Gal Gadot poses for the cameras on the red carpet

Wonder Woman star, Gal Gadot is set to play the next biopic of the mysterious yet most famous Egyptian woman in history, Cleopatra. 

The new biopic, aside from casting Israeli star Gadot, will be directed by Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins.

Shutter Island and Alita movie screenwriter, Laets Kalogridis, will also write the script of the movie. 

However, the new casting did not sit well with many who pointed out that Gadot is not Egyptian. 

Nothing New

A movie about Cleopatra is not new, and Hollywood has a lot of them. 

In fact, two Hollywood films about the Egyptian princess have probably cemented the most common image we have of Cleopatra. 

The most famous of them all is the 1963 movie, Cleopatra, starring Hollywood legend, Elizabeth Taylor.  

Coming in a close second is Gone with the Wind’s very own Scarlet O’Hara, Vivien Leigh, who played the character in Caesar and Cleopatra.

Although Leigh’s movie portrayal of Cleopatra is earlier than Taylor’s, the latter actress’ signature wig and eyeliner is the one that has become more used in popular media.

A drawing of Cleopatra with one of her loyal pets

What People Say

Some people argue that Gadot’s casting is another form of whitewashing a movie role.

One twitter user, Sameera Khan, called out Hollywood for casting an Israeli woman instead of an Arab actress like Nadine Njeim. 

Another twitter user Abdul El-Sayed, a public health doctor, and epidemiologist wrote on Twitter, “so…there were no Egyptian women to play, um, an *Egyptian* queen?” 

Many people who defended Gadot’s casting pointed out that historically, Cleopatra is a Macedonian Greek.

Thus, casting a non-Arab like her is not wrong. 

Opinion: People are Being Purist 

Gadot is not an Egyptian nor an Arab, and so is Cleopatra. 

However, there is a more crucial discussion here than race and whitewashing, people are being purist and not in a good way. 

While identity, appropriation, and visibility are important, extremism in all its form is not.

Whitewashing, in the first place, is not just about miscasting white actors in Asian or other identity such as LGBT roles.

Whitewashing stems from the fact that mainstream shows and movies, do not reflect the world’s reality of diversity. 

However, by embracing a more purist view in casting, people who fight against whitewashing are just repeating what’s wrong with whitewashing. 

In fact, it deviates from the reality of diversity now, even in Egypt then. 

Egypt, during Cleopatra’s time, caters to a diverse population of races and religions. 

Even scientists now do not have one agreement on how Cleopatra look like. 

What’s certain though, according to historians, was her wit and intellect that had conquered Rome’s greatest general, Julius Caesar.


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