Monday, July, 20, 09

Dear Jake Gyllenhaal

by theradishpress


Dear Jake Gyllenhaal,

You are not Iranian. You are not Persian either, which you may have mistaken for some different race or ethnicity, totally understandable! but it’s the same.

And I know you have really thick eyebrows and dark hair and a somewhat larger nose, but you remain white. I realize that Rodrigo Santoro played Xerxes in 300, and sure, he’s a person of color, but he’s not Iranian either. And that was wrong of him to do. It was wrong of him to be cast as Xerxes. I wonder if he found it annoying that his dark features landed him that role…? And sure, you could argue that you were just given this role to play, and there are larger powers here, like Disney, who need to be held accountable, but you do too. And let’s face it, Disney has a lot they need to fix, not just their racism.

Do you feel guilty or weird about playing an Iranian? I guess all the Iranian actors were busy playing terrorists in other movies.

Did Andy Samberg’s love song to Ahmadinejad confuse you into thinking you are Iranian?

So, did you learn Farsi, or are you taking the Oliver Stone Alexander speak jibberish route? Or did you just come up with an awesome Iranian accent? Remember, it is “up estairs” and “dats a good von!”

Since you are already in this and the movie is listed as being in post-production, I do have a word of advice for you: next time consult my dear friend Rob Schneider. His Filipino background, which I for one have never heard him speak openly about, has afforded him the right to play Middle Easterners, Latinos, Asians, and all kinds of races and ethnicities. (Interestingly enough, when Mel Gibson went all crazy and spewed hatred towards Jews, Schneider stated he would never work with Gibson. I guess Schneider can be prejudiced, but no one else can.) Schneider is really great at really milking stereotypes too. Next time you are met with the challenge of portraying a different race or ethnicity you should call him up. OR! Robert Downey Jr…he got an Oscar nomination for wearing black face.

I know it takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing. And I am sure that you will represent my people with great dignity. No Iranian could play the Prince of Persia as well as a white A-list Hollywood actor!

I hope a movie is soon made about Ahmadinejad and Mike Myers plays him. He is really awesome too.

Now that you are an honorary Iranian here are some tips:

-refer to yourself as Persian, it makes people less suspicious and does not conjure images of crazies with guns and hatred for the US

-move to LA if you do not already live there

-get a BMW or Merceds…BMW is cooler though

-wear Armani Exchange

-change your name to Ali or Mahdi or Farzad

-get stopped by airport security

-let that uni-brow grow in

-get yourself a pair of slippers for the bathroom, one for the kitchen, and another for the rest of the house

– drink a lot of tea, and perfect holding a sugar cube between your teeth while sipping it

-get some Persian rugs…and cats

-invite me to your house for NoRooz

-smoke ghalyun, or hookah

-visit your family back home

Well, those are just some few pointers I wanted to share. We are, afterall, family now.

Khoda negahdar,


p.s. I am really glad Alfred Molina worked with you on this movie. His performance in Not Without My Daughter was the best portrayal of an Iranian…until now, I am sure.

Tuesday, July, 14, 09

The Politics of Bruno

Filed under: a moment in my head,cinema — theradishpress @ 2:07 am
Tags: , , , ,

by theradishpress

I liked Bruno. I am putting that out there. I think it is smart, crude, and funny. I do not think it is perfect, nor did I find Borat to be perfect, but both used humour to make some serious points, or point out some serious issues and problems. They both had their own issues, sure, but the nice thing about art is we can have conversations about the impact and meanings.

So, I went into Bruno with expectations and an understanding that my own political and social views would effect how I read the film. Things that I saw as humourous and proof that we live in a society rife with prejudice could be easily read by someone else as a cruel prank pulled on innocent and ignorant victims.

I noticed that myself and some Arab boys sitting in front of me in the cinema laughed pretty hard when Bruno interviewed two Jewish and Palestinian leaders, confusing Hamas with humus, and calling for Palestinians to return the pyramids to the Jews. In contrast, a scene I did not laugh much at was Bruno’s interview on a day-time talk show, The Richard Bey Show, about raising his African son as a single parent. The entire Bey audience were folks of African descent. As I watched and listened to the audience express serious concern over Bruno’s capabilities as a father to this child he claimed to swap for an iPod and named “a traditional African name” O.J., I could not help but feel saddened that they were not in on the joke. From my point of view, Cohen’s aim is to make fun of the trend to adopt, particularly by celebrities, and of children of color. But from the point of view of the audience, at least the majority of opinions that are revealed on camera, here is yet another white person literally co-opting a culture and life that is not his. One woman put it best by declaring the Bruno seemed to view his son as an accessory.

As I watched this scene I kept thinking that if it were an Iranian child and I were in the audience I would be pissed too. I would want to know who the hell this guy thinks he is. I also wondered afterward if there were African and African-American folks who watched that scene and laughed as much as I did when Cohen took his satire/documentary to the Middle East, or Middle Earth as he calls it.

When Cohen points out the prejudices and ignorance of white folks in the US I did not feel bad for them, save for one of the men he went hunting with. Showing up naked outside someone’s tent and receiving an angry response does not necessarily prove that the guy is homophobic. I know I would have freaked out. While other moments of dialogue and the man’s anger reveal his prejudice, that scene in and out of context brings some sympathy for me. I even felt bed for Ron Paul for a hot second. Then he proceeded to call Bruno a queer.

Cohen, no matter how one feels about him, does also deserve credit for being a great method actor. The fact that he can maintain his characters for so long, without missing a beat, is amazing. He kept Bruno going for premieres and interviews. It is a great publicity stunt for sure, but aren’t all actors acting at all times anyway? Aren’t they all just performing for us, the audience, and the cameras? Why not have some fun with it. Why not create totally different personalities. The level to which Cohen commits is awe inspiring. Not to mention the fact that it helped his movie get the number one box office spot, so hey, he wins. The joke is on all of us. We have all fallen for his antics.

The thing with documentaries is that they are still films that follow a story line. There are scholars who argue that they are no more real than a fictional film. Christopher Guest has been making fake documentaries for years, and he is good at it. Borat and Bruno combine reality with fiction, and ultimately there is someone directing and someone editing and someone selecting costumes and music and setting up lights and audio and all the things that make a movie. so is Cohen just more honest about the fact that things are scripted? Is he challenging viewers to find out what is actually real and what is not? Maybe it’s all scripted. Maybe Richard Bey was in on it. Maybe the ex-gay minister was too. Maybe he was an actor. Maybe the hunters knew exactly what they were getting into. Aren’t movies all about suspending disbelief anyway?

Is arguing that Bruno is all scripted an easy way to ignore that very real problem that homophobia exists? And not just homophobia. Cohen makes a point, as he did with Borat, to address racism as well. It is not as blatant, and perhaps easier to brush aside in this movie, for those who care to not confront it, but the adoption of an African child, his (Bruno’s) blatant ignorance of Jewish and Arab cultures, and his constant references to Hitler, are all examples of racism. Most of which go unchallenged, particularly by white folks. To say that Borat and Bruno are simply scripted fictional films makes ignoring things like homophobia and racism a lot easier. That way, we can tell ourselves, these are all actors. They are reading lines and being told what to say and how to perform. That way, we never really have to have a serious conversation. That way, we can argue, it’s just a comedy.

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