First thing first (and most importantly): I'm not one of those people who is dead set against actors playing people of different races. I mean, they're actors. By definition an actor is supposed to be somebody that they are not. Being a member of the particular racial group portrayed does not make you more or less qualified to play a role -- I'd love for The Rock or Brad Pitt to play me in a biopic and I'm sure that they could do a much better job being me than me. I mean, I'd look better, but I respect their craft.
I'm also not particularly wedded to history with movies. I mean, they're movies, for criminey's sake, not a documentary! Sometimes it adds value to say that Malcolm X had a sidekick named "Shortie" or to pretend that Cleopatra was a white Greek lady and not a woman of Greek decent whose family had been in Egypt for a loooong time and the family bloodlines very likely got browner over time.
Plus, Elizabeth Taylor was a fox.
Having said all that cool and tolerant stuff, the Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer cracks me up. That shit is ridic!
Look, Christian Bale is an amazing actor. One of my favorites. Easily (The Fighter? American Psycho??). But Christian Bale is also about white as you can get and historically, folks simply couldn't have been that white in Moses-ian Egypt. He's whiter than Kelsey Grammer wearing lederhosen and penny loafers while dancing to a Rick Astley/Macklemore duet. Yet somehow this is the dude who's playing Moses? The same cat whose family has lived in the hot desert since man first migrated up from sub-Saharan Africa?
Come on, son.
I'm not saying Moses looked like modern-day Egyptians or was black like some folks attest. No one knows that. Still, just given history and migration patterns, I think the one color that can be effectively ruled out is pasty white (e.g., Christian Bale). Therefore, if given the choice between the historical Moses looking like Moses Malone or Christian Bale Moses, I'm definitely saying that Moses was closer to the one who wore goggles and played in the NBA.
Which... once again, I'm cool with. In theory.
But Christian Bale's Moses would have gotten skin cancer wayyyy before he ever got the chance to do any of those miracles. Think about it -- no SPF 15 for the clear-skinned Bale? Not a chance. But that's not even the silliest part about the Exodus trailers -- when I watch them, I crack up because the Egyptians and Israelites alike look like an Abercrombie and Fitch commercial. Joel Edgerton. Sigourney Weaver. And... wait for it... Jessie Pinkman, er, Aaron Paul.
Yeah, Jesse Pinkman.
Anyway. Obviously we're not going to watch this movie to learn anything. We're not even going to watch this movie to possibly learn something. But, just like Burt Lancaster playing an Apache in Apache or David Carradine playing Grasshopper in Kung Fu, sometimes this shit is just entertaining. We know that there are racial politics involved in movie casting that has prevented people of color playing crucial roles. Yet, in the hopes of not messing up a potentially epic movie with actual critical thought, I wanted to run down some of the very important tips that might help brown folks enjoy the very un-brown-friendly Exodus (a little more?).
1) Wear sunglasses. Everyone looks darker with sun glasses on. I remember one time watching Pretty In Pink with sunglasses on and I thought, "Damn, is this the Lifetime version of this movie?" I could have swore that it was Usher playing Duckie.
2) Assume that Exodus was filmed during a mini ice age in Egypt. Hey, these things have been known to happen. Therefore, the Pharaoh wasn't really pissed off about the fact that he was about to lose some slave labor. No, instead he was really salty that the sun had been hiding for the past 30 years and so he couldn't go hang out on the beaches of the Red Sea (until it was too late). He took it out on the poor Israelites and the rest, as they say, is history: He indirectly died from a Vitamin D deficiency.
3) Imagine that Christian Bale got lost when he got out of that pit in Dark Knight Rises and hitchhiked his way back into biblical Egypt. That was another pretty unbelievable scene, by the way (I much preferred The Joker to Bane). Let's just continue the recent silliness of Bale's movies that allowed that somehow Bane got a Sean Connery-ish accent while being stuck in a pit his whole damn miserable life in North Africa: "But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it."
4) Finally, just give Ridley Scott a pass because he makes science fiction and that seems to be what this is. Alien. Aliens. Blade Runner. 1492. Prometheus. We all know that shit couldn't possibly happen in real life and so we just chalk this one up to another one of Ridley's acid drops.
Gyasi Ross is a father, author and attorney from the Blackfeet and Suquamish Indian Reservations. He is the author of two books -- How to Say I Love You in Indian and Don't Know Much About Indians (But I Wrote a Book About Us Anyways) -- both available at cutbankcreekpress.com. He has a column in Indian Country Today Media Network called "The Thing About Skins."
Follow Gyasi Ross on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BigIndianGyasi