Monday, October 12, 2020

Israeli Gal Gadot to play Cleopatra? Why not?

Almost predictably, there has been a whole lotta controversy about Israeli actress Gal Gadot's casting as the star of an upcoming Hollywood film of the story of Cleopatra.

Most of the controversy is over how racist the casting is, and how such an iconic role should be given to a Black or Arabic actor, Cleopatra being Queen of Egypt and all.

Until, that is, it was pointed out that Cleopatra was actually ethnically Greek, being a descendent of the Macedonian Greek Ptolemaic dynasty. So, she would have been essentially Causasian with a slight Mediterranean olive-ness. And indeed, the paleness of her skin would probably have been celebrated and encouraged at the time, as a mark of her high caste and royal upbringing (and all those milk baths). Elizabeth Taylor may not have been far off the mark. Apparently, Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga were both considered for the role

Greek-American screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis obviously had this figured out, describing Cleopatra in a tweet as "arguably the most famous Macedonian Greek woman in history".

Perhaps a more apt criticism of this particular casting decision is that it was somewhat tone-deaf - even if not colour-blind - to choose an Israeli actor to play an Egyptian queen, given Israel's ongoing war against anything Arabic.

But has it got to the stage where a Greek character can not be played by anyone other than Greek actor? This seems a bit ridiculous, not to mention impractical.

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