Backlash Ensues as Gal Gadot is Cast as Cleopatra

The release date for Wonder Woman 1984 is uncertain, but that’s not stopping Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot from teaming up again for a new biopic about Cleopatra. The film will be directed by Jenkins and written by Laeta Kalgoridis, marking the first time a Cleopatra movie is made by women. Cleopatra has always been a challenging subject in cinema, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s 1963 epic being the most famous adaptation and Angelina Jolie’s Cleo project stuck in development limbo. Best wishes to Jenkins and Gadot as they take on this difficult task.

Despite the casting of Gal Gadot as Cleopatra, there has been some criticism. Some are claiming that this is an example of whitewashing, as Gadot is Israeli and Cleopatra’s ethnicity is uncertain. There exists a statue of Cleopatra that depicts her with a prominent nose, as do coins from her reign. However, it is possible that these features were exaggerated to emphasize her strength and connection to her father. Most people would never have seen her in person, so it is difficult to know for sure what she looked like.

Cleopatra, a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty that has roots in Macedonia and Greece, has an unknown lineage. Although her father is confirmed to be Ptolemy XII, it is uncertain who her mother is. Some believe it could be Cleopatra V due to her being the only confirmed wife of Ptolemy XII, but there is no concrete evidence to support this assumption. Even ancient historians cannot come to a consensus about Cleopatra, with Plutarch describing her as “not altogether incomparable” and Cassius Dio referring to her as “a woman of surpassing beauty.”

It’s a known fact that Cleopatra wasn’t an Egyptian in the modern sense. During the Ptolemaic dynasty, the rulers were very much Hellenistic and Greek was the official language of their empire. It was common for them to marry within their own Hellenistic lineage, which means that there’s a good chance that Cleopatra was a product of inbreeding within the Greek community.

Instead of debating who should play Cleopatra, it’s time to ponder why Nefertiti, another renowned Egyptian queen, hasn’t been the subject of a feature film. She lived during a tumultuous era and tried to overthrow the Egyptian gods alongside Akhenaten, resulting in widespread disdain and revolts. Additionally, her stepson was King Tut. It’s my belief that our fascination with Cleopatra stems solely from Shakespearean literature. Had he written a tragedy about Nefertiti, there would be multiple films dedicated to her by now.

During Shakespeare’s time, discussing religious reformation and uprisings among the people was a sensitive issue. Therefore, he chose to write about the negative consequences of marriage for a strong queen instead, which indirectly supported Elizabeth I’s decision to remain unmarried. However, the recent news of Gal Gadot playing Cleopatra has sparked controversy among many, while others are still anticipating a biographical movie on Hedy Lamarr. This situation is reflective of our current year, 2020.

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