This is why I’m an atheist

There’s this new movie coming out, Gods of Egypt, which looks like a horrendous fecal splatter of CGI with Egyptians played by Canadians and Scotsmen. I’m serious. I expect poutine and bagpipes, with pyramids in the background, and testimonials from Ben Carson on the historical accuracy of the movie.



  1. chigau (違う) says

    Whi… wait was that a black guy?

  2. Vivec says

    It’s a shame that’s such a ludicrously white cast, because I’m kinda digging those techno-organic god suit things.

  3. Artor says

    That looks delightfully absurd. I think it might out-do Clash of the Titans. The original one, even. I might have to watch it to make sure.

  4. hexidecima says

    I have a question. if one can’t get enough people of the assumed ethnicity of the characters, should no one else be allowed to play those characters? At the college where I got my degree, they were going to put on a play about Jesus in india. They got the go ahead to put on the play, had done much work on sets, and it was pulled because the author determined there was not enough south Asians in it. This is a college in deepest western PA, where there aren’t that many who do the arts, and even fewer who are of south Asian decent.

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    aw come on, it’s a movie of myths, who can say what race those mythological figures were. I know it is a symptom of the systemic racism of the Hollywood industry, but I’d rather rage about the overblown and poor CGI SFX, rather than the whitewashing of the cast.
    argh, not arguing to justify the whitewashing. just being contrarian. sorrry.

  6. says

    @hexidecima #7
    Don’t be absurd. This is a big budget CGI laden film, not a high school production of Ben Hur. If anything I would have convinced the producer to hire a mostly Egyptian cast to save money.

  7. Vivec says

    Even ignoring the fact that there’s probably plenty of existing non-white actors in the US and UK that could handle the main rules, and ignoring the fact that there’s plenty of non-white US/UK-ian unknowns who could probably give an excellent performance…

    Africa has a booming film industry. Nigeria is the world’s second film industry in terms of movies produced, and thirdmost film industry in terms of revenue generation. Egypt’s cinema industry has been on the rise since 2007.

    Where there’s film, there’s actors, so clearly there’s no dearth of non-white actors fit for the role. If they don’t speak English? Subtitles are a thing. But that’s still assuming you can’t find non-white actors in the US (which you absolutely fucking can)

    Surely it wouldn’t be too hard for these multi-million dollar production studios to attempt to find /some/ non-white faces, rather than cramming it with as many big name white actors as they can.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    The GoE trailer concluded with a link to another trailer for a movie called The Last Witch Hunter, which I just had to click to see if James Morrow’s excellent novel had been cinematized (spoiler: sure doesn’t look like it).*

    But it did show Vin Diesel (in, apparently, the title role) waving around a flaming sword, which hints that a certain Rabid Puppy promoter will be first in line for tickets – Osiris forfend, he may even have written the script…

    * Anyway, the novel’s titled The Last Witchfinder, so I got what I deserved for having a colander memory.

  9. vucodlak says

    Not only are they mostly white actors, but all the gods appear to male. Because there are no important goddesses in Egyptian mythology. Certainly none who outwitted Set time and again.

    Oh well. Still less offensive than some ass deciding to call the Daesh “ISIS” because it sounds “sinister” and it’s not like that name has meaning to anyone, right? (Yes, I’m aware that’s a petty thing to complain about.)

  10. says

    I sense a certain naïveté in these calls for an ethnically accurate cast. Bear in mind that a movie of this type needs to get greenlit before it can be made, and all that CGI doesn’t come free. Before they commit, the film’s investors will want some name actors in place to procure the first batches of butts for opening night seats (and after as well). Casting the production with nonwhite unknowns pretty much assures the picture won’t get made.

    Not that I see why anyone cares; this is obviously a pure fantasy project anyway. You might as well complain that the population of Westeros isn’t portrayed accurately in Game of Thrones. Accurate to what?

  11. microraptor says

    A bunch of known, white actors doesn’t guarantee box-office success, and movies that have headlined unknowns have succeeded plenty of times. This movie is getting a whitewashed cast simply because Hollywood is lazy and afraid to break out of the mold. Given the way that Wrath of the Titans flopped, I’m surprised this exceedingly similar appearing movie was greenlit.

  12. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @16:
    right. I seem to remember a few movies in the past few years that PRed themselves as casting entirely with unknowns and those movies have been recognized as eventually becoming classics for quality and deliberately putting the burden on the story by avoiding starpower box office draw. Whether I’m fabricating that based on random fan stories, I cannot say. Regardless, I am one of those who advocates using that strategy of making a longterm classic film rather than a flash in the pan blockbuster.

  13. methuseus says

    They have a bunch of big name white actors in this movie? I must be out of the loop because I didn’t recognize a single one. To be completely honest, in a movie like this, how many people even care about the actors as long as they’re doing a good job with the action like they’re supposed to? I guess Hollywood doesn’t believe the mostly white American theater audiences (even though there aren’t really that many more white people in the USA) will watch a movie with non-white actors (even though plenty of movies with non-white actors do very well). I think an even bigger problem is, don’t action movies like this do somewhat well outside the US because you don’t really need the dialogue as much? Worldwide sales may be slightly assisted with non-white casts.

    Really, if I hadn’t seen the title of the movie I would have assumed it was another Clash of the Titans remake. Not that the white cast there is much better, even if slightly closer to accurate.

  14. numerobis says

    IMDB indicates an estimate (by whom?) of 140 meeeelion dollars. And the movie makes you want to gouge out your own eyes.

    vucodlak@14: you’ll be pleased to see that Anat and Hathor feature in the cast. Whether they have a conversation with each other not about male gods, I’m not going to hold my breath.

  15. A. Noyd says

    That looks terrible. Not even fun terrible, just terrible terrible. Apparently everyone is playing the god of cartoonishly toxic masculinity, and all the shots of the gods swaggering before the faceless masses smack of colonialism and white supremacy.

    They should rename it Cultural Appropriation: The Movie. No, wait. Cultural Appropriation: The CG Bonanza With a Needlessly Convoluted Yet Somehow Still Stale Plot.

  16. says

    Will they have the bit where the creator god Atum masturbates the cosmos into existence? Or the bit where the contest between Set and Horus over who gets to rule Egypt devolves into an argument over who sodomised who, and lettuces? Or Isis and Her Amazing Talking Scorpions? Because Egyptian myths, like a lot of ancient myths, are… odd.

  17. says

    vucodlak @ 14:

    Not only are they mostly white actors, but all the gods appear to male. Because there are no important goddesses in Egyptian mythology. Certainly none who outwitted Set time and again.

    Or who forced the sun god into giving her his secret Name in return for an antidote to cobra venom. Isis was badass.

  18. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    Is this movie ambiented in Westeros? No, it’s not. It’s fucking Egypt, isn’t it? I seem to recall there’s an actual, real Egypt from which the mythologies loosely portrayed in this aberration come from. It has pyramids and shit, and there’s a lot of sand around, however there’s a distinct lack of sequoyas, koalas or people eating reindeer. I even think people live in this Egypt place…people who are overwhelmingly not white.
    We even have data of what the people who created and believed this mythology looked like, what their rulers believed to be gods looked like…and it wasn’t slavic, or celt. It’s not PURE fantasy…the myths are, the culture that created them and the geographical area where they are set, most absolutely aren’t.

  19. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    Somehow i think we’d never hear the same excuses if a mainstream movie came out about Nordic gods portrayed in its entirety by native south americans. Hey, it’s pure fantasy, man!

  20. rq says

    Isis? Ma’at? Bastet? Considering the Egyptians had a thing for cats, and that cats are pretty bad-ass, they could have given her something to do – they’re mangling the mythology anyway, why not? There’s plenty more that could use some screen-time. You’d think in a Set vs. Horus piece, Isis at least would have some prominent role somewhere in there. Being wife, mother and sister, after all…
    Anyway. I always thought that portraying the Egyptian pantheon #NeedsMoreWhitePeople. :P This should do it.

  21. Great American Satan says

    Sometimes I see the horde go berserk on somebody who seems mildly foolish. Other times… This thread does not have nearly enough berserk to match the foolery on display. On one level, I can see the “cheesy fun ridiculous fx maybe i see it” point of view, but on another, hell no. Hollywood has done too much of this crap for too long and this is the exact wrong moment in history to be giving it a pass on any level. I will not see this whitewashed horseshit any more than I would have watched the whitewashed Stonewall.

  22. says

    They love to whitewash the Egyptians because they cannot help to admit that ancient Egypt was badass. And you cannot have black people create something badass, therefore they must be white.

    I wouldn’t get atheist smug. We’ve just demonstrated again we’re not much better at doing diversity…

  23. kevinalexander says

    I saw The Ten Commandments. The Egyptians used to be all white– but that was before the Arab invasion which happened because Obama.

  24. tkreacher says

    jheartney #15

    I sense a certain naïveté in these calls for an ethnically accurate cast. Bear in mind that a movie of this type needs to get greenlit before it can be made, and all that CGI doesn’t come free. Before they commit, the film’s investors will want some name actors in place to procure the first batches of butts for opening night seats (and after as well). Casting the production with nonwhite unknowns pretty much assures the picture won’t get made.

    Not that I see why anyone cares; this is obviously a pure fantasy project anyway. You might as well complain that the population of Westeros isn’t portrayed accurately in Game of Thrones. Accurate to what?

    Jesus christ the causal privilege.

    I mean, literally saying “nonwhites don’t sell as well, see”, while explaining to me how “naive” I am to this, and all to tell me how it is no big deal – just the way it is, see – and that why would I care anyway because fucking like Hogwarts, Egypt isn’t real… or something.

    Fuck you.

  25. Dunc says

    They love to whitewash the Egyptians because they cannot help to admit that ancient Egypt was badass. And you cannot have black people create something badass, therefore they must be white.

    Whatever you do, don’t mention the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty

  26. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    Cast one woman in a role that isn’t “historically accurate”. The internet looses its mind.
    Cast one black man in the role of a previously white character. The internet looses its mind.
    Whitewash the fuck out of a movie. Well, it’s all pure fantasy anyway you guys…

  27. Lesbian Catnip says

    I was going to eat healthy today and now you’ve gone and irritated my poutine muscle. Thanks PZ.

  28. Vivec says

    I never got the “cinema veterans are better than competent unknowns” thing.

    If I see Tom Cruise, or Russel Crowe in a movie, I can’t help but see “Tom Cruise playing _____” instead of the character. They’re distinctive and it breaks the suspension of disbelief for me almost instantly.

    Some character actors can get away with it, sure, but when I saw that trailer, my only thought was “Oh shit it’s Leonidas and Jaime Lannister.”

    Compare, say, District 9. Say what you want about the quality of it, but I bought the lead more than any other recent movie, because I had no idea who he was. I could see “Timid Johannesburg Pencil Pusher” because I had no existing image of Sharlto Copley outside of the film.

    As far as I’m concerned, even if the whitewashed cast wasn’t a problem, I’d still think that a cast of unknowns would provide a quantifiably better film.

  29. cartomancer says

    Watching this, it seemed a little bit different to the usual “Hollywood whitewashed Classical kitsch” films. I recalled the remade Clash of the Titans and 300, and it still seemed different in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then I thought about it a bit and I think I know why.

    Thing is, the traditional European / colonialist approach to Egypt is NOT “they’re just like us, so lets present them as white people”. Traditionally (and this is from Herodotus onward) the Egyptians have been presented as an exaggeratedly exotic people who are very much not like us. Egypt has mystique and weirdness. It’s a land of exotic magics and strange cults and art and architecture entirely unlike what we do. Which is why Cleopatra VII has invariably become the exotic foreign temptress archetype, rather than the highly educated and capable ruler she actually was (and Cleopatra VII was largely Greek in ancestry!). Unlike how we’ve always seen the Greeks and Romans as proto-Englishmen, Frenchmen and Americans, we’ve never really done that to Egypt before. Oh, the Taylor/Burton Cleopatra film has some little of that with its white Cleopatra, but she is still exoticised to a significant degree. Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep in The Mummy was distinctly more European than he should have been (Imhotep being a real person and all), but he was still presented as some exotic foreign stereotype with peculiar motivations and funny ethnic ways.

    I’m not saying this makes Gods of Egypt any better, or that the ethncity of its cast isn’t problematic. But I also wonder whether an “ethnically accurate” cast (and the ethnic mix of Egypt several millennia BC was not the same as it is now) would not have its own problems. The exoticisation of other ethnicities is itself a kind of colonial exploitation. The plot and stylings of the film are also very non-traditional. It’s basically an American superhero film. Would ethnically authentic actors be a little jarring there? Perhaps, perhaps not. I can certainly see that actors of middle-eastern origin in the kinds of very American roles we are used to seeing Americans in (these superhero type roles) might be a powerful statement that American culture is open to all… but it could also be viewed as a kind of cultural imperialism in its own right. In some ways the very non-traditional stylings and the non-accurate ethnicity of the actors go hand in hand.

    It’s also not quite the same as if the culture in question were an extant, living, thriving culture. Modern Egypt has an interesting relationship with its ancient past, but the gods and myths that this film plays on are not cornerstones of Egyptian cultural identity anymore. They’re certainly not central to the religious practices of modern Egyptians, any more than the Celtic gods are to the modern Irish or the Greek gods are to the modern Greeks. Indeed, there is a certain complicity among modern Egyptians in exploiting their ancient culture to attract tourists (though their ancient counterparts were guilty of that too, even as they actually did venerate their gods). It’s not entirely unproblematic, because there is still some association between the modern people and the ancient culture, but the power dynamics are not nearly the same when the cultural appropriation is done to an ancient culture that no longer has any representatives to feel exploited.

    So, this actually raises quite a few issues.

  30. quotetheunquote says

    Well, that does look completely GOD-awful, yes. As bad as 300? Hmmm, based on just the trailers, a toss-up, so far.

    What really makes me despair is that this trash could (probably will) make a truckload of money.

    (And what really grates on me is how unbelievably awful and trite the score is – does Hollywood just have an computer somewhere that churns out action-move music? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.)

  31. says

    The music in film trailers often isn’t music from the film itself, as the film music often isn’t complete when the trailer is released.

    It’s interesting to compare the casting to Spike’s Tut miniseries from earlier this year. They seem to have tried a bit harder than the makers of this film did, which isn’t saying much.

  32. Vivec says

    Can’t say I’ve ever seen it. The first movie I ever saw with Bruce Willis was 5th element, so that one was the most believable role for me. After that, I just started seeing “That guy from 5th element as ______” instead of whatever character he was playing.

  33. Arawhon, So Tired of Everything says

    Pierce R. Butler @ 13

    The Last Witch Hunter is actually a movie written specifically about an old D&D character of Vin Diesel’s but set into a modern context. He is literally living every D&D nerd’s greatest dream of having their character put into a movie. There is absolutely no connection towards that pustule of humanity Theodore Beale.

  34. says

    Give Moonlighting a try. It’s a very quirky detective show that descends into madness in its last session.

    Bruce Willis has been playing “stoic monotone badass” since he starred in Die Hard, with only a few exceptions like Death Becomes Her.

  35. Pierce R. Butler says

    Arawhon… @ # 42 – Thanks for the clarification!

    A great relief to know the “Voice o’ God” has no pull in Hollywood.

  36. rq says

    @43 (and others on Bruce Willis)
    Ever since I saw him in Hudson Hawk (a movie that, eight years ago, I had no idea existed), I can’t take him seriously anymore. Even at his most serious.

  37. bob9 says

    This looks like a pretty standard blockbuster. no worse than some of the so-called sciency ones, like ‘The day after tomorrow’. Imagine how boring the cinema would be, without mythology. We’d have to watch thoughtful dramas about ordinary people coping with the everyday realities of life. Nobody wants that.

    Regarding the cast being white-
    Ancient Eygptians weren’t black, so having an all-black cast would be as inaccurate as an all-white cast.
    They were kind of brown, so what you’d really need is a middle-eastern or maybe indian cast. Sendhil Ramamurthy could be Horus.

    It doesn’t matter so much if the gods are shown as white, because anicient Egyptians didn’t show most of them as human anyway. Horus, for instance, was always shown as a bird or with a hawk’s head. So if you’re departing from how ancient Egyptians showed them anyway, what’s another change? Set has never been depicted by the ancient Egyptians as fully human.

    Also a lot of them were shapeshifters. If Set can turn into a hippo or a fish, he can certainly turn into a white man.

    For Set it would make the most sense for him to be white, or a least visibly different from the rest of the cast, because he was considered the God of foreigners, after being associated with an invading dynasty who took him as their patron god. If it was up to me, I’d make him a redhead too.

    In terms of cultural appropriation, some of the Egyptian gods were worshipped in Greece, Rome, and as far away as Britain, so in some sense they are european Gods too. White Isis was a pretty common sight in Rome. You might say that’s the wrong way to portray her, but who gets to judge that? Her roman worshippers were just as sincere and all her original worshippers are dead. As far as I know, there’s not a big neo-pagan movement in Egypt, and the people who hold the ancient Egyptian gods sacred now are black, white, brown and all sorts.

    Beside which, it’s a mathematical certainty that all Europeans are descended from any of the ancient Egyptians who had children, so it’s white people’s ancestral heritage too.

    I’m just glad a film about these stories is getting made. Hopefully it will get popular and fuel a craze for all things ancient Egyptiany.

    I think Isis does appear in the trailer, advising horus. A shame she doesn’t have a bigger part, she could use some good pr.

  38. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re Bruce Willis:
    M Night Shyamalan’s 2nd movie (also with Willis, like 6th Sense) was Unbreakable, an interesting deconstruction of the nascent superhero comic book tropes soon to infect Marvel Studios productions. Personally, Die Hard, et al, was … ugh. Armageddon never happened. *mic drop*

  39. Rowan vet-tech says

    For all the people NOT complaining about the whitewashing, because *fantasy*! ….. Do they not remember the absolute shitstorm over the fact that Heimdall is played by Idris Elba? Because I remember that shitstorm of “But the Norse gods are WHITE OMG SO NOT ACCURATE!!!!”

  40. microraptor says

    Rowan vet-tech @49: And that was followed by idiotic claims that the movie producers made a translation mistake and thought some text somewhere said Heimdall was “dark skinned” but it was really a Norse euphemism for a homosexual. Which ignored that A) they were basing it off the comic book character who’s neither dark skinned nor gay, and B) they cast Idris Elba because he’s Idris F-ing Elba!

  41. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @50:
    sounds like the more recent sh~tstorm over similar casting of Santa (in advert posters) as a POC. Not just outrage at being nontraditional, but claims of unrealistic.
    To which I often hear (in my head): ORLY???
    Also, a recent shhhtstorm over consideration (ie mild proposal) of casting Spiderman with a POC actor. It’s amazing how pieces of fantasy become embedded into a single form of personification, often with licensing, copyright and trademark legalities as backing.

  42. John Horstman says

    Literally every second of that trailer fills me with sadness.

    On the plus side, I just remembered how much fun I had playing Senet as a kid; I should dig out the playset I have somewhere.

  43. What a Maroon, oblivious says

    bob9 @47,

    That thing that just flew over your head? It was the point. Jump higher next time and you might get it.

    To lay it out clearly, if you’re making a movie and you have several roles for which race doesn’t matter, and all those roles happen to go to white people, you’re doing something wrong. And for that matter, if you’re making a movie and race matters for all the roles, and all those roles go to white people, you’re probably doing something wrong as well.

    (With a few edits, this can apply to gender as well.)

  44. Gregory Greenwood says

    Well, that looks so bad that it just might be… nope, sorry, this can only be really, really bad at this point. Hollywood seems to be fundamentally incapable of doing influential forms of mythology any kind of justice, and as noted by other commenters having a film whose story is drawn so clearly from a mishmash of ancient Egyptian mythology be populated with such an overwhelming White caste is just another nail in its coffin.

  45. Owlmirror says

    Oh, that’s not spam, really (it is godbotting, absolutely). I use myself; it has pretty good search and language functions.

    In fact, I think I’ll use the site to make fun of the drive-by.

    Hey! His servitude! You did your godbotting wrong. God has more than one son; see Genesis 6:2 (KJV) “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair;“; Job 1:6 (KJV) “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD” ; and for that matter, Luke 3:38 (KJV) “which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.“.

    I know that the line in the KJV actually runs “…only begotten Son…”, of course, and that other translations of “monogenê” contradict the plain reading of the lines in the bible that state or imply that God has sons who were not begotten.