Exodus: White Washing in Action or Eyeliner Does Not Make You Historically Accurate or the Movie Industry is Problematic

Awhile ago, when the first trailer for Exodus was released, one of my professors recommend I watch it. Later that day when I did, I said, aloud, to the nobody that was in my apartment, “This is a farce.”

I stand by that statement.

I will be up front right now: I haven’t seen Exodus, I don’t plan to, and the criticism I have of it does not require me to see it. Everything that is wrong with this movie can be summed up by looking at its IMDB page and the list of actors appearing in it. The big film industry has a problem, or several, and that problem is the fact that there is a severe lack of movies with protagonists played by anyone who isn’t a white guy. When an industry is regularly making huge movies and not representing half the population (actually probably more than half), there’s a problem that extends past representation and responsibility.

Let’s take a look at Exodus. Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton play Moses and Ramses respectively, they look nothing like what anyone living in ancient Egypt would have looked like. Casting white actors in these roles based on not-white people blatantly ignores historically accuracy to the point of being offensive. It’s set to lose as much money as the 1963 Cleopatra, only it’s 2014 and we’re supposed to be beyond the representation problems of the 60s. Personally, I would like to see statistics as to who they consulted about historical accuracy for this film. Did no one have a problem with the fact that the main actors are all Caucasian? Would it really have been that difficult to consider other actors? Consider this: the production team for the Prince of Egypt, an animated children’s film made in 1998 about the story of Exodus, conferred with roughly 600 religious experts to make the film as accurate as possible. It seems somewhat impossible that Ridley Scott’s hands were that tied.

The movie has received a lot of criticism for its casting, but Exodus isn’t wholly to blame for its lack of representation; it’s the most recent, obvious symptom of a larger, industry-wide problem of representation. The release schedule of superhero movies from Marvel and DC that was just published consists of over thirty movies in the next five years. This map details all them, and almost all of them follow main characters that are youngish, straight, cisgender, white guys: only three of them have female protagonists (Wonder Woman, an as of yet unnamed film featuring a female Spider-Man, and Captain Marvel), and only three of them have people of color as protagonists (Black Panther, Aquaman, Cyborg). Thus far, the Avengers franchise has ten movies comprised mostly of origin stories and continuations of the individual adventures of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk, but there are no plans as of yet for a Black Widow origin movie. Each year the MPAA statistics confirm that women and men go to the movies in equal amounts, but we’re still getting an excess of white men leading the charge on screen and women sidelined to supporting characters and love interests. Even big shots of crowds don’t contain equal parts men and women (see this interview with Lynda Obst to forever be distracted by analyzing the number of female extras in movies).

Representation is now only one problem. The recent Sony hacks exposed the gender pay gap in Hollywood that we all suspected, and it doesn’t just affect the actors (Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence got paid a full 2% less than their male costars in American Hustle); the co-presidents of Columbia Pictures, Michael De Luca and Hannah Minghella, who have quite literally the exact same job also have nearly a one billion dollar difference in their paycheck.

Basically, there’s too many white people in Exodus.

Basically, I’m tired of movies only representing a fraction of the country’s and the planet’s population.


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