For Millennials. By Millennials.

Dear Hollywood, Please Don’t Make Cleopatra White Again

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Recently, the internet was ablaze with the news of a new Cleopatra movie coming up. There were rumors flying around that the choices made by Hollywood for the role were Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga. That choice was not favored by many because even though people are still unclear on Cleopatra’s true ethnicity, it’s guaranteed that she was not white. So, dear Hollywood make sure you make the right choice to prevent another case of whitewashing.

History of Whitewashed Cleopatra

Dear Hollywood, Cleopatra Should be Greek Not Lady Gaga
20th Century Fox

Previously, we’ve seen white actresses playing the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. Notable examples Vivien Leigh in 1945’s Caesar and Cleopatra ,Claudette Colbert in 1934’s Cleopatra and of course Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 version of the movie. A mere make-up look with the famous dark eyeliner and dark lush black wig was the go-to to turn white actresses into Egyptians. Of course such a move would not be easily accepted by anyone in today’s Hollywood.

Cleopatra Wasn’t White, Hollywood

Now, we’re living in a politically woke environment of entertainment industry. It forced Kevin Hart to quit his job of hosting the Oscars due to old homophobic tweets. For their racist remarks, James Gunn got fired from his directing gig of Guardians of the Galaxy and Roseanne Barr lost her sitcom Roseanne. Hell, even Emma Stone is still apologetic for her role in Aloha as an Asian woman.

And look, no one’s denying the impeccable acting talents of both Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie. What we’re requesting is that we need a woman of color to play the famous Queen.

Though, a Greek ethnicity has been assigned to the Macedonian ruler. Recent reports suggest, after examining the remains of Cleopatra’s sister Arsinoe, that their mother was most likely African. You know what that means Hollywood? It means Halle Barry and Rihanna are really good choices to be looking at for casting.

Basically, Hollywood needs to let go of whitewashing practices once and for all. And do justice to the heroic character that Cleopatra was.

The Wonder that was Cleopatra

To put it simply, Cleopatra was one badass woman. She was not only a diplomat, but a medical author, linguist and naval commander. In fact, she was one of the first of her people to learn Egyptian. People might believe that she was a seductress that used to manipulate men’s sexual desires for her own political motives. But that’s incorrect.

She was certainly known for her political dealings but that’s because of her intellect. More evidence suggests that she wasn’t as attractive as we make her out to be.

Cleopatra, the Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt, didn’t just know a dozen different languages, but also knew mathematics very well. Even more, she was knowledgeable on the subjects of philosophy and astronomy. Overall, she had an irresistible charming personality that could convince anyone of whatever she wanted to do.

No wonder why this queen has become a pop culture icon and gained representation on numerous movies and TV Shows. So, it would be a really big deal if an actual woman of color lands a leading role as the Egyptian Queen. Apart from Rihanna and Halle Barry, we also have Priyanka Chopra, Jameela Jamil, Nasim Pedrad, Frida Pinto and Lupita Nyong’o!

Hence dear Hollywood, please do not make Cleopatra white again. We adore Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie but a woman of color needs to play her this time. And Lord knows that we’ve been gifted with many talented actresses of color now.

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  1. K says

    While there’s no denying that Hollywood has a problem with whitewashing, and that people of color ought to be represented more in popular culture, the report you cite stands on very shaky, practically discredited evidence.

    Quoting Wikipedia
    “In 2009, a BBC documentary speculated that Arsinoe IV, the half-sister of Cleopatra VII, may have been part North African and then further speculated that Cleopatra’s mother, thus Cleopatra herself, might also have been part North African. This was based largely on the claims of Hilke Thür of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who in the 1990s had examined a headless skeleton of a female child in a 20 BC tomb in Ephesus (modern Turkey), together with the old notes and photographs of the now-missing skull. She hypothesized the body as that of Arsinoe.[93][94] Arsinoe and Cleopatra, shared the same father (Ptolemy XII Auletes) but had different mothers,[95] with Thür claiming the alleged African ancestry came from the skeleton’s mother. However, researchers Clarence C. Gravlee, H. Russell Bernard, and William R. Leonard, and others have demonstrated that skull measurements are not a reliable indicator of race[96] and the measurements were jotted down in 1920 before modern forensic science took hold.[97] To date it has never been definitively proved the skeleton is that of Arsinoe IV. Furthermore, craniometry as used by Thür to determine race is based in scientific racism that is now generally considered a pseudoscience that supported ‘exploitation of groups of people’ to ‘perpetuate racial oppression’ and ‘distorted future views of the biological basis of race.'[98] When a DNA test that attempted to determine the identity of the child, it was impossible to get an accurate reading since the bones had been handled too many times,[99] and the skull had been lost in Germany during World War II. Mary Beard wrote a dissenting essay criticizing the findings, pointing out that one, there is no surviving name on the tomb and that the claim the tomb is alleged to invoke the shape of the Pharos Lighthouse ‘doesn’t add up’; second, the skull doesn’t survive intact and the age of the skeleton is too young to be that of Arsinoe’s (the bones said to be that of a 15-18 year old child, with Arsinoe being around her mid twenties at her death); and thirdly, since Cleopatra and Arsinoe were not known to have the same mother, ‘the ethnic argument goes largely out of the window.'”

    Honestly I think an Egyptian actress should play Cleopatra. Rania Yousef maybe?

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