Rupert Murdoch and Ridley Scott make the 'Exodus' race debate worse
I was going to just leave this alone but then Rupert Murdoch stepped in with something characteristically outrageous and now I just can't help myself.
If you've been paying attention, you know there's been a bit of a kerfuffle around Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings." Ever since Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton were cast as Moses and Ramses respectively, outrage has circulated that white actors were tapped to play Egyptians. Furthering the unrest are complaints that minority actors have been mostly relegated to background roles as slaves and thieves.
It's a debate as old as the medium, really — particularly as it pertains to Biblical epics — but in the digital age, foot-in-mouth disease runs rampant. Enter Mr. Scott.
"I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such," the director told Scott Foundas in a Variety interview published last week. "I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up."
A few things to unpack there, but let's start with the obvious point: Scott is just speaking truth. There's no getting around that. But — and I'm no PC hound — couldn't there have been a more sensitive way to make that point? "Mohammad so-and-so?" Eesh... And shouldn't the status quo notion that "the question doesn't even come up" be at least moderately disputed by one of the industry's major filmmakers? I'm genuinely asking.
And then, cue Murdoch:
Moses film attacked on Twitter for all white cast. Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 29, 2014
He scaled it back after that. "Everybody attacks last tweet," he wrote. "Of course Egyptians are Middle Eastern, but far from black. They treated blacks as slaves…Okay, there are many shades of color. Nothing racist about that, so calm down!"
If nothing else, people sure are talking about the film now...
"Exodus: Gods and Kings" opens Dec. 12.