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Of Whitewash and Race-Swap

4 April 2014

Cross-posted from The Molinist. Come read The Molinist at its new home.
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Last Wednesday, the latest entreé into the big-budget, special effects-drive, historically/mythologically/religiously-inspired spectacle blockbuster genre, Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt, began filming. The movie will star Gerard Butler as Set, god of violence, discord, and foreigners; Geoffrey Rush as the sun god Ra; Game of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the war god Horus; and Brendon Thwaite as a ‘common theif’ who joins the gods on their generic magical quest. Assuming you don’t have to google Brendon Thwaite (I know I did), you may have noticed that this movie about the gods and people of a North African civilisation has a white cast. Now, while the ‘race,’ in the modern sense, of the Kemeyu (that would be the people of ‘Ancient Egypt,’ which was called Kemet in its own language, Kemetic) is far from certain (Copts, the modern ethnic group most closely related to the Kemeyu, are fairly closely related to Berbers, but my understanding is that the Kemeyu were likely darker skinned than the copts, their penchant for light skin in art notwithstanding), I think we can all agree that they did not look like Jaimer Lannister.

This is what we call whitewashing, (in this context) when mainstream media replaces the non-white people(s) of some historical context or source material with white actors…

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