Hollywood is back at it again with the white washing or at least they’re trying it.
Earlier this week rumors surfaced that Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga were being considered as potential to be casted in a new Cleopatra film. Cleopatra, a notoriously beautiful Egyptian ruler, has been white-washed time and time again by Hollywood. Most, if not all, of the most famous Hollywood portrayals of Cleopatra have been white.
According to The Daily Star a source at Sony claims the film will be a “dirty, bloody political thriller told from a feminist perspective”. We hope that it will also be a bit more conscious with the casting and shake up a lineage of predominantly white Cleopatras.
Was Cleopatra the VII Black?
Some argue that Cleopatra, although she was Egyptian, may not have been black. Cleopatra’s ancestry supposedly starts with Ptolemy Soter, a greek man who ruled Egypt after Alexander The Great conquered it in 305 B.C.E. The family was known for incest but, there is no proof that there was no mingling with Egyptian natives. How likely is it that over 300 years of ruling the family never reproduced with native Egyptians? It may not have happened but it’s plausible that it did.
In fact, there are multiple depictions of Cleopatra in Renaissance art with dark/not so white skin. This supports that argument that if she was at the very least biracial. In reality it is extremely unlikely that Cleopatra the VII, the seventh Egyptian ruler with that name, would have been only white.
Despite that however, Hollywood has continuously cast Cleopatra as a white woman. Several factors play into this including racism in the industry and a refusal that a woman so powerful and beautiful with Greek ancestry could be black.
Erasure, The problem:
It might seem trivial as to who plays Cleopatra on screen, but; it does matter. Much like when the Romans went around Egypt knocking the nose of of pharaohs and defacing art as a means to erase the legacy of Egyptians; consistently casting white actresses in the role erases history. Whether consciously or subconsciously casting directors influence viewers to associate whiteness with a legend that is more than likely black/biracial.
In 2019, while the world and hollywood still struggles with subtle racism, choosing a white actress would not only be tone deaf, but; it would further contribute to the erasure of Egyptian and black history. Black history and black legends do matter and while Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga are both beautiful and fabulous actresses casting them would do a disservice to viewers everywhere.
Hollywood, there are way too many stunning and talented biracial actresses that would slay the role of Cleopatra, to cast a non black woman in the role. Think Zoe Kravitz, Tessa Thompson, or Kerry Washington.
Choose wisely and you can start dismantling the erasure of black legacy that started with the Romans knocking the noses off of statues in Egypt. We all deserve better and while you’re at it we’d love a movie about the indisputably black Queen Nefertiti.