Apparently Gal Gadot is pulling together a remake of Cleopatra. Or, as it is obviously put, a more modern retelling of the story from a female perspective. Presumably lots of close ups of the grunting faces of Roman generals.
This has caused the usual shouting as how dare an Israeli portray an African. Or an Arab. Or an Egyptian. That there is a substantial portion of the Israeli population with a few thousand years of Middle Eastern genetic inheritance is true but Gadot is of Ashkenazi background so that doesn’t really apply here. People are still being very stupid about this though:
Kalogridis declared herself “incredibly excited to get the chance to tell the story of Cleopatra, my favourite Ptolemaic pharoah and arguably the most famous Macedonian Greek woman in history”. She added: “Never thought I’d have the opportunity to tell a story like this, with women who have inspired me beyond words.”
OK, they’ve got that right. She was indeed Macedonian Greek by genetics even if not by upbringing or at least parts of culture. She most certainly was not – as all too much Ebonic nonsense in the US has it – Black African. The Kushite Pharaohs might well have been and wasn’t there a Nubian lot? But the Ptolemies simply weren’t sub-Saharan in any form at all.
So, basically a Greek and that’s fine. But then we’ve got this idiocy:
But almost immediately, there was a revolt. Why had they not cast an Egyptian woman, some asked. The journalist Sameera Khan held that Cleopatra was Greek and Berber, but lamented that an Arab actress had not been cast. She accused Gadot of cultural imperialism. “Your country steals Arab land & you’re stealing their movie roles,” she wrote. Soon the argument devolved into a debate over the precise ethnicity of Cleopatra, the ruler of ancient Egypt, and whether there was anyone at all who was qualified to play her in a film.
Arabs? What are you talking about? In Cleopatra’s time Arabs were the people bothering camels in, err, Arabia. The irruption across North Africa and the Middle East happened 6 centuries later. It’s simply not true that there was anything at all Arabic about Pharaonic Egypt. It’s not true that there’s all that much Arab about modern Egypt either. That irruption changed the ruling class, sure, the language of government, partially the religion and not all that much else. In terms of genetics it had about as much influence as the Norman invasion of Britain. A replacement of that ruling class, language etc, but not all that much change in the people.
To argue over who should play Cleo based upon race or birthplace is silly enough because the whole thing is about dress up anyway. But to start talking about Arabs is simple idiocy.