Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, December 4, 2014



It's still six days before the blockbuster EXODUS: GODS & KINGS hits theaters, but the film is already gaining a ton of publicity. Unfortunately for Twenty-First Century Fox, it's not the good type of hype. Specifically, many people are questioning the casting of an all white cast for the Biblical film. Here are the main characters: Christian Bale (born in Wales) is Moses. Joel Edgerton (an Aussie) is Ramses. Native New Yorker Sigourney Weaver is Tuya.

Things got worse for the promoters when 21st Century Fox owner RUPERT MURDOCH took to Twitter to defend his film. "Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are." Within minutes, tens of thousands took to social media to lambaste the 83-year-old media mogul. ("He's so old, he probably knew the ancient Egyptians!" quipped one person.) For historians, this debate has been going on for centuries, without much resolution. We know for sure that Jesus did not have blond hair and blue eyes. Aside from that, however, there is little conclusion about the skin color of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews.

To add to the debate, Hollywood cinematographers have a long history of having white people portray other ethnicities. From Al Jolson's black face to Mickey Rooney's horrendous Mr. Yunioshi, Hollywood has a chequered past when it comes to casting non-white roles. While TODAY it's rare to see white actors cast as Latinos, Blacks or Asians...for some reason...when it comes to the Middle East, things are different. For example: No one cared when Chicago-born Charleton Heston played Moses the first time around.

It seems times are changing. The current backlash against Murdoch is reminiscent of the rousting encountered when Californian Jake Gyllenhaal starred in the Disney film Prince of Persia. While both actors defended their roles, at least these two are positive images of the Middle Easterners. For the most part, Arab terrorists have replaced Nazi generals and Soviet spies as the top villains in today's blockbusters. This part of the world has a long road ahead in terms of pop culture acceptance.

The final say in the debate comes to us from the pragmatic director Ridley Scott. When asked his opinion, he brought up the point that the only famous actor from Egypt is Omar Sharif. "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. I'm just not going to get it financed." Ridley is right. At the end of the day, some movies are just about entertainment...not social statements. So head to the IMAX next weekend for fun!

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