

    I thought that kind of terminology went out with Hitler.Report

    • Avatar Nancy Irving in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      @Mike Schilling, Iranians (many of whom don’t like that term, either, and insist on being called Persians) still use the term, seemingly unaware of its connotations here and in Europe.

      I have also noted a return of the term “Caucasion,” which seems to my ears ludicrously quaint, deriving as it does from a now-exploded theory that the European “race” originated in the Caucasus mountains of central Asia.

      It always makes me think of Piltdown man or some other decayed jawbone.Report

  16. Avatar Nancy Irving says:

    Er, “CaucasiAn,” sorry.Report

  17. Avatar Mark Dietze says:

    The jews of today of ashkenazi origin according to Auther Koestler who
    wrote about the 13th tribe of Israel is far from being considered right wing and identified the Khazars as their origin. A majority of the european jews are blonde hair or have blue eye’s hardly a semitic trait of the shaphardim. Most european jews origins are from southern Russia the ukraine and Asia Minor except for those Jews from Spain
    and Italy who’s origins might be able to be traced back to Ancient Holyland. The arguement is who are the lost tribes of Israel. Israel
    and other scientist have recently discover that the Pathan’s of Afganistan
    have the same genetic similarities of sephardic middle eastern jew. The
    pathan’s of eastern afghanistan have the star of david in their culture and there not practicing judaism. They are Islamic. Most likely the lost
    tribes of israel settled in Iraq Afghanistan and contrary to opinion did not go up into europe during the Assyrian dispersion. Judaism today is
    a RELIGION not a race or nationality as the Zionists, British Israelist and far rightwing group would have you believe. Jerry Springer , Michael Landon, Joseph Lieberman to name a few are blonde and blue eyes and thats not from intermarrying. Christian, Jewish and Islam are
    western religions and will never be considered a race or nationality.Report