It was a week or two ago when on Facebook Comic Book Resources posted something about Gods of Egypt and asked if you were excited about it and I replied something like, "Why would I be excited to see another whitewashed piece of crap?" I mean look at the cast list on IMDB: you have Chadwick Boseman who's black and Elodie Yung who's half-Asian but other than that it's all white people in the starring roles. The freaking movie is Gods of EGYPT and there's no one even vaguely Egyptian or even Middle Eastern/African. How fucking lame is that?
Maybe because I had the first comment I got all these apologists popping up to defend the casting of the movie. One guy thought he was really clever by saying, "Oh yeah, well name an Egyptian actor!" Well OK, here's a page from Wikipedia. That literally took me 30 seconds. Second, I'm not a Hollywood casting agent.
The subtext here seemed to be that "Gosh, there's just no way we can find actors from Egypt (or the surrounding region) so let's just cast a Scottish guy and a Dane and have them get a suntan." Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? It's 2016! We're 16% into the 21st Century with all this social media and instant communication and you want me to believe that casting agents just can't find actors from that part of the world? Hey pull the other one, it has bells on it.
No the real problem is kind of a Catch-22: you can't find KNOWN actors from that area and yet if you never cast anyone from that region, how can they ever get known? Despite that star power consistently has proven to be all but useless in this century (Hail Caesar being the most recent example of a star-studded film falling pretty flat) Hollywood still clings to this notion that you have to have known quantities in the leading roles. That makes it difficult for non-white actors to get roles unless the film specifically calls for it like a movie about slavery or Jesse Owens or Black Panther, though there's probably still some dumb studio exec who'd want to cast Matt Damon as Black Panther.
The sports world has long had this same problem too. When a big NFL, NBA, MLB, or college team goes to hire a coach, they usually want someone known to the public so they can "make a splash." That's why you get dipshit coaches who have failed 2 or even 3 times as head coaches get another chance while non-white/non-male candidates get left behind. The NFL had to actually create the "Rooney Rule" to require teams to interview minority candidates, but teams have often circumvented this rule by giving a token interview to a minority assistant.
There has been a lot of controversy over the Oscars this year because the leading candidates are all white. I think a lot of that is just a function of what I'm talking about. There's also the myopia of the selection process. I mean if you think about it scientifically, do you really think there wasn't a single black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino, Indian (both kinds) actor or actress in the whole freaking world who was worthy of a nomination? But the selection process is mostly focused on movies from the US/UK where because of what I've been talking about it's so hard for non-whites to get decent roles. If the Academy included "foreign" movies, then I'm sure you'd see more minorities nominated. But part of that's probably laziness. I mean if you're an Academy judge do you want to sit through 300 movies, probably half of those subtitled? It's so much easier to just nominate Leonardo DiCaprio or Meryl Streep again and be done with it.
So what's the solution? Well in a perfect world we wouldn't need a solution because it would all be based on merit. But we're not in a perfect world--obviously. I really don't want any kind of affirmative action for the Oscars where we have to force at least one candidate to be black. I honestly don't think that's doing anyone any favors because even if that person wins it will seem a hollow victory, like he or she is only winning so the Academy can do some damage control.
What we need is some common freaking sense. If you're making a movie called Gods of EGYPT, find some freaking Egyptians! Or at least people from that area. When The Mummy cast Arnold Vosloo as the mummy they still had a white guy but as a South African at least he was from the right freaking continent. So that was somewhat closer. If you're making a Biblical movie like Exodus, again, hire some people who are from that freaking area! If you're going to care so little for verisimilitude, why not just have Set or Moses whip out an iPhone?
Another apologist said, "Well Charlton Heston played Moses." That was back in the goddamned 1950s! You might as well bring up Birth of a Nation or any of those old movies where white guys went around in blackface. Again I don't think there's anything wrong with expecting some freaking progress in 60 years. Which it's funny isn't it because Hollywood likes to act all liberal and yet it's still like a country club with a good-old-boys network hard at work.
Just as a final point, there was another apologist who really got silly. He raved that if I wasn't against casting Michael B Jordan as Human Torch too then I was a HYPOCRITE and a RACIST! (I'm sure he has a Trump bumper sticker on his pick-up truck.) Sure Johnny Storm had traditionally been a white, blond guy but so what? It's a freaking comic book character! You know, the comic books where characters get killed, replaced, and resurrected every other month. They play so fast-and-loose with reality that having a black guy play the character seems like a pretty minor change. Plus, there's nothing tying Johnny Storm to any particular race or nationality. Now if Johnny Storm were the Egyptian god of fire or whatever then there'd be a problem.
That does help to show another big part of the problem, which is all these idiots out there who want to make excuses for being racist. They're all pretty flimsy excuses too. We really all need to just try harder to do the right thing.
(I wrote this and then like the next night on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver there was a segment on this titled, "This Shit Still Happens in 2016?!" It echoed a lot of what I said. There was even a quote from Ridley Scott about Exodus where he said he couldn't get the movie financed unless he had a known actor in the lead. Because I guess Joel Edgerton is really well known?)