Ridley Scott and Christian Bale have unleash Exodus: Gods and Kings upon us. It’s going to be massive.
Hollywood has a long history of mashing white people, the Bible and ancient history together into blockbusters. Remember the 10 Commandments with Charleton Heston? For a while it was required viewing every Easter, and I still don’t remember anything about it. But it was big. So big that for a long time, folks assumed that Charleton Heston and God were the same person.
Then there was Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor. Ancient Egypt X modern Europeans = massive. You can’t lose. By you I mean white people.
If you happen to be a person of color; particularly a descendant of Africa, don’t expect to see your ancient history to be celebrated on the big screen. While we do get period blockbusters, they tend to be segregated into certain periods. There was 12 Years a Slave, which I loved, The Butler, which I was pretty meh about, and Belle which I didn’t see. Notice a pattern? While Europeans get to gleefully play act their ways through everyone else’s histories, we are left living out chattel slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, over and over and over again.
John Wayne played Ghengis Khan, Tom Cruise was the Last Samurai, and Kevin Costner inserted himself firmly into the Native American lens with Dances with Wolves. I spent the whole movie wondering how much better it would have been if he had been killed at his outpost in the first half hour. Then we could see life through the eyes of Kicking Bird without the awkward intrusion of him and his white Indian wife.
Last year Russel Crowe played Noah. I’m pretty sure it was massive, with a cast featuring two of every animal on the planet, hundreds of dirty barbarian looking people and not a single person of color. Rotten Tomatoes had this to say. “With sweeping visuals grounded by strong performances in service of a timeless tale told on a human scale, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah brings the Bible epic into the 21st century.” If by 21st century you mean really, really white…
I didn’t see it. I’m not particularly religious. But I would have seen Exodus: Gods and Kings. The story of liberation from a violent, oppressive ruling class resonates with me. Oh, and you want to depict one of the most advanced civilizations that the world has ever seen, and it’s African? I’m in. And you’re going to re-sculpt the nose of the sphinx…? So that you can reflect the features of a people who were thousands of miles away at the time? Dude, really? Really dude?
They say it’s just about the bottom line. You know, because white people spend more money at the movies, and presumably wouldn’t want to see Black people messing up the pictures they’ve formed in their heads. After all, the Bible is a collection of tales set almost exclusively in North Africa and the Middle East. After you have suspended enough disbelief to accept a blond haired, blue eyed Jesus, you don’t want a chocolate Moses fucking with your head.
Oh yeah. The reviews are in. They say it sucks.