The [White] Gods of Egypt
An apology was issued recently pertaining to the movie ‘Gods of Egypt’. The movie is about a battle between the ancient gods of Egypt and the mortals who live there. But what has created such a huge controversy within the movie was not the story line itself, but rather, the race/ethnicity of the people who were casted to play the Egyptians. The controversy first arose when the poster for ‘Gods of Egypt’ featured predominately Caucasian characters such as Gerard Butler and Brenton Thwaites. In fact, the majority of the cast is white. Historically speaking, the people of ancient Egypt had dark skin and dark hair – they were black. So the fact that the cast of this interpretation of ancient Egypt is predominately white/Caucasian raises some questions. Due to the widespread casting backlash, the studio producing “Gods of Egypt,” Liongate, made a statement saying: “We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed. In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize. Lionsgate is deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better. ” Though after the apology, no changes were made. All words but no action. The apology triggered a variety of reactions ranging from admiration for owning up to their mistake, to claiming that Lionsgate should have known better from the beginning. The director himself apologized saying: “The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.” This apology, many say, was not sincere or genuine enough to truly reconcile the anger caused by the all-white casting, and that it was a little too late considering the fact that it took an entire social media uproar across the nation to receive a brief apology and no action. ‘Gods of Egypt’ is not the first movie set in ancient Egypt with an all-white cast though. Ridley Scott’s 2014 biblical epic, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” also lacked actors of color, but unlike the director for ‘Gods of Egypt’, Scott did not issue an apology on the matter. Another example of this would be Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” in which the titular role was played by white Australian Russell Crowe. Again, an apology on the matter was never written, despite the anger that bubbled up. FYI Hollywood: it is possible to make a racially accurate portrayal of ancient Egypt and make a lot of money. “Prince of Egypt,” anyone? Oh wait, the characters were voiced by white actors. Never mind. Although ‘Gods of Egypt’ is not the first cast to be predominately white, it is definitely one of the first to issue an apology on the subject, and to own up to their mistake. Most movie studios and directors defend their white-washing such as this years decision to cast a white actress to portray the native Tiger Lily in “Pan.” Although that does not excuse the “Gods of Egypt” team from making the very obvious error. This lack of forethought shows their racial preference, and also their belief that a white actor would be better than an actor of color. Hollywood is known for their racial biases in movie production. By having a predominately white cast in an Ancient Egyptian also feeds the belief of racial superiority among those who watch the movie as well. But at its core, Hollywood’s white-washing problems boils down to one thing: money. Instead of creating art that is racially, ethnically, and culturally sensitive, Hollywood casts actors with star-power to headline big budget films as opposed to lesser-known actors of color. Hollywood seems to believe that casting actors of color in leading roles will not bring in a profit so the industry plays it safe by hiring white actors. The movie industry however seems to have no problem with casting actors of color in minor, stereotypical, and demeaning roles. They need their honorary minority character to give the illusion of progress. While the movie industry regularly hires white actors to portray minority characters, an actor of color would never be hired to play a white character. It seems as if there is a double standard there. The color of one’s skin does not determine whether they are an acceptable actor. Their skills do. There is most likely an actor of color who could have played any of the roles in ‘Gods of Egypt’ as good as if not better than those who were casted. Racial biases in movie casting are not uncommon, but to apologize for it is definitely a first. It is commendable, but if Hollywood truly wants to gain back public favor, racially diverse and accurate casting would be their best option.