Friday, June 18, 2010

Wait...She's not African?!?!

Happy Friday, everybody! Now, I've never made it a secret that I absolutely love Twitter. It is one of the single best things to happen to the internet in my opinion. I can literally spend hours on Twitter, thanks mostly to my TweetDeck application that allows me to actually do what I'm suppose to be doing instead of tweeting. I have met some very interesting people and have made a lot of friends from all over the world on twitter. The one thing I like the most about Twitter is the the Twi-bates. Twitter debates. You can jump in on any ongoing discussion or start your own topic whether it's sports, politics, religion, Hollywood, pick a topic and start a discussion, which brings me to Cleopatra.

I know, I know, that sounds just random, but this past week there was a Twi-bate over whether or not Angelina Jolie, who has already won the role by the way, should play Cleopatra. Some were outraged that ONCE AGAIN, a black actress was passed over for the role. Some believed Halle Berry, Zoie Saldana, or any other black actress should have played the role of the infamous Egyptian queen.

HOLYYWOOD, CA  MARCH 24:    Best Actress winner Halle Berry holds her Oscar statuete backstage at the 74th Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca., March 24, 2002. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/GettyImages) May 03, 2010 - New York, New York, U.S. - Actress ZOE SALDANA attends the Metropolitan's Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit for the opening of the new exhibit 'American Woman: Fashioning A National Identity. © Red Carpet Pictures

Some argued that Hollywood only thought about the bottom line and cast Jolie because of her marketability. Others argued that Hollywood doesn't care about historical accuracy only ticket sells.

Angelina Jolie (wearing Versace) arrives at the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, CA., Sunday Jan. 21, 2001. (photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

I agree with some of this. Hollywood does only care about ticket sales. That's how they make their money. If it weren't about ticket sales, we wouldn't have the A-team remake, Smurfs in 3D, or Twilight. Hollywood has never really cared about accuracy, if you've read the Iliad or the Aeneid, you would know that they should have said that Troy was very loosely based on the two. The movie Beowulf, which also starred Jolie, was also a horrible take on the poem. This is what Hollywood does. Accuracy be damned. They combine characters, they change names, they make people more attractive than they actually are, they have older people playing teenagers, and the list goes on and on at how they change the facts. Hello, Oliver Stone...

As for the black actresses playing Cleopatra, I have to side with Hollywood on this one. For once, I think they have chosen an actress who can accurately portray the notorious queen. Here is why. I teach World Literature, as such, I have to learn an enormous amount of history. One of the Units I teach is African Literature, which for those of you who are unaware, Egypt is a part of Africa (I still have at least one student a year who is surprised by that fact as well). Cleopatra was descended from the Ptolemies. Ptolemy was from Macedonia. He was one of Alexander the Great's favorite generals, and when Alexander conquered Egypt, Ptolemy became ruler of Egypt. His descendants, like many royal families, were the products of centuries of inbreeding. Cleopatra, herself, was the consort of her half-brother. Cleopatra was of Greek and Macedonian descent. Recently, scientists found what they believe to be the body of Arsinoe IV, who was the half-sister of Cleopatra, and one of the siblings Cleopatra had murdered. Arsinoe had traces of African ancestry, but was mostly of Greek descent. Cleopatra was African in the sense that she was born in Africa, just like Charlize Theron is African in sense that she, too, was born in Africa.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 07: Actress Charlize Theron arrives at the 2010 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter held at Sunset Tower on March 7, 2010 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images)

As such, I believe Angelina Jolie is a fine choice to play Cleopatra. Not because she can pass for Greek, I think she can totally pull off the cut-throw character that was Cleopatra. Cleopatra was a ruthless ruler. She would have done anything to maintain her crown. She had two of her siblings murdered, she seduced Julius Caesar, and when Caesar was assassinated, she seduced Mark Antony (she probably should have seduced Octavius), all in an effort to remain queen. She takes doing what you have to do to a whole new level. There are other Egyptian queens that our sisters would better portray such as Nefertiti who was considered one of the most beautiful women of the ancient world or Hatshepsut who was a female pharaoh. As for Cleopatra, the only images are a few statues, some coins, and a few paintings, most of which do not reveal an accurate portrayal of her skin tone.

Portrait of Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt (69 - 30 BC), who reigned from 51-30 BC, receiving the fatal bite on her breast from an asp, 30 BC.  The engraving is by John Sartain and taken from a painting that was found in the ruins of Hadrian's villa. It is attributed to Thimomakos of Byzantium who painted it for Emperor Augustus to adorn his triumphial car in 28 BC. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Besides, you can't compare this to Bradley Cooper playing Frederick Douglass or Dr. Martin Luther King. There are photographs of both men. People know who they are, and know what they look like. As delusional as Hollywood can be, I don't think they would be foolish enough to lose that kind of money on that kind of ignorance. As for the movie Cleopatra, if you are that upset, don't go see the movie. I'll be more upset if they gloss over the actual history.

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