A lot of Americans are unnerved and angry by the fact that Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is chock-full of white actors and actresses, Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton among them. The few black actors that are in it are given base titles like “guard” and “Egyptian citizen, lower class.”
There’s been a huge Twitter movement to #BoycottExodusMovie when it comes out Dec. 12. Fox exec Rupert Murdoch got wind of the movement and decided to chip in his two cents, which are two cents that are highly unwelcome and miss the point of the entire movement.
Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 29, 2014
He goes on to backtrack this tweet, stating that Egyptians are “of course…Middle Eastern, but are far from black” and that ancient Egyptians treated blacks as slaves. He seems to backtrack both of these tweets when he tweets:
Okay, there are many shades of color. Nothing racist about that, so calm down! — Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 29, 2014
As someone stated on his timeline:
@rupertmurdoch Remember the Nubians?
— sunsentinello (@sunsentinello) November 29, 2014
So let’s talk about the Nubians a little, since this Twitter user knows more about northern African history than Murdoch, who claims Egyptians are “white.” Egypt and Nubia were two kingdoms in northern Africa and belong in the Egyptian conversation as much as anyone. Nubia, located in southern Egypt and Sudan, saw their kingdom fall in 1504, so kingdom survived until what we might consider the early part of the modern sea-faring age. Nubia and Egypt seemed like frenemies, if you want to use such terminology. There would be occupations and battles, like the Kingdom of Kerma (part of Nubia) nearly destroying the Egyptian kingdom and like this depiction of Rameses II going up against the Nubian army:
But, they also worked together in matters of trade and other matters of government cooperation. The two kingdoms also saw a large amount of intermarriages, meaning that, in a way, both kingdoms ruled each other whether they wanted to or not. Such occupation and intermarriage can be seen in the Kingdom of Kush. Thanks to the annexation of Northern Nubia by the Egyptians, who built an administrative center in Napata to produce gold, the kingdom became a hybrid of Egyptian and Nubian customs. Take a look at these Nubian pharaohs: The Kingdom of Kush comes to rule Egypt during the 25th Dynasty of Egypt, which saw a succession of Nubian rulers reigning from 760 BC to 656 BC. Let’s also discuss Zipporah, Moses’ wife, for a couple of seconds, since another Twitter user brought her up:
If Zipporah was a Kushite, that’d mean she’d be of darker skin and, obviously, a descendant of the people of Kush. To quote Wikipedia:
The Cushite reference to a wife of Moses occurs at Numbers 12, in the story of Aaron‘s and Miriam‘s harsh criticism of Moses’ marriage to a Cushite or Kushite woman, probably of ancestry from Kush, a.k.a. Nubia, in northeast Africa. The book of Genesis identifies the nations of Africa as descendants of Ham son of Noah. The Midianites themselves were a dark-skinned people often called Kushim, the Hebrew word used to describe dark skinned Africans.[Titus] Flavius Josephus refers to the Cushite as a wife that Moses married before fleeing Egypt—he married her during his campaign south of Egypt as a general for the Egyptians.
So not only is Zipporah “black,” but so is Noah, which also further disproves that doggone Noah movie starring Russell Crowe. Also, as to why Miriam and Aaron were worrying about Moses’ wife is beyond me. They had bigger things to worry about than who Moses married.
So why bring any of this up? Because it all proves that Murdoch doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It also proves that for as much as he wanted to be “historically accurate” and had discussions on how best to represent the Egyptian people, Ridley Scott decidedly went with the Old Hollywood spectacle interpretation of the Bible, i.e. casting white people in a big-budget film, which he basically admitted to when speaking with Variety. What Scott did was classic Cleopatra, The 10 Commandments, and The Greatest Story Ever Told. Let’s also put Christian Bale in this discussion too, since he doesn’t understand why playing Moses is a bad idea. To break it down:
The Kingdom of Kush was thriving at the time of Rameses II. The pharaoh in Exodus: Gods and Kings is Rameses II, even though there is much scholarly debate on who actually was the pharaoh that was holding Moses’ people from freedom. Since this film is using Rameses II, there’s ample proof that Egypt and Nubia were ruling northern Africa at the same time. That painting up there is part of that proof, since it shows Rameses II attacking Nubians in battle. If Murdoch and Scott were going to be truthful, there would have been at least some acknowledgement of Nubian might in Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Moses married a Kushite woman. Just that fact alone proves that Egypt and Nubia had a lot of contact with one another. Moses met Zipporah during an Egyptian conquest of Nubia, according to the ancient historian Titus Flavius Josephus. Not to paint their love story with too flowery of a pen, since we don’t know the exact context as to what led to them getting married, but their marriage shows that intermarriage between Egyptians and Kushites wasn’t out of the question.
Also, to bring up the tired debate as to what Ancient Egyptians are:
The idea that Ancient Egyptians are white stems from deep prejudice against Africa and its history. The argument over what race the Ancient Egyptians are started in the 1800s. The common idea was that Africa was where uncivilzed, animalistic “Negro” people lived and that nothing of merit or historical significance could come from the continent.
However, how did 19th century scientists explain away the majesty that is the Ancient Egyptian empire? They decided to “investigate” the paintings left behind, stating that none of them exhibited a “Negro appearance.” Historian Jean-François Champollion seems to recognize that Nubian and Egyptian rulers are given the same importance in tomb paintings and the like, but Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac takes a decidedly racist viewpoint and states, in so many words, that the Ancient Egyptians didn’t know what they were doing when they created their own paintings:
Champollion’s and [Count] Volney’s claims were disputed by Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac, who blamed the ancients for spreading a false impression of a Negro Egypt, stating that “The opinion that the ancient population of Egypt belonged to the Negro African race, is an error long accepted as the truth…Volney’s conclusion as to the Negro origin of the ancient Egyptian civilization is evidently forced and inadmissible.” 
All of this comes from the fear that perhaps Africa isn’t something to be dismissed after all, that people have been wrong for centuries about Africa. That fear got tamped down with more lies. Sadly, those lies are still bought as “fact” today.
I’ve written all of this to say that just on whitewashing alone, Exodus: Gods and Kings is ripe for the boycotting. But when the film goes out of its way to whitewash even the Sphinx?
This film is clearly a gross misconduct of artistic talents which further subjugates not only Egyptians and those of the Sudan, but everyone who is a part of the African diaspora and everyone who loves learning the truth about history. The film is expecting its audience to be sheep, and that’s just as insulting as the film’s message via casting and whitewashing being a racist one.
This is why I tweeted this today about the film:
Rupert Murdoch says “Exodus” cast is legit, that Egyptians are white. Remember this when the film comes to theaters. DON’T. GO. SEE. IT.
— Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet) November 29, 2014
Giving “Exodus” the lowest returns on its opening weekend & beyond will prove a point–that no one wants to see whitewashed films.
— Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet) November 29, 2014
I and others can write about this until we’re blue in the face, but the money is really where it counts. If you boycott and don’t give your money to films like this, then they won’t get made. So, as a call to action, if you’re planning on boycotting the film, share this post with everyone you know. Get them on board to boycott the film, because Exodus: Gods and Kings is a bridge too far.
Photo credits: “Nubian Pharaohs” by wufei07. In public domain. “Ramesses II in his war chariot charging into battle against the Nubians” by Roderick Dailey. Creative Commons. Photo from Exodus: Gods and Kings