Ridley Scott’s Latest Biblical Film Is Whitewashing At Its Best


If you’ve seen my Twitter feed lately, you’ve probably noticed my utter shock at the casting in the latest Ridley Scott film: Exodus: Gods and Kings. The trailer was released last week.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4iSzHXOUEE]

Tonto. The Lone Ranger. Movie. 2013.I want to start off by saying that everyone in this film is a fabulous actor and assembling a cast like this is just amazing. They’re just not right for THIS film. This isn’t about their talent. This is about films about people of colour excluding people of colour from the action. This happened on a smaller scale in FX’s Tyrant where the lead is played by white guy, despite the character being middle eastern. Recently, Johnny Depp played a stereotypical portrayal of a native indian AND he’s not even native indian to start withBoth Prince of Persia and The Last Airbender suffer from whitewashing as well.

I could go on and on about the instances of whitewashing on screen but quite honestly I don’t have the time, temperament, or space for such a task. It’s why, when the race reversal of characters who were originally white into a person of colour sparks “outrage,” I just throw my head back and laugh bitterly. When being white stops being the default of a character’s identity, then we can talk. Otherwise, keep the privileged faux outrage to yourself.

Will I see this film? No. Why should I when it doesn’t think much about people like me? Why watch something that disrespects my existence and need to be represented in media.

I love the movies. I just wish the movies loved me back.


About Author

Former senior editor for WWAC. Part-time contributor. BA in criminals (a minor in daydreams). Batman seeks her advice constantly. Bylines at Book Riot, Teen Vogue, Slate, Quill & Quire and Hyperallergic.

1 Comment

  1. I always say too much when I comment here– but I can’t help it.

    From a Jewish persons perspective – My first issue with the movie was this: ‘An account of Moses’ hand in leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt.’ What? So we’re not getting a historical film, we’re getting the Christian version of Jewish history—something I’m pretty sick to death of, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there were some Jewish producers behind this film. :/

    My teens and I had the Ivory-Jew debate when Noah came out (mind you, Noah predated the ethnic Habiru – the actual people in Egypt –Moses ethnicity) because we as Jewish Americans have this sort of self-hatred inspired division, so common with all ethnicities drowned in the melting pot of mixed-culture America. As a Jewish person with Eastern European parents, I fall into the ‘Ivory Jew’ category: we’re the ones you don’t know are Jewish until you realize we don’t work on Friday, we never share in office pizza with pepperoni, and we actually have to tell you—yes, we’re Jewish, to wit we get the age old bigoted reply: But You Don’t Look Jewish… 0_0

    When Noah came out, my teen didn’t like the idea that it seemed white-washed. Other kiddo pointed out that a Jewish man made the film (himself, of Slavic ethnicity) and so what constitutes a Jewish person for him (and even myself) might differ from what my teen would like to see. Is too much to ask him to expect to see someone like him reflected on the screen? This is where the joke – ‘now you’re just talking Semetics!’ rings true.

    The tradition of ‘White-looking Jew is better than Semitic-Looking You’ has always had a place in Hollywood going all the way to the Ten Commandments film (itself produced by Jewish men). The good guys are the ‘Ivory Jews’, played by non-Jewish stars, and the bad guys are what most people consider ‘Jewish’, all played by actors of real Jewish ancestry (even Pharaoh Sexy Pants himself, Yul Brenner!) Hollywood, in this day and age has a chance to do it right—but they won’t, because they fell they have one kind of audience; was Darren Aronofsky wrong for not casting Noah with more ethnic characters, or is he guilty of doing what Hollywood has always done, make movies for just white protestants?