Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Joel Edgerton As Ramses

Joel Edgerton from The Secret Life of Us is going Hollywood. He's going to play Ramses in a movie about the Exodus. It's probably going to be a big movie, because the director is Ridley Scott, and Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver are in the cast. Those are all majorly big people.

So Edgerton is taking a big step up towards being an international film star.

There's a problem, though.

The film is attracting a lot of controversy.

People are saying that by hiring a Caucasian cast, the film is whitewashing Egyptian history.

Edgerton has been in show business news the past day or so, because he's speaking in support of the critics. He says he emphasizes with their complaints, but it wasn't his job to make such casting choices. He was offered a job and it would have been hard to say no.

When I read that I was the one empathizing. It makes sense to me. You have moral hesitations about something, but you do it anyway because you really want the job.

But then I was reading comments on another article and some people have the attitude that needing a job is not an excuse. I started thinking, maybe they're right.

I don't know. 

And I have no idea what I'd do if I was put in the same situation. I'm not financially independent and I'd really love to be. So it would be hard to say no. 

I don't know much about Egyptian history. I did some minor Googling and skimming. It seems there's a lot of controversy about what Egyptians looked like back then. Ramses probably didn't look like Joel Edgerton, but he also probably didn't look like Will Smith.

To have a realistic-looking cast, the best bet would have probably been to hire mixed-race people. Like let's say you have one grandmother who's a white Australian, a grandfather from Kenya, and another grandfather from South Korea. That would be a good casting choice.

I think Vanessa Williams has a rich mixture of ethnicities running through her blood. Maybe she would have been a good choice for the movie.  

There's some writer who's saying what's really bad about Ridley Scott's movie is that the main characters are played by white guys, and the servants and thieves are played by Africans. I'm guessing by African, he means black African. 

I'm looking at the cast for myself.

Ben Kingsley is in the movie. He's kind of white, but not like pure European white. He's a mixture of Indian, British, and Russian-Jewish.  

There's another mixed-race person. Indira Varma. Lord Wiki says that like Kingsley, she's part Indian. 

It does seem like for the most part the black people in the film are playing servants and thieves...and there's an assassin. 

But there's a black man named Joshua Johnson and he's playing a priest. Whether he's a good priest or bad priest, though, it looks like it's a small role. 

Maybe it's not about the type of character you're playing in a movie, but how big the role is. I mean you could have a movie about a servant, and the servant is the protagonist—the starring role. 

Looking at all this, I would have to say Ridley Scott didn't make the best casting choices. I can't blame people for being angry, frustrated, and wanting to boycott the film. Yet this isn't the first time this has happened with Biblical stories. I'm thinking of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That's about Egyptian and Jewish people. I think the cast of those productions are often dominated by white people. Like Jason Donovan. 

And the articles I read today mentioned the old Exodus movie with Charlton Heston. 

It's not like Ridley Scott did a new bad thing. It's more like he followed in the footsteps of past white-washers, and didn't take us forward in anyway. He had the chance to do something better and different, and he didn't take it. 

2 comments:

Lucie Novak said...

I have a friend who is an Egyptologist. Will ask her and report back. From the paintings on tombs at Luxor, lot of those Egyptians looked sort of White Mediterranean - a bit like you and me probably

Dina said...

Lucie Novak,

That would be fantastic if you could talk to your Egyptologist friend. I wonder what she'd think of the movie.

Yeah. I think I could pass for Egyptian. As for you...have never seen you. But I'll take your word for it!

Ridley Scott should have hired us for the movie!