So, yesterday, I watched the trailer for the upcoming action film Gods of Egypt. Not going to lie, I want to go see it. I'm a sucker for action flicks, and throw any kind of mythology in there (accurate or otherwise, and since this is Hollywood, it's going to be otherwise), and I'm totally down for it.
There is something, however that really bugs me about this trailer. Can you guess? Here, watch it for yourself:
I'll give you a clue:
It's set in Egypt.
Have the problem yet?
I'll give you another clue... oh hell, I'll just tell you.
Gods of Egypt, your Egyptians are extremely... white.
Why, Hollywood? Why must you always whitewash everything? Over two minutes of footage and not a single character in it who looks remotely the part. I mean, you do understand that Egypt is in Africa, right? You do know that it was a meeting point for various cultures; Northeast Africa, Northwest Africa, Sahara, Sub-Sahara, the Near East and the Mediterranean. Where are all the black people (I spotted one. ONE)? Any Arabs in the house? Someone who could pass for ancient Greek?
No, instead we have two Egyptian gods played by European actors; one is a Scot and the other is a Dane. A very white-looking thief and an incredibly white girl who sends him off on his quest.
Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy both Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. I've had a crush on Mr. Coster-Waldau since I saw him in the only romantic comedy I have ever enjoyed... and that's because it had tennis in it.
But they are decidedly not Egyptian. Neither are, apparently, the people of Egypt.
For fuck's sake, Hollywood! There are surely wonderful Egyptian actors who could have filled these roles, right? Even if only the role of the thief and his love interest/could be sister, I don't fucking know.
And whhhhyyyyyyyyyyy are the people of Egypt speaking with British accents?
It's 2015, isn't it? Surely the movie-going audience is perfectly capable of accepting an Egyptian cast for a film SET IN FUCKING ANCIENT EGYPT!
Why am I going ballistic over this? I'm white. Why does it bother me?
Well, purely from a story-telling point of view, I expect to see Egyptians in my films about Egypt. I'm a little weird like that.
Secondly, representation matters. I'm so tired of see white faces where they don't belong. I want to see different faces, more accurately representing both the region/time in which the film is supposed to be set and the fact that white people are not the only kind of people on the planet. Life is increasingly multi-cultural. Why are films still not?
I can give a lot of leeway on the accuracy of films such as this. They are, after all, fiction, not documentaries, but this is just absurd.
Thinking on my own writing, I think I would be very upset if any film-maker bought the rights to, say, The Seraphimé Saga and then cast a very white actress in the main role. Seraphimé is not white. She is the fantastical version of a woman from a culture approximating a mix of the ancient nomads of the Russian Steppes and the semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers of prehistoric northern Europe. I would like to see her played by a Mongolian actress, or perhaps an American First Nations actress, like Tanaya Beattie:
Any whitewashing of any characters immediately nullifies the rights transfer. No refunds.
The same rule applies to any changes made to make homosexual or bisexual characters straight. It's not happening.
I'm being facetious, of course. I'm not big enough for anyone to even consider buying the film rights to any of my stories, and chances are very slim that I will ever get big enough for that (hell, some big enough names aren't having people knock down their doors for film rights), but this whitewashing shit really irks me.
Representation matters, and it's high time we acknowledged the wealth of talent and beauty in people who aren't white.
It irks me most of all because these film makers assume that I, their audience, am not sophisticated enough to handle a brown or black face on the screen before me.
Think better of me Hollywood, and perhaps I'll think better of you.
Now I have work to do.