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‘21’ Is An Affront To MIT

The whitewashing of the cast of the movie “21,” based on Ben Mezrich’s best-seller Bringing Down the House is indeed wrong, and almost enough to get me from seeing it. However, unfortunately I got convinced by some friends into spending $8 to go and see it, only to realize that, much worse than the way the whitewashing treats Asians is the picture in which MIT is painted.

When Sony Pictures (owner of 20 percent of MGM, recently bought from MGM Mirage, the second largest gambling company in the world) decided to make a movie about the story of a few MIT students beating the casinos in Vegas it decided as well to take some “artistic liberties.” As a result, the character of a scumbag MIT professor who stole from his students and was hell-bent on destroying their lives (by making them fail MIT, etc.) was created. At the same time, the casino-hired thug played by Laurence Fishburne was painted in a semi-positive light, salvaging the main character’s graduation and being allowed to retire peacefully after face-recognition software put him out of business. Besides, despite all his trouble, the main character gets away without making a dime (a message to anyone thinking about doing the same, perhaps?).

Even though the stories portrayed in “21” have been twisted and turned almost into complete fiction, I cannot help but feel outraged as a member of the MIT community. Kudos to MIT for not allowing Sony to film on campus but I cannot help but wonder why is not more being done against Sony? Why are they allowed to tarnish MIT’s reputation like that? Why is the MIT Corporation not taking punitive legal action against these people? Can you imagine what would happen if some studio came out with a fictional story where an employee from, say, Chevron, clubbed baby seals for fun?

Casinos and gambling companies have been allowed to get away with too much for too long. They can discriminate people based on intelligence (even though discrimination based on race, gender, etc. is forbidden), are allowed into the Dow Jones Sustainability Index even though they make their living out of cheating old people out of their pension money, and now, apparently, are even allowed to try to shatter the image of one of the country’s leading academic institutions. It is high time someone puts an end to this.

Miguel Valença Pires G