Gal Gadot to Portray Cleopatra -- Is It Whitewashing?

source: Gal Gadot's official Instagram profile

The Israeli actress Gal Gadot, famous for portraying the Wonder Woman, will play Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, in an upcoming movie by Patty Jenkins, Gadot herself tweeted.

For the first time, Cleopatra's story will be brought to the public through females' eyes, ''both behind and in front of the camera,'' Gadot added. She referred to the Emmy-nominated director, Patty Jenkins, who also directed Wonder Woman (2017), Monster (2003), and more.

Jenkins will work with the screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis, who wrote the historical drama Alexander (2004), Pathfinder (2007), Shutter Island (2010), and more. 

According to the entertainment site Deadline, the idea for the movie belonged to the Israeli actress herself. 

Gal Gadot's tweet gathered more than 25,000 "likes," but the casting has also been heavily criticized. Some even called the casting "whitewashing."

Wael Mansour, a TV host, and singer from Egypt was among the first to criticize the upcoming movie. Mansour said: "can't wait to boycott this whitewashing disaster, so many wrongs."

Gwen K. Lynn, an environmental safety scientist, said that she disapproves of her new role despite being a fan of the actress. According to her, as Cleopatra was an African Egyptian, she was "likely of color," Lynn tweeted in response to Gadot's announcement.

Margari Aziza, the executive director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative in California, questioned the movie's success in Egypt, mainly due to Israel's politics towards the country.

James Hall, a broadcaster, a writer, and an expert on Africa, also joined the discussion on Twitter to ask why Hollywood always cast white American actresses as Egypt's queen. 

In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor famously portrayed Cleopatra along with Richard Burton as Mark Antony. Queen of Nile's western appearance on screen was also cemented by other actresses such as Hildegard Neil, Claudette Colbert, and Gone with the Wind's Vivien Leigh.  In a way, Gadot continues this trend. However, due to her Middle Eastern origin, she is not as western a choice as Angelina Jolie, for example.

Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in Alexandra, Egypt. There is an ongoing debate among historians whether Cleopatra was white. Academics agree that she was Macedonian-Greek on her father's side. Her mother's ethnic origin remains unverified, which fuels the suggestions that she was of mixed heritage.

According to John Hopkins' professors Betsy Bryan and Alexander Badawy, Cleopatra's mother came from the family of the priests of Memphis. Their theory has not yet been officially confirmed.

What do you think? Do you approve or disapprove of the casting of Cleopatra?