Hollywood’s attitude towards race and casting is totally wacked

So the trailer for Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings has come out. Like de Mille’s Ten Commandments before it, it racially misrepresents the ancient Egyptian and Hebrew peoples as resembling Northern Europeans instead of the African and Semitic people they actually were. That’s been standard fare throughout Hollywood history, but I’m still damn sick of it. And I am not alone in these sentiments.

But then, Idris Elba will be playing a medieval British warrior in a King Arthur adaptation by Warner Brothers. This is what he looks like:

So let me get this straight: Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale will portray a Northeast African king and a Semitic prophet respectively, while Idris Elba plays a Briton in early medieval times? What kind of madness is this?

Hollywood deserves all the flack it receives for whitewashing non-European characters and historical figures, but paradoxically it also has a habit of throwing non-Europeans into settings where they would have been relatively rare. I wouldn’t go so far as to completely discount the presence of any African people in medieval Britain (there apparently were some there in Roman times at least), but it is bizarrely hypocritical for Hollywood casting agents to emphasize racial diversity in that setting while downplaying the African and Semitic heritages of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews.

Ironically I would have sooner cast Idris Elba as Ramses in Exodus than as anyone in a King Arthur movie. He may be of West rather than Northeast African heritage, but that’s still better in my book than lily-white Joel Edgerton.

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