Exodus: Gods and Kings has tons of controversy swirling around it.
First let’s get one thing out of the way.
There are compelling economic reasons for Hollywood to embrace the Good Book. The studios are increasingly reliant on source material with a built-in audience, something the Bible—the best-selling book in history—certainly has. And like the comic-book superheroes that movie companies have relied on for the past decade, biblical stories are easily recognizable to both domestic and the all-important foreign audiences.
What’s more, they’re free: Studios don’t need to pay expensive licensing fees to adapt stories and characters already in the public domain.
Now, having said that I will quote David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and editor based out of Atlanta (but it’s still WHO DAT all day). He’s currently an editor at Moguldom Media:
I’m so goddamn sick of Hollywood and its acceptance of these oppressive images. If studies have shown the way that perpetual violence in movies begets violence in America, then what about perpetual maintenance of the White savior standing over the ethnic servant/villain/imbecile? What damage is this creating for the American psyche? How am I supposed to feel when all the messiahs, last samurais, African kings and saviors are White?
My answer to that as a solid go to church, pray every night religious degreed individual is:
Who cares ? Let them tell the damn story.
That’s the most important part of this. A great line being used lately that I believe in with my entire heart is, “Let’s make God famous.” If this movie causes people to pick up a bible, or get into researching ancient history, or ancient languages, I say kudos. The need and thirst for “accuracy” on the screen just seems a little overbearing. I have taught for 25 years. Never in 25 years has anyone child or adult asked me what color someone in the bible was. Never. They may have asked where did this happen? Where would that be located now?
My students have asked about the moral of the story. They have asked whether or not I believed the story. Yes, I know there are people who are “sola scriptura”, but can we get past that. We as people of faith should know better than to be affected by the “portrayals” on screen, and be happy that we get to actually watch something that we can find a shred of edification from.
I am more concerned about the biblical content. I am not moved by what shade the actors are or aren’t. I am moved by what the story is relaying as a message. We must be careful when we start to demand that Hollywood put together movies based on historical accuracy, or ethnic traditions. Lifetime television got it right with their mini-series for The Red Tent. It was just the right shade. Recently there has been a ton of discussion about an article a woman write that said, “Jews are not white.” Haven’t read it? You should. Read: I’m Not White I’m Jewish.
I think The Passion of the Christ awakened a lot of people that there is a mass audience across middle America who is longing for movies that instead of trampling their faith, instead of trampling their values, will honor those things. It would better suit the complainers and detractors to study the scriptures each day and apply what you read to your life. The scriptures are a powerful source of personal revelation and guidance and a constant strength to your testimony. Even if you are not a believer there is a good moral to the story. Good movies inspire.
How a major film house chooses to cast a movie should not detract from what you know, or what people may see. Yes, I am aware that it is both healthy and encouraging to see the portrayal of biblical characters in the correct shade. We can discuss the meaning of “on screen white out” all day, but that does not change the fact that Hollywood is bringing great stories to life.
The really bare knuckled fact is that Hollywood is seeing major financial returns from faith filled movies. Does it give them a “pass” to cast all white casts in what we know is a story about darker skinned Egyptians? No. It does point out however, that we need more movies made that tell these stories accurately.
Movies with redemptive themes have consistently earned more revenue than any other type of film, averaging $39 million in 2006, up from $5 million in 1993, according to Movieguide’s recent annual report to the entertainment industry. Heaven Is Real earned $91,443,253 at the box office for its run. Offerings for faith-based audiences are growing more diverse and sophisticated. Sony Pictures is developing “The Redemption of Cain,” a supernatural film loosely inspired by the fratricidal tale of Cain and Abel, a project slated to be Will Smith’s directorial debut. Lifetime stepped out and broadcasted ‘The Red Tent’ mini-series, which will tells the story of Dinah. Oprah will be filming The Shack. Next year a big budget re-telling of the days after the crucifixion will hit the airwaves. This will definitely reach the unchurched.
I would rather have them tell the stories that many have never heard, spur a dialog and encourage others to grasp the story. That’s what the arts were created for.