As the time approaches for the release for Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings I cannot help but feel a certain disdain for this film. Hollywood has once again spit in the face of accurate historical events to meet their quota for finance at the box office. Exodus: God and Kings tells the story of the Defiant leader Moses as he rises against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, taking more than 600,000 slaves on a journey to escape the terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. When this movie was first announced speculation toward the accuracy of the story was brought into questioning. It wasn’t until months later that we learned the casting for the film.

exodus-gods-kings-cast

Media quickly demanded a response from the director of the film Ridley Scott. He released this first statement regarding the casting of the film:

Egypt was –- as it is now -– a confluence of cultures, as a result of being a crossroads geographically between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. We cast major actors from different ethnicities to reflect this diversity of culture, from Iranians to Spaniards to Arabs. There are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people, and we had a lot of discussions about how to best represent the culture.

After reading this statement I was not convinced that it was 100% true and that his words were carefully thought out but had hidden meanings behind them. The statement of casting major actors was indeed true to a certain degree. Of course the slue of A list actors such as Christian Bale(The Dark Knight,American Psycho)who plays Moses hails from the United Kingdom as well actor Ben Kingsley who will play Nun(Schindler’s List, Shutter Island.) You also have Joel Egerton(The Great Gatsby, Warrior) playing Rhamses from Austria and our American representatives Sigourney Weaver(Alien, Aliens) playing Tuya and Aaron Paul as Joshua(Breaking Bad, Need for Speed). Now the rest of the cast is how he mention represent from a diversity of cultures. But what astonishes me is the way that Africans are portrayed and cast in the film. It’s not until a scrolled down the casting list you find that the actors of African descent are cast as servants, civilians, soldier,thieves, and civilian lower class. You can see for yourself in the link below.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1528100/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

When questioned more about the casting and recent backlash of the film Scott released this statement:

“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” Scott says. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

I chuckled when I read this statement due to my understanding of film. Although Scott does have a valid point, that doesn’t explain while there is no major roles being played by a single black person. I am quite sure Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman just to name a few would not have mind being attach to this project. Not even middle eastern A-Listers such as Karim Abdel Aziz(who was born in Egypt) or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan weren’t even consider to be cast in the film. So this clearly contradicts Scott’s statement.

It is not like we haven’t seen this happened before throughout cinematic history. For decades now the culture of Black, Native American, Latino, Asian, Arabic, or mixed race have been shadowed and whitewashed to make more enjoyable to a wider audience according to film studios. We have had to endure everything from Mickey Rooney playing a slanted-eye Chinese man  in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Robert Downey Jr playing a white actor in Blackface in Tropic Thunder. 

Mickey Rooney as Mr.Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Mickey Rooney as Mr.Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

For years now the proper credit has yet to be given to black actors, producers, directors. Even the literature that movies are based off of do not receive the proper credit and appreciation it deserves.

Takes for instance James Cameron’s Terminator franchise and the Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy. Considered revolutionary for the eras in which they were released, most viewers do not know that both franchises coincide with one another as one giant story. The Terminator portrays as a prequel to the Matrix trilogy displaying the war between man and machine. The Matrix shows what happens after the war and how the human race has been driven to a primitive state as they survive the machines. I was blown away when I put two and two together and was shocked when I learned that this amazing story was written and stolen from a Black woman by the name of Sophia Stewart.

Written more than 30 years ago her book “The Third Eye,” clearly indicates the blueprint in which both franchises stem from. The record is unclear towards the battle in court that is still going on to this day but, one thing is for certain that this woman’s work deserved to be recognized and was swept under the table by Hollywood and their narrow-minded view thus continuing to make a fortune taking the work a literary writer and twisting them into something completely different to satisfy their financial needs.

Hollywood continues to live by the monarch that major cinematic productions require that roles be filled by mainstream actors in order to receive the proper viewing intended for the film.  Once again this theory is a double edged sword. If Hollywood was so concerned about this then why have we not seen an up-rise of actors from different ethnicity being brought to the coveted A-Lister status?

There have been plenty of opportunities for Hollywood to let people of color portray roles that where designed for their ethnicity but instead, is given to a white person because they have a more cinematic recognition with the audience. How can Hollywood expect this to change? How can anyone become recognizable when the role that can give them credit is given to a person that does not fit the profile? Hollywood is systematically destroying the fabric of cinema with every casting of incorrect ethnic characteristic that they create with every film.

Recently a trailer was released for the new reboot for Peter Pan. And once again Hollywood has decided to stand behind this theory when they cast actress Rooney Mara(Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Youth in Revolt) as the native princess of Neverland Tiger Lily.

rooney-mara-tiger-lily-2

Is Hollywood really trying to convince us that there are no actors that could have better fit the description to Tiger Lily? This is not the first time that a Native American has been represented by a actor that clearly does not fit the profile. In the movie Lone Ranger, the character Tonto is played by Johnny Depp. The Kentucky bred actor in no way contributes to the resemblance of a Native America, more along the lines a early 19th century Joker.

What vexes me is that Hollywood’s grand design for films are general made in the favor of white people, so why is that the low percentage for colored roles are still being bombarded with white actors? Why does Hollywood think viewers are so stupid? And why is it that when the tables are turned that Hollywood will treat that film like a red-headed step child. When Will Smith was cast to play Captain James West in the film version of the hit television show Wild Wild West there was such a huge uproar in his casting. Media continued to bash and be-little the actor for taking this “beloved” character and changing him. Since this event occurred Hollywood has began to take some what of a change when it comes to the casting of character and re-thinking them for cinematic purposes…but once again to a certain extent. Re-imaging is only considered when it comes to fictional characters such as the villain Electro in The Amazing Spiderman 2 film played by Jamie Foxx.

When will Hollywood allow us to break the cinematic box that they have created for colored actors?

 

Part 2 to the Hollywood Holocaust will release next week

 

4 Responses

  1. Jaap

    While I wholeheartedly agree that whitewashing in Hollywood is a repugnant and inexplicably still recurring act, this piece is hurt by some wonky points that could’ve easily been checked.

    “Written more than 30 years ago her book “The Third Eye,” clearly indicates the blueprint in which both franchises stem from. The record is unclear towards the battle in court that is still going on to this day but, one thing is for certain that this woman’s work deserved to be recognized and was swept under the table by Hollywood and their narrow-minded view thus continuing to make a fortune taking the work a literary writer and twisting them into something completely different to satisfy their financial needs.”

    The records is not unclear at all, despite the Sophia Stewart story going viral again every other year: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/22/inside-the-billion-dollar-matrix-lawsuit-one-of-the-internets-most-pervasive-hoaxes/

    How “her book (…) clearly indicates the blueprint in which both franchises stem from” eludes me, personally. The story of humankind being enslaved and eventually rescued by a chosen one is a recurring theme in not only pop culture, but human culture in general. The courts decided she hadn’t “demonstrated any striking similarity between her work and the accused directors’ films,” which one of course can disagree with, but at least mention where you disagree with that claim.

    “We have had to endure everything from Mickey Rooney playing a slanted-eye Chinese man in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Robert Downey Jr playing a white actor in Blackface in Tropic Thunder. ”

    I’m taken aback by saying these two things being mentioned as similar in such a manner. Mickey Rooney plays a racist caricature. Robert Downey Jr plays a character whose huge ego blinds him to the point of ignorance in recognizing the cultural implications of blackface. That what he’s doing is terrible is the whole point of the character. There’s a huge difference between “actor plays racist caricature” and “actor plays character playing racist caricature”. You may very well still feel offended by the second, but they are clearly not the same thing.

    “Re-imaging is only considered when it comes to fictional characters such as the villain Electro in The Amazing Spiderman 2 film played by Jamie Foxx.”

    Are you implying that this only happens with villains? If not, please excuse me, it’s how the sentence came across to me. If that is how it’s been intended though, it’s patently untrue, especially when it comes to Marvel films; they cast Idris Elba as Heimdall and Tadanobu Asano as Hogun in the Thor franchise. Nick Fury, one of the key characters in the Marvel cinematic universe, was reimagined as a black man. Though these castings, especially in the case of Idris Elba, were met with misguided resistance, they were ultimately succesful reimaginings of previously white characters.

    Again, you’re point still rings true and is very much worth making, but by incorporating these unintentional misrepresentations of the facts, you’re hurting your argument. I hope part 2 has less factual inaccuracies, it’s not like there’s a shortage of egregious examples.

    Reply
    • Will Pharaoh

      I thank you for your feedback. I address the issue with Sophia Stewart only because I have actually read the book, if you’d like I can send you a copy. The book is clearly a stem for both franchise. But I can understand your theory of human enslavement and a savior to end the struggle is indeed a general concept. This however is not the case when it comes to this subject. Though this subject re-cycles yearly, Media does well to not include all the fact when it comes to subject. I would suggest reading the book, it may give you a clearer understanding of the subject and how valid the argument truly is.

      As far as the Mickey Rooney and Robert comparison is concerned, it is far from a comparison. The spectrum are completely different. It would have been better for me to include that Downey was nominated for an Academy Award for that role. But extremely racial subject that are negative but are no way intended to be compared to one another. Just examples.

      As far as the Jamie Foxx quote is concerned. You are indeed taking that out of context. If you re-read the article I clearly state the realm of “Fictional” character are the only that are re-imagine. Not just villians.

      In the end though I do appreciate your feedback in this article. I hope this clears up the “Wonky” points you believe this article has.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.