In Case You Weren't Sure If Hollywood Is Racist Sometimes

Exodus: Gods And Kings has essentially become the laughing stock of Hollywood’s penchant for lack of representation. Do I think all Hollywood casting director are racists, twirling their mustaches as they only cast conventionally attractive White people? Of course not. I do think people need to be a little more thoughtful and ask themselves if the world that they are creating is worthy of the world we actually live in? Sometimes people get it wrong, that’s OK but this movie is making some very transparently racial choices that bloggers and moviegoers alike can’t ignore. Exodus, a partially historically inspired film about Moses and the exodus of Israelites in Egypt, casted it’s major characters with White actors and has relegated its Black actors to the roles of nameless second-class citizens. Could you imagine casting a White person to play Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. or Whitney Houston, even? No. Just because these historical figures are “ancient” doesn’t mean we can suddenly decide their ethnicity wasn’t a part of their identity. In the case of Exodus. The movie is about Egyptians. Egypt is in Africa. Egyptians tend to have brown skin and features unique to their ethnicity. Sure there are light-skinned Egyptians and having a few white actors in the mix of a diverse ensemble wouldn’t be such a big deal but this casting is literally absurd. The main characters, Moses, Rhamses, Joshua and Tuya are played exclusively by White actors while all of the Black actors are relegated to thieves, servants and “lower class citizens.” Why would a movie about the liberation of one group, the Israelites, from another, the ruling Egyptian class, want to reinforce another oppressive class system? If you’re going to tell me a story about how oppressing a group of people based on their identity is wrong then please don’t reproduce those elements in how you choose to tell the story! If you think people who complain about this kind of thing are being “sensitive” then you’re ignoring the fact that race is a sensitive subject. If I told you that your country and ethnicity’s history, stories and legacy are only worth telling if they are told by an entirely different race, why would you take pride in that? It’s like asking me to root for a women’s basketball team where all the players are men.

This isn’t an accident either. This movie is about Ancient Egypt. Presumably, anyone who writes or directs a movie about this time knows how Egyptians looked (Google photos of Modern Egyptians if you don’t!)  You can look at early renderings of how Ancient Egyptians saw themselves and it was not White European. 

It is one thing to acknowledge that most ethnicities comes in various shades and features. Nothing irks me more than people telling me I’m not Latino because I look African American or that Selena Gomez looks “White.” The reality is Latinos don’t come in one color or one package and neither does any race. Nevertheless I think we all know that the faces of Egypt don’t typically look English (Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver), Australian, (Joel Edgerton) or Scottish/German (Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver). The casting director knows this too which is why they casted people of color in the background. I would love it if every movie were cast like Brandy and Whitney Houston’s version of Cinderella, where it was no big deal that an Asian-American prince’s mother was Black and father was White. The movie casted good actors in whichever part they fit, without considering their appearance. If this film were doing that it would be  a whole other story. If the film didn’t know that people who are of African dissent probably didn’t look White they wouldn’t have gone out of their way to give Joel Edgerton a tan.

The movie even went onto recreate the Sphinx to have White European features. It is laughable how transparent this film is.

If you are going to ask why is having White actors racial if White roles are being re-written for Black actors, like Fantastic Four’s The Human Torch is being re-written for Michael B. Jordan? The answer is simple, any actions to include more people of color, more body diversity, more women’s roles, more sexual orientations, are progressive because Hollywood is dominated by heterosexual White males (like big businesses, the government, STEM, the fashion industry, really everything). They’re the unfair majority because of a shit history that none of us are directly responsible for causing but are wholly responsible for correcting. Just as it is a choice to be progressive and cast a Black actor in a traditionally White role, or cast a woman in a traditionally male role (Thor), it is as much of a choice to be oppressive and cast an Australian or British actor in the role of a historically Egyptian character. It is also a clear choice to cast dark-skinned actors as servile, nefarious or second-class citizens. Is it really too much to ask that if you’re going to present a version of history you don’t rewrite it to promote the status quo? Is it so much to ask that a movie about Egyptians and Jewish people maybe have some of those people in lead roles?