There is a huge firestorm brewing over the casting choice for the upcoming movie, Cleopatra: A Life. The role is going to Angelina Jolie…duh…best choice on Earth. Sure beats her taking on the role of Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz remake, that’s for sure. So now we are embroiled in a politically correct hub-bub by Essence magazine contributing writer, Shirea Carroll. She by Shirea is up in arms that the role of Cleopatra is going, yet again, to a white actress, in the tradition of Elizabeth Taylor, Claudette Colbert and Vivien Leigh. Ms. Carroll had this to say:
“I don’t care how full Angelina Jolie’s lips are, how many African children she adopts, or how bronzed her skin will become for the film.” She later added, “I firmly believe this role should have gone to a Black woman. What’s next? A biopic on Sojourner Truth played by Betty White?”
My, what an intelligent point of view and such a sophisticated way to make your point. Don’t get me wrong, I think Zoe Saldana would be a great choice as well. And there is no doubt in my mind that producer, Scott Rudin was presented with Zoe on a short list. But, considering the amount of money this film will cost, there is no doubt that Angelina is the clear choice as she has a better chance for stronger opening. And not because she is white…rather, just because, which is the only real answer to what makes one person a star and another a superstar. Yes, Halle Berry is an interesting choice, except frankly, she is too old. Cleopatra died when she was thirty-nine and Halle is over forty. (Yes, Hollywood is that cruel to women of a “certain” age.) In her diatribe, Ms. Carroll also suggests Vanessa Williams, who, as much as we love her camp qualities, is so wrong for that part, that it devalues this writer’s point of view beyond some political correct race nonsense.
Alas, I keep forgetting that we are knee-deep in an era of political correctness to the point of ad nauseum. And now that Barack Obama is President, writers for Essence magazine such as She by Shirea Carroll have become the touchstone of what is appropriate for the new world…which includes film casting. In researching Cleopatra, there is no definitive proof of her race or ethnicity because they are not sure who her mother was. And considering all the inbreeding of that ancient crowd, I am surprised she didn’t have three legs and two vaginas (which could be why so many men wanted her). Meanwhile, there is evidence that Cleopatra was not, in fact, the great beauty that pop culture has depicted her to be. Archeologists have excavated coins with her likeness where she is actually the opposite of a great beauty. Based on that, who would Ms. Carroll suggest to be cast in the role of Cleopatra then? I am sure no one would want to touch that one with a ten-foot pole. Or, perhaps she would just prefer that Hollywood skip the remake of Cleopatra altogether and leap right into updating Cleopatra Jones, that cultural icon of the 1970′s. Hey, while we are at it, why not remake a bunch of those Blaxpoitation films too, only less “ploitation” and more Tyler Perry. Surely that would make her day.
SIDEBAR: How come Shirea Carroll is not pointing out the insensitivity of Hollywood by casting the white, Swedish actor, Walter Oland as Charlie Chan and the white Louise Rainer, as O-Lan in Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. And while I am at it, exactly what is her position on the recent controversy about gays being cast at straight people? I would love for her to chime in on that…though I am afraid I already know where she stands on that.