Sunday, December 7, 2014

Open Letter to Rupert Murdoch Regarding Exodus' 'All White Cast'

I've long been bothered by the prevalence of British accents for non-British roles in film. It's always seemed a prime example of subconscious racism, to so subtly whitewash history. So, imagine how I felt on seeing promos for Exodus: Gods and Kings, another historical epic with an irresponsibly all-white cast? You won't have to, because Rupert Murdoch, whose company is distributing the film, took to Twitter to defend the movie's cast, in one swoop reemphasizing ingrained racism as well as inciting me to respond via a poem I tried very hard to keep from becoming a rant.


Open Letter to Rupert Murdoch Regarding Exodus' 'All White Cast'

Rupert, I imagine you were the only one surprised
by the tidings of your tweet.
A man in Noah's shadow ought to send his birds hopefully,
but let me enlighten that bush your ilk have switched
for burning cigars
and explain the plague your movie is courting.

Exodus: Gods and Kings
deems to blanch the tan from sand accustomed
to its own copper feet
for a story stolen out
of the bitumen-and-bulrush cradle it's known
since Mt. Sinai.

Christian Bale, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver…
The historically-inaccurate pallor
you prop against a backdrop of roles obscure enough
to keep brown is no fault of the actors themselves.
People behind similar desks
have been whitewashing deserts and temples

since first looking through a camera
and finding comfort in the way it made the world right,
replaced all those uncouth hues
with the supremacy of pearl
or the moon or a porcelain bowl set prettily on a table
too oak to be anything else.

Of course, there's no one more fit to defend Exodus
than you, with the Mosaic way you
part the world into two towering walls of black or white,
fabricate the idea of a black Egypt to justify
the solace entombed underneath
your overwhelmingly-Caucasian one.

But this is about more than skin.
This is a symptom of those postcolonial pipedreams
that force British tongues into
brown and Asian mouths,
rewriting history with the invisible fingers
still craving foreign shores.

If your "all white cast" draws its movie distaste,
see it as the fish refusing the hook.
There are too many filmmakers who shoot what's true
to settle for one who'd rather shoot what sells
when what sells is a privilege-petting lie
dressed in the aurum and kohl of scripture.

I take comfort in the dollars
this backlash augurs to be spent somewhere
other than Exodus: Gods and Kings,
because, Rupert, with all this said,
if this is what you make of scripture's people,
I shudder at what you might make of its God.

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