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you’re not helping: ‘Prince of Persia’ and ‘The Last Airbender’ not really whitewashes, Hollywood insists

The Los Angeles Times suddenly notices that two of Hollywood’s would-be blockbusters for Summer 2010 are full of white actors playing nonwhite characters:

So when Disney studios announced plans for a live-action adaptation of Prince, Dar held out hope it would be a “serious story that would dispel a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions.” Then came the bad news regarding “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (the movie which arrives in theaters on Friday). None of its principle cast members are of Iranian, Middle Eastern or Muslim descent. And playing Dastan, the hero and titular heir to the Persian throne in the $200-million tent-pole film, is none other than Hancock Park’s own Swedish-Jewish-American prince, Jake Gyllenhaal.

“Swedish-Jewish-American prince”? That’s pretty funny.

In addition to Gyllenhaal and British actress Gemma Arterton’s portrayal of Iranian characters in the swords-and-sandals action epic “Prince of Persia,” Paramount has come under attack for its live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated series ” Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Directed by “Sixth Sense” auteur M. Night Shyamalan, “The Last Airbender” (as the movie is called to distinguish it from a certain James Cameron-directed 3-D blockbuster) has enraged some of the show’s aficionados by casting white actors in three of four principal roles — characters that fans of the original property insist are Asian and Native American.

But it’s not anything to get worked up about, unles you’re a fan of the source material, and then you’re only getting worked up because you’ve merely been interpreting characters as nonwhite all along — maybe they’re just stylized white people, okay?

And then the Times goes on to detail all the adorable measures these wacky Airbender fans are taking:

And with just weeks until the movie’s July 2 release — after a year-and-a-half-long letter-writing campaign to the film’s producers and a correspondence with Paramount President Adam Goodman to underscore the importance of casting Asian actors in designated Asian roles — members of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and an organization called http://www.racebending.com are urging fans to boycott “Airbender.”

The movie’s detractors have spoken against the film at six college campuses, including M.I.T., New York University and UCLA, also setting up booths at events such as San Francisco’s WonderCon pop culture expo to publicize their discontent. At last count, the group’s Facebook group had 7,125 supporters and attracted petitioners against the movie’s casting in 55 countries. The stated goal: to prevent “Airbender” from blooming into a lucrative three-part franchise via negative word of mouth.

See? Hollywood’s whitewashing and racebending isn’t actually a problem: it’s just that a bunch of fans with nothing else better to do have set up a Facebook page and launched a petition and a boycott. They’re just like those people who dress up like Klingons at Star Trek conventions, really. Aren’t they cute, thinking they can change anything? Not that anything needs changing, mind:

Although the studios behind both “Prince of Persia” and “Airbender” have taken costly steps to not seem insensitive toward — or out of touch with — the minority constituencies represented in their respective films

What costly steps? Have you seen any ads for Prince of Persia featuring George W. Bush praising the movie as part of the Axis of Evilly Good Fun? Do you know how much Disney had to pay to get the former President out of that contractually obligated ad campaign?

Actually, Disney insists Prince of Persia isn’t really about “Persia,” anyway:

During “Prince of Persia’s” scripting process, Disney hired BoomGen Studios, a consultation and niche marketing firm specializing in creative content about the Middle East, to help address issues of historical congruity and cultural contexts. Consultants advised the filmmakers to avoid specifically characterizing religion by setting “Prince” in a “mythological time” before the arrival of Islam. As well, the company worked to assure members of the Iranian American community that the film was the antithesis of a recent action-adventure movie felt to vilify the people of Persia.

“We said, ‘This is the anti-‘300,’ ” said BoomGen’s co-founder Reza Aslan.

Asked point blank by the Times of London, “Isn’t Gyllenhaal a bit pale to play a Persian?” Bruckheimer delivered this history lecture. “Persians were very light skinned,” he said. “The Turks kind of changed everything. But back in the 6th century, a lot of them were blond and blue-eyed.”

Also: Look! Buff Jake Gyllenhaal! OMG!

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