Gal Gadot

The Real Reason Many People Think Gal Gadot Shouldn’t Play Cleopatra

Cleopatra has become a highly coveted role among the major actresses in Hollywood.

Over the years, we’ve only seen white actresses play Cleopatra on the big screen. It’s been a consistent streak dating back to the 1900s. Then in 1963, Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic version nearly bankrupted Fox Studios, but it still became that year’s greatest box office success.

Since then, Cleopatra has become a highly coveted role among the major actresses in Hollywood. At the same time, large productions have avoided producing films about the historical figure for a while due to the long-running debate about her real ethnicity.

So it’s no surprise that fans weren’t happy when Gal Gadot announced that she’s playing Cleopatra in an upcoming biographical film by Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins. However, the reason for this unwelcoming reaction goes beyond the obvious reasons.

Fans Think She’s Peddling Fake Female Empowerment

“And we are especially thrilled to be announcing this on #InternationalDayoftheGirl We hope women and girls all around the world, who aspire to tell stories will never give up on their dreams and will make their voices heard, by and for other women,” said Gal in her tweet announcing the project. “To tell her [Cleopatra] story for the first time through women’s eyes, both behind and in front of the camera.”

Fans didn’t appreciate the narrative coming from Gal. They were quick to bring up reasons why she’s peddling false female empowerment. They brought up the Israeli actress’ service in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and mentioned Gal’s alleged participation in state-sponsored propaganda sexualizing women in the army for tourism. It makes sense why people are hating on Gal despite her groundbreaking portrayal of Wonder Woman.

Gal May Be A Woman Of Color, But She Still Comes From A Privileged Position

Fans don’t think Gal actually represents women of color who regularly experience discrimination. They feel like the casting decision is yet another example of Hollywood’s preference for light-skinned actors. Another issue about Gal taking on the role is the ongoing conflict between Israel and Egypt.

Gal is already receiving backlash from many Egyptians online. So it’s understandable that people are having concerns. They’re worried that this big-budget film could potentially stir some issues related to the countries’ relationship. Fans believe that it’s just something to avoid in these already sensitive times.

In Gal’s defense, “I have friends from across the globe, whether they’re Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course… People are people, and with me, I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honor this amazing historic icon that I admire so much.” At least she’s made it clear that she’s playing the role with only the best intentions. We guess everyone’s just hoping this film would make very careful choices, especially since Wonder Woman 1984 did not receive good reviews.

Gal’s Defense Shows She Doesn’t Care About Diversity

“First of all if you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian,” Gal told BBC Arabic when asked about Egyptians saying that her taking on the role is whitewashing. “We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn’t there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra.” Still, the Wonder Woman actress’ defense didn’t sit well with the fans.

Fans thought that the “facts” and Gal’s passion were missing the point, especially in context with today’s socio-political climate. Also, Cleopatra’s ethnic background remains a mystery to this day. Egyptologist Sally-Ann Ashton from the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge created a facial reconstruction of Cleopatra in 2008 from ancient artifacts. She discovered that the Egyptian ruler was of mixed ethnicity.

The next year, the possible skeleton of Cleopatra’s sister, Arsinoe was identified to be of mixed ancestry as well. However, in early 2020, Kathryn Bard, Professor of Archeology and Classical Studies at Boston University found that Cleopatra was white and was of Macedonian descent like all of the Ptolemy rulers who lived in Egypt. There’s no sure answer, and we might never even know what Cleopatra really was.

That’s why people think the producers should have made more effort in promoting diversity and ensuring representation; maybe by opening an audition for the role to actresses from different parts of the world. It seems like the fans expected the uncertainty about Cleopatra’s real origins to be an opportunity for a more diverse casting choice. They simply feel like it’s about time more women of color appear in films that many young girls would grow up to see.

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