Who Knew The Prince of Persia Was British!?

15 May

Prince of Persia

Actually, he’s American, with a poor British accent.

The film, while having absolutely no historical context or accuracy, was entertaining to say the least; another Jerry Bruckheimer Disney blockbuster (see Pirates of the Caribbean if you are having a blank brain moment on this one).

Starring American Jake Gyllenhaal and British Gemma Arterton, the film is based on the popular Broaderbund software video game of the same title. The story doesn’t attempt to have any historical references, but features a Persian setting.


Dastan (Gyllenhaal) is a young orphan adopted by the King of Persia; to great surprise he is treated like an equal his entire life. Dastan’s brothers and uncle attempt to overthrow the sacred city of Alamut because they are suspected of selling weapons to Persian enemies. During the fight, Dastan finds an ancient dagger and brings it back to Persia. The young princess of Alamut, Tamina, is taken and notices the dagger in Dastan’s possession– she agrees to marry Dastan’s brother Tus– however her real motive is to get the dagger back.

It is suggested that Tamina should marry Dastan rather than Tus. Dastan is provided with a robe to present to his father however he did not know that it was poisioned. Everyone assumes that Dastan posioned the robe to kill his adopted father and he flees the kingdom– Tamina, still interested in the dagger as it is from her sacred land that she is sworn to protect, decides to follow.

It is later revealed that the dagger is a sacred and enchanted instrument that has the ability to control time when used with a special sand. Dastan sees this as an opportunity to go back and save his father. Dastan later finds out that it is not his brother Tus (who he assumed) that was responsible for the murder, but his Uncle Nizam.  Nizam wants the dagger to ensure that his brother was not saved as a young boy– therefore allowing Nizam to be King and he had fabricated the entire accusation of Alamut selling weapons as an excuse to find the dagger.

After a long journey and the inevitable romance between the two protagonists, time is coincidentally reversed to the point where Dastan first receives the dagger, after the invasion and before the murder. He stops the siege on the Alamut and apologizes to Tamina for their invasion, thus re-sparking the romance, he exposes his uncle’s plans to overthrow the King and returns the dagger to Tamina and marries her.


Disney provides us with the same interesting formula we faced with Avatar: The Last Airbender— we see two very white and attractive main characters and a villain that is played by Sir Ben Kingsley, who was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji.

Sir Ben Kinglsey

Sir Ben Kingsley was born to a Gujarati Indian man who was born in Kenya and an Eastern European Jewish woman. While still having fair skin, it is obvious that Sir Ben Kingsley is not of traditional European “white skin”. Is it possible that we’re running into the same villianizing factor of non-white individuals as we saw with Avatar: The Last Airbender?

However, an equally pressing issue is the assignment of British accents to Persian characters; it’s as though we’re attempting to represent all nations as that are not American as foreign by assigning them British accents– rather than of their own culture or nationality. Foreignness in this way has become something that is represented by accent rather than culture or language. Rather than having English speaking actors speak English with learned Persian accents or having Iranian (this is now Persia) actors speak English– we’re assigning something that is entirely unrelated to Persia to represent that culture.

Are media producers attempting to illustrate something to children who watch these type of Disney movies? Are we attempting to say something about who the heroes are in our stories? This vastly reminds me of the film we watched in class that focused on how Disney represents people of color in particular lights. This is reflective of how these types of believe systems are formed– especially by young audiences.

We’re forced to wonder why the actors simply didn’t speak in their own accent or dialect of English– but rather had the main character, Jake Gyllenhaal, attempt a British accent in his portrayal of the Persian Prince.

* Interesting note: England nor Great Britian has never occupied Persia. Persia was occupied by many Greek states (Athens, Sparta, etc.) in 490 B.C. and later in the 480 B.C. by others (Macedonia, Thessaly, etc.) . In 92 B.C. Persia (occupied by Greece) was invaded by the Romans. *


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