2 Jun

So I’m basically as un ‘gamer’ as they come, but two games from my youth get me a bit misty-eyed: Commander Keen and Prince of Persia. Being the first generation to have access to such things as computer games, I really like the unique-ness of this memory; kids today [insert fist-shake here] basically see in pixels, and my parents probably only remember wholesome outdoor activities; kite-flying, skimming stones, or something equally Davey Crockett.

But I have the most vivid memories of those early days of 2-D games, where left was left, right was right, and up was jump; simple instructions for a simple gal. As my friend demo’d to the max behind his bar yesterday, the Prince of Persia signature moves (remember the cautious shuffle, the risky but effective elongated step, and the ballet-like sword jab?) are burned into mid-to-late-twenties’ collective memories. As soon as 3-D came along, forget it; my character would just walk, and continue to walk, straight into a wall, and my inability to turn around/change gun/viewpoint, would result in instant, all-too-graphic death. But jumping on those weird one-eyed green monsters, or shuffling cautiously up to the edge of a cliff and leaping over a spike-studded floor – this I could (kind of) do.

These days, my interests lie elsewhere- post-colonial literature, politics, human rights; bougie, I know, but pretty damn fascinating –think about the social issues people! Ironic, then, that my (computer-sweet) childhood memory should today evoke such ire in me because of my adult pre-occupations.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal. According to some, he looks like my brother; according to all, he’s white. This is, truly, an epic fail Prince of Persia-makers. Did the word “Persia”, aka Iran, slip right by you? It must have been hard to decipher, that cryptic title which indicates two complex things: the social standing of the narratives hero (he’s a Prince), and the geographic, cultural and therefore racial location of his royal family (he’s from Persia).

I know The Blockbuster Argument: people just won’t engage with a hero who isn’t white, we’re just not ready; we like our baddies bad, and our goodies good- the olde chestnut of the white/black dichotomy that was the basis for yes, colonial imperialism. It’s bizarre that in a time when political correctness and awareness weighs so heavily, and legitimately so, Hollywood Blockbusters can continue to deliver, in such a readily digested form, this dangerously skewed perspective on the world. Achmed Achmhed, a Muslim-American stand up, really nails the insanity of this mentality. He = super funny.

I know that the stereotype that lies at the base of Hollywood Blockbusters is old news, and I know too that I’m one of the dissenters who thought Avatar was just another colonial tale of White saving Savage, for which I got a lot of ‘you’re over-analysing you overly-PC creep’. But I have to insist that it isn’t ok; accepting this crap is risky, because complacency is really just a mild form of compliance. And the Prince of Persia situation is, to me, one step further than ‘just’ well-worn stereotyping. It asserts that the association between good guys and white guys is SO overwhelming it outweighs the need for narrative continuity. That is, people would prefer to watch a “real” good guy than a movie that makes sense.

I will not stop begrudging you, Prince of Persia production team; not only have you whitewashed the character and the story, you’ve whitewashed my memory.


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