The Only Reason Gal Gadot Can't Play Cleopatra Is Because We've Let the Racists and Bigots Win

AP featured image
Gal Gadot arrives at the 29th annual Producers Guild Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

A new movie on Egyptian queen and lover of [fill in the blank] Cleopatra is in the works, and because this is 2020 and sociopaths are making all the rules, there is controversy over the casting for that movie.

Unapologetically Israeli actress Gal Gadot has been given the title role. I don’t know how much popular interest there is among potential movie-goers in Cleopatra or ancient Egypt or the Roman Empire or poisonous snakes, but if you want to try to get a lot of young men into the theater, the prospect of a scantily clad Gal Gadot could very well be the ticket. I’m sure she’s a great actress and all, but no, we never did buy Playboy for the articles.

The criticism comes on two fronts. Both tiresome. Both racist.

The first comes from the BDS (that would be Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions and not Bondage, Discipline, and Submission, but it is an easy mistake to make) crowd. They are torqued that an Israeli and a Jew would be given a role that they believe should rightfully go to an Arab actress. Why Arab? Because modern Egypt is Arab, therefore ancient Egypt was also Arab.


A second, more noxious, group are those who are claiming that it is offensive that an actress of Eastern European descent, according to Wikipedia Gadot was originally Greenstein, is playing a person of color.

As far as I can tell, the whole Cleopatra-was-black myth comes out of “out of Africa” nonsense in the 80s and 90s when we were fed an endless line of anti-historical crap that claimed virtually every human achievement, from mathematics to the Aztec pyramids, hailed from Africa. Unlike a lot of the Egyptian pharaohs, we know a great deal about Cleopatra’s lineage. She was Greek.

Her father was a direct lineal descendant of Ptolemy I, a companion of Alexander the Great. While Cleopatra’s mother’s identity is not known, we can infer that she was also of Greek descent. The Greek historian and geographer Strabo refers to her as being of noble birth, and this rules out being the offspring of a concubine. Cleopatra was the subject of an intense propaganda campaign by Octavian during the civil war with Marc Anthony and at no time was she ever accused of being illegitimate. We will probably never know for sure her pedigree but what we do know for sure is that under no circumstance would she be considered anything but Mediterranean European unless the “one drop” rule applied. Given the inbreeding among the Ptolemys, she would have been more likely to have been an extra on Deliverance than anything but European.


This gets us to why this matters.

For years a fetish has been made of “non-traditional” casting in movies and cinema. Perhaps the breakthrough in this was a retelling of the Wizard of Oz in the 1978 musical The Wiz that featured an all-Black cast headed by Diana Ross playing Dorothy’s role. Since then, it has become common to cast non-white actors into roles created with white characters in mind. This, I think, is as it should be, and it has been met with nearly universal acceptance. I have yet to hear anyone get their panties knotted about Black actors playing lily-white roles in Hamilton, though that is probably because I just haven’t looked hard enough on Twitter.

Thanks to the pernicious influence of critical race theory, what started out as a laudable effort to expand the opportunities for actors has degenerated to an exercise in race-based bean-counting. The rule seems to be that it isn’t enough for all roles to be open to all actors; we must have a balkanized set of roles reserved for actors not of European descent. Under this system, you would not have Yul Brynner in The King and I or Alec Guinness or Anthony Quinn in Lawrence of Arabia or, my favorite, Sean Connery in The Wind and the Lion.


This whole kerfuffle is nonsense and harmful. It is simply racism and bigotry tarted up in a BLM cape. In the words of my colleague Bonchie:


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