Whitewashing has reached a whole new level in Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings — not even the statues are safe.
Pictures of statues on the set of Exodus, a retelling of the biblical Moses story,are making their way around Twitter and receiving backlash as the staple set statues of Egypt, including the Sphinx, have gotten makeovers with white features. The pictures show the statues with profile-changing nose shapes. If you think that sounds ridiculous, you’re not alone.
Much of Twitter has found these changes somewhere on the scale between hilarious and offensive, but the common theme is that it’s wrong, a literal whitewashing of history. People have begun using the hashtag #BoycottExodusMovie as a not only an expression of just how unacceptable they find these actions, but also Hollywood racism and a call to action to Boycott the film.
In the past films that focus on Bible stories have notoriously cast white actors as characters that, due to history and geography, obviously wouldn’t have been white, taking to skin-darkening techniques like tanning or makeup to make the characters look more authentic. If that sounds familiar (remember the long list of people that #CouldvePlayedNina?), it’s because it happens too often and frequently in Hollywood.
The IMDB page for Exodus shows this movie following the same type of casting, top-billing white actors like Aaron Paul, Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver in the roles of heroes as well as the “gods and kings” in the movie title. Meanwhile, Black actors are at the end of the list, billed in roles like “Egyptian Thief” and “Egyptian Lower Class.”
It makes sense, then, that some of the Twitter responses have included amusement. We’ve all seen this happen, to the point that we have come to expect the same type of story being told before. Exodus is no different (an terribly-cast epic set in sometime in a Euro-centric history that shows off the movie studio’s CGI budget — yeah, we’ve never seen that before…bonus points if everyone speaks in British accents, because that’s clearly what all classic civilizations did).
Exodus is slated to come out later this year, and the pictures coming out are supposed to be generating good publicity for the movie. The good news is that it’s not. People aren’t just denouncing the movie. They’re calling for a boycott, which is perfect. We may have gotten used to seeing this kind of casting from Hollywood, but we shouldn’t accept it. We should boycott. We should speak out about it on social media and to our friends. We should continue sending the message that Exodus is already getting back through its early publicity materials. Racism is wrong, and painting a story within the confines of the white race is wrong.
I’m all for not letting this movie have any of my money, but let’s do more than just #BoycottExodusMovie. Let’s continue to speak out and ask for a change of narrative and to be told a story we haven’t heard before — or at least to be told the right story. Moses, the hero of the Book of Exodus, was a man who freed his people from slavery with some divine intervention. He wasn’t a white man savior like biblical movies often portray. He looked like his people.
Judging by the Internet backlash the film received the day after promotional photos from the film made their way onto Twitter, people are actively protesting the whitewashing of a story and an entire culture. Following the #BoycottExodusMovie, the hashtag #BlackHistoryWhiteCast began on Twitter as well, bringing some humor and knowledge to a situation we’ve dealt with for far too long from Hollywood. Enough is enough. Exodus may be trying to retell the Moses story, but they’re doing it all wrong.