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The Hollywood Shuffle: What’s a ‘God’ to a Giant Film Industry?

Chadwick Boseman’s casting in writer-director Alex Proyas, Gods of Egypt, has sparked an interesting conversation.

The 42 and Get On Up star’s next role finds him heading to the river Nile to play the god Thoth in Proyas’ adventure-fantasy flick. Thoth was considered one of the most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon. The art depicting this god is often done up as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, which commentator Political Refugees mentioned.

The main issue some are having with Boseman’s casting comes not in the form of his appearance in the film, but that amid all the other “gods” of Egypt — he is the only one of color.

There is no secret that Hollywood at large is fond of whitewashing its pictures to command better receipts at the box office. Sometimes this is done to create the “magical negro” motif, where a Black character enhances the lead White character or offers sage advice during a particular conflict (see: Will Smith, The Legend of Bagger Vance). In Gods of Egypt, Hollywood née Alex Proyas rewrites history, allowing Gerard Butler (Olympus Has Fallen), Nikolai Coster-Waldau (Oblivion), and Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean) to take the living forms of deities originally worshipped by African people.

With all the other lead characters in the film, it could be considered another mark of blotting out Black history on the big screen. Knowing that fans of popular culture are more apt to learn from visual media than actually picking up a book, the minds and dollars behind this Gods project stand to continue the erasure of African mythology.

Audiences would be best to wisen up before sitting down to see Gods of Egypt and ask Hollywood specifically, “Where are we within the culture you profit off of?”

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