Dear Hollywood, Please Stop Character Assassinating Ramses II
This December, cinema returns to the land of ancient Egypt with Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods and Kings.' And with it, another nail is hammered into the coffin of historical accuracy.
Hollywood seems to have hard time with Egyptian history. All those consonants in places where they have no business being. All those words that clearly need to buy a vowel. So it makes sense, in the mind of a crazy person with a vendetta against history, to pit Moses against his frenemy Ramses II simply because we can pronounce his name. But this is basically as historically inaccurate as when Disney pit a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Stegosaurus against each other in 'Fantasia'.
GIF via Diehard Disney
Worse, it perpetuates a FAR MORE BORING STORY then what actually — probably, maybe, more likely — happened. Yes even when given a fantastic musical score...looking at you 'The Prince of Egypt.' But it doesn't have to be this way. The smear campaign against Ramses II must stop. The dude just wanted to build some kick ass pyramids and this is the thanks he gets? Meanwhile the real story of intrigue and family dysfunction is just collecting dust, patiently waiting for its day in the sun.
GIF via Sesame Street
First, we have to set the timeline. Put aside for a moment the ridiculousness of asking for historical accuracy in a film with rivers of blood and plagues of frogs. It's not like we don't know when all this epic smiting went down. If we're using the Bible as the source material — which obviously duh — we need a frame of reference for when those hedonistic Egyptians got the righteous smackdown. Luckily, 1 Kings 6:1 to the rescue!
"In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord."
Okay, so Solomon built his fancy temple almost 500 years after Moses and company cut and run. Solomon was cool dude (when he wasn't threatening to cut babies in half) who left a very definite historical record. The 4th year of his reign would have been approximately 966 B.C. Do some math there and you've got the Jewish community giving Egypt the finger around 1446 B.C. But wait a damn minute, Ramses II ruled from 1279 - 1213 BC which is like two hundred years after Egyptians had to figure out how to build their own stone temples.
GIF via Fyeah Disney Misfits
So who was in charge? Thutmose III. Which is where things really get interesting. Thutmose III was totally Pharoah-blocked by the baddest bitch in Egyptian history. Move over Cleopatra, because Hatshepsut was the best lady Pharaoh of all time. She ruled from the time of her husband's death in 1479 BC to her own death in 1458 BC. At first she was all, "No I'm just a regent until Thutmose III is old enough to rule."
GIF via Paramount Pictures
Then she was like, "Naw this kid sucks, I'm changing the rules. Look I put on a fake beard. I'm a dude now because I changed mythology to make it so. Fight me, bro."
Before finally she was confident enough to just be like, "No seriously. I've got lady bits and I rule this mother." You can read all about her exceptionally long list of accomplishments here.
GIF via SNL
Why bring this up? Because historically speaking Hatshepsut could very well have been Moses's adopted mother. You know, the one who found him in the reeds? And there's the good story.
Here's this kid Thutmose III as heir to the throne by a minor wife. Meanwhile the Great Royal Wife only has daughters until one day she finds this Jewish baby in the river and adopts him like you'd adopt a stray kitten. Then Pharaoh bites it and Thutmose III is all "It is my time to shine!" but Hatshepsut puts the kibosh on that and literally shoves him to the side for over twenty years.
So Moses — who doesn't even go here! — is favored by his mother while her stepson Thutmose III seethes under her thumb as she upends the order of the universe to keep power from him. Then, as soon as she dies it takes approximately eight years for Moses to go from one of the elite upper class to champion of the downtrodden…probably because his asshole stepbrother threw him out after murdering Moses's mom to finally gain the throne. (Totally made up for drama…she actually probably died of boring old diabetes and bone cancer.)
This leaves Moses is dealing with a duplicitous step-brother who also happens to be one of the greatest generals that ever lived (he's basically proto-Alexander the Great), the loss of his mother and coming to grips with her as a person who might not have been so nice (giant temples don't build themselves), a god he doesn't believe in giving him orders, realizing his adopted family rose to power on the backs of slave labor that he was complicit in for most of his life, and trying to gain the trust of a group whom he was actively oppressing until it was no longer convenient for him. Is Moses a savior or just trying to get vengeance on Thutmose III? Both? Both.
TELL THAT STORY HOLLYWOOD AND LEAVE RAMSES II ALONE!
GIF via BambiStark