theradishpress

Monday, July, 20, 09

Dear Jake Gyllenhaal

by theradishpress

jake

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,

Aman

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.

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12 Comments »

  1. I have a man crush on Jake Gyllenhaal. And by “man crush” I mean a custom made sex doll I had to order special from Holland.

    Comment by InfoMofo — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

  2. As a question, are you “glad” Robert Downey Jr. played a black guy in Tropic Thunder, or this this only apply to certain people?

    Comment by Curious. — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 8:37 pm | Reply

    • Curious,

      I was being facetious. To be honest, I have yet to see Tropic Thunder, and I find it interesting that a white man who wears black face got high praise for it. High enough to be nominated for an Oscar. I am not sure I get what you mean by “does this only apply to certain people?” Does what only apply?
      I do not think it is ok for any person to play another race or ethnicity. If it is done with the purpose of satire and very smartly, in other words, to bring to light the fact that this is a problem, then I get it. And while it is my understanding, from what I have read and heard, that that is part of the point of Downey Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder, I am still troubled by the fact that he has been praised for his portrayal of not just a white man in black face, but of a black man.

      Comment by theradishpress — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  3. Tropic Thunder was not very good. But it is important to note that RDJ is not playing a black man, he is playing a white man in black face. The conceit is important to the character. It is similar to the 30 Rock Episode where Jenna and Tracy try to have a Freaky Friday switch. While I can’t guarantee that they have succeeded- there is an unparalleled taboo shock of blackface that they are attempting to harness intelligently for humor or social commentary.

    I do not believe that is the specific effect that Jake Gyllenhaal is going for in this movie. I will ask him when I get home.

    Comment by InfoMofo — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

  4. Let me rephrase, as perhaps I’m missing the point.
    Plenty of people play different races in movies. I’m not sure why this bothers you so much. Perhaps it’s my opinion that if an actor can play a part well and give whatever look the director feels suits the film, so be it. Sasha Baron Cohen may be Israeli, but he’s definitely not Austrian. Dave Chapelle plays white, Latin, Asian, all of kinds of races. He is none of these. And yes, these actors tends to play more off the the audience than the character they play, but Prince of Persia is a video game. And if my memory serves, he was blonde in the video game. Is it the idea of any actor playing a race they aren’t, or only whites?

    Comment by Curious. — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I take issue with people acting as a different race or ethnicity. That being said, there is something very different about a person of color, such as Dave Chapelle, playing a white person. I see that as a form of reclamation. Chapelle is not dehumanizing white folks either. He uses satire.
      This is a country, society, world dictated by white supremacy. The first feature length film in this country, The Birth of a Nation, starred white actors in blackface and blamed African-Americans for the Civil War. The first film to feature sound was The Jazz Singer, another movie featuring a white man in blackface. Historically, white folks, particularly in this country, have not only abused people of color, but then co-opted cultures and created and continued to build stereotypes about different groups. Blackface was used to perpetuate stereotpyes of black men specifically as threats to white men and especially women.
      There is something not only offensive, but very wrong, with a white person portraying another ethnic/racial group. So, first white folks are going to kill off natives, enslave Africans, place Japanese in internment camps, deport Latinos and Middle Easterners, etc…oh, then play them in movies! I for one, do not want someone who is not Iranian representing me on film. Especially if that character is supposed to be evil, like Alfred Molina in Not Without My Daughter, or Rodrigo Santoro in 300. Ultimately, it does not matter if the character is portrayed in a negative or positive light, Jake Gyllenhaal is not Iranian and should not be playing one. It is not as if there are no Iranian actors.
      Also, I do not see why Prince of Persia being a video keeps it free from criticism.

      Comment by theradishpress — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

      • 1) There is also something different about the creator of some piece of commentary (Sasha Baron Cohen, Dave Chapelle, even (ulp) Steve Oedekerk) wanting to play the character or work they have written despite being a different race in order to preserve their vision, as opposed to a studio casting a white guy as a Persian because it’s more marketable.

        2) At the same time, it’s not like this is a period piece. I’m not positive that these movie producers are actually aware that the name “Persia” has actual historical significance and connotations, and not a fantasy world like “Narnia” or “North Dakota”.

        3) I still would like to maintain, if it was not clear from my initial 2 posts, that I am not opposed to having sex with Jake Gyllenhaal.

        Comment by InfoMofo — Monday, July, 20, 09 @ 9:38 pm

      • Are we not a country that is supposed to be accepting and open to all races and ethnicities, religious and political views? Are we not supposed to be forgiving and see beyond color? Why should this matter in Hollywood? The viewpoint with which you seem to be operating is only helping to prolong the advancement of this society in that respect. You are demonstrating prejudices…and yet you bring up the past (slaves, deportation, etc) as unfavorable. Does this not strike you as hypocritical? Of course not. If you are so against racism and prejudices, why should it matter who plays what, as long as they can successfully do it with costuming, makeup, and classes? It is for entertainment, and if someone of a different ethnicity is going to be the best performer and entertainer, then there is no reason for he/she not to play that part (except for racist reasoning, of course).

        Comment by Anonymous — Thursday, May, 6, 10 @ 1:44 am

    • I don’t think actors should portray characters of another race. As mentioned above, it’s one thing if the filmmakers are trying to be satirical or make some well-thought out statement, but certainly not in a film that portrays a specific group of people and their ethnic and cultural identity (even if this film is based on a video game and/or has fantastical elements).

      In this specific case, given the cultural history of racism and white privilege in this country (which is still very much alive and kicking), having a white actor play an Iranian is irresponsible. It serves to continue the cycle of privilege by telling a story about a group of people or representing a group of people without ‘input’ from that group.

      Also, it may not be relevant how the character was portrayed physically in the video game—are the creator(s) Iranian (serious questions because I don’t know)? And as far as I know, there are blond Iranians…

      Comment by Teej — Wednesday, July, 22, 09 @ 12:23 am | Reply

  5. What a brilliantly crafted piece on how racism continues to permeate our lives and how it can become the norm through mass media productions. I do hope that Jake Gyllenhaal will be able to read this and think differently the next time he is cast to play a role of a person of color. But even if he doesn’t, we as consumers must be aware of how we continue this cycle of racism by supporting these films through ticket purchases, netflix, etc.

    Comment by kaytee — Tuesday, July, 21, 09 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  6. Interesting commentary. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but interesting nonetheless. Of course, “white people” have no monopoly on conquest, imperialism, and enslavement. The Achaemenids did quite well, as did the Japanese, Arabs, Turks, Russians, Mongols, etc.

    Comment by J. — Friday, July, 24, 09 @ 6:41 am | Reply

  7. Tell to most of Persian that they are people of color. I have seen persian that can look like Jake Gyllenhall. Also what makes Rodrigo Santoro a peson of color, I have seen then a He is not really that tan like in Xerxes. The only think that make you think that he is a person of color is because he is Latin. But I will tell you something Latin is not a race, it is only people whose first language derivated from Latin(a very white word), then it is not a race how you have written. If Santoro was from USA and his last name , you would not call him a perso of color. Santoro is Italian and Portuguese(European countries)

    Comment by maria carolina — Wednesday, July, 22, 15 @ 2:35 am | Reply


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