Saturday, March 24, 2007

What's Race Got To Do With It?

So, I am mildly obsessed with the HBO Original Series Rome. As with most HBO shows, it's wonderfully done. Great scripts, aesthetically pleasing cinematography, brilliant costumes. But something really bothers me about it. First off, the actress that plays Cleopatra is not African. Now, I consider myself an educated person and I know that the "real" Cleopatra's ancestors were Macedonians and that she supposedly descended from a long line of Greeks, beginning with Alexander the Great.

But here's the problem. No one on the show is of African descent, yet half of the second season takes place in Egypt. There are black slaves, attendants (including Cleopatra's wig woman) and soldiers, but every single principle character is white.




With Italy, Asia and Africa being so close together and the Roman empire being as vast as it was, I find it very hard to believe that no influential person was of color.

White historians say it was impossible for Cleopatra to be black. Impossible for an African woman to rule over African people? I understand. Anything great, beautiful, civilized, cannot possibly be credited to African people. The situation really makes me think about how incredibly subjective history is.
And let's pretend that Cleopatra was not black, but Greek, with no traces of African blood. Hollywood's version of her is completely accurate. Olive skin, silky black hair and blue eyes. Authenticity personified.

What then of the other African women of influence that history and Hollywood have robbed us of? The Queen of Sheba, who readers of the Bible, Torah and Koran know as a dark-skinned African women, but who viewers of the 1959 romance Solomon and Sheba saw as someone quite a bit more fair.







Or Mariane Pearl, the Afro-Cuban and Dutch widow of murdered journalist David Pearl? Angelina Jolie was chosen to play her in the movie version of her husband's life and death **the cynic in me is thinking "Producers will do anything to keep from giving black woman her shine!"**







But what does race really have to do with it? It's just TV! But, I think we all know that it's not just TV. There is a proven link. Suburban girls watch Britney Spears and starve themselves. Models see Tyra Banks and call their plastic surgeons. So what do Black girls do when they see Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie in roles that may have better suited a woman of color? Our subconscious must think that Black really isn't beautiful, intelligent or worthy. Hollywood and history have done us all a great, grave disservice.

Keep Hope Alive!

Whitney :(

8 comments:

Mademoiselle M said...

great one girl. nothing unusual though :)

Johnica J. Garrett said...

So how do you feel about Mariane Pearl hand picking A. Jolie to play her?

Whitney said...

Mariane Pearl handpicked Jolie?? That doesn't necessarily change my opinion of the choice...I still think it's ridiculous to cast Jolie who has a wealth of options when choosing roles, as opposed to biracial and African-American actresses who tend to be more limited...

Melissa said...

So true. But what makes it worse it that we, the educated ones, aren't spreading the word far enough. It saddens me when I say something about Cleopatra being Black. Or the fact that Egyptians are still Africans and Africans were the first to create and use various types of technology, and someone looks at me crazily because they'd never heard such a thing. I see you spreading the knowledge, guess I better work harder.

Elle* said...

I wholeheartedly agree; it's like they try to write Africans out of world history. Well, they don't try, they do and they have. I was in school in someone mentioned to me the name of an African king...(I believe his name was Mansa Musa...they didn't spell it out so I could be wrong) who DEFEATED Julius Ceasar. But we don't hear about that at all...

queen-to-be said...

Great post whit! I always cry foul when all of a sudden Egypt is picked up off the continent. The whole Meditarranean/Africa defide is mind boggling. we are all "of color." But I do have to say Im not sure models see Tyra and call their plastic surgeons:)

queen-to-be said...

let's say it together people. . . UPDATE!!!!

Mademoiselle M said...

hey i need a new entry soon. i'm going through bad girl withdrawl!

ok. love ya and i can't wait to see picks from graduation in a few weekksssss!!!!!