Young Hollywood 2014: The New Wave of Tinseltown’s Brightest Stars Is Right This Way: Quvenzhané Wallis, Keke Palmer and Jaden Smith
Teen Vogue October 2014
… and watch how the movie is a step-by-step illustration of exactly what’s detailed in Orientalism.
From the first moments of the film, we see contrasted the Egypt That Was, a mythic, exoticized (while selectively whitewashed), and extravagent-but-distant nightmarescape, with the Egypt That Is, comprised of actual, present-day Egyptian characters that are walking stereotypes of the lascivious, smelly, backwards, barbaric “orientals”.
In both cases, however, beautiful but scary or denigrated and laughable, these are forces to be contained and people to be dominated by our white, Western-coded main characters.
Take, for example, Beni, the (if he had a name I missed it) Prison Owner/Slave Dealer, and Imhotep. They are the coded-as-non-white people besides Dr. Bey and Ardeth — and I’ll get to them later — who get speaking parts.
The first is a (heavily tanned and racially coded) cringing servile figure, both crafty and immoral enough in his “sideways” fashion to get ahead and greedy and short-sighted enough, lacking logic and dedication, to avoid his incredibly predictable fate.
The second introduces himself by beating the male love interest, showing pleasure in his impending execution, and sneaking up the thigh of our only real female character. He’s thereafter referred to as “not you,” “ugh” and “our smelly friend” (no, really) before being eaten by scarabs while trying to steal them — should have shown the proper respect for his culture that our white heroes did, huh!
The third is Imhotep. I hope I don’t have to explain how an villainous bronzed-white-dude-as-Egyptian character, while still awesomely sympathetic at times, remains problematic.
The rest of the Egyptian or “oriental” characters speak gibberish Arabic (never translated), are used interchangeably as possessed slaves by Ihmotep and possess-ed slaves by the American team, and are largely employed as props to be burned by acid, eaten by bugs, drowned in sand storms, etc. to show Imhotep’s wrath. Let’s not forget, as well, that this whole curse is Egypt’s fault in the first place, brought on by Pharaohic excess (“no man could touch my gold painted mistress”) and cruelty (“sure hope this curse thing doesn’t screw us”).
That’s not to say there isn’t great comeuppance for white assholes (see: Team America) or badass Egyptian characters too. Dr. Bey and Ardeth turn some of the movie completely upside down halfway through, revealing that their order has actually tried to stop white idiots from activating the curse, and Evie and Jonathon are revealed to be biracial, with an Egyptian mother.
But even these characters, the trio that (also with an unfairly attractive villain) made me love this movie when I was younger, have Unfortunate Implications like none other. Because the contrast between Dr. Bey and Ardeth and the other non-white-coded characters is that they, like Egypt That Was; are both eternal and essentialized: part of an order and people “for 3,000 years” that’s basically unchanging, and assimilated into or assistants to the white savior mission, both speaking English almost the entire film and in Dr. Bey’s case actually running a museum full of artifacts stolen from tombs.
And even Evie, who largely side-steps the Indiana Jones problem by pursuing knowledge over treasure hunting; Evie who symbolizes by her birth the supposedly utopic union of the European explorer and the Egyptian adventurer; Evie who remains in every way my fave, tells Rick that her father fell in love with her mother not because she was awesome, but because “my father loved Egypt so much he married my mother.”
MY FATHER LOVED EGYPT SO MUCH, HE MARRIED MY MOTHER.
It doesn’t really get much more condescending and squeamishly fetishizing than that.
WHO IS THIS
That is Ines Loan-Rau, a French, North African, model from New York!!! IS SHE NOT GLORIOUS???
she is also a trans woman and tbh the fact that she is getting so much attention lately makes me very happy
Not wearing the tights and boots, and I still need to work out getting my eyebrows that perfect silver, but I’m really, really happy. Original is on left, new is on right. saycheese-louise wanted to see the finished product—here’s most of it!
Ahh you look great!
I want to see a reality tv show where straight dudes have to read the shitty messages they send to women to their mothers.
to catch a redditor
Why you should follow Denny’s on Tumblr