Why Nefertiti Doesn’t Want To Be A White Woman With Awful Makeup, Waiting to Utter Her One-Liner in a Comedy Special
The nasty habit of “Whitewashing” is alive and well
Excerpt from the announcement by PRNewswire:
In a historic forensic reconstruction project, Travel Channel is revealing the face of King Tut’s mother for the first time. The groundbreaking endeavor will be featured in a two-part special of the network’s hit series “Expedition Unknown” with Josh Gates, airing on Wednesday, February 7 and February 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The extraordinary sculpture provides an accurate depiction of her appearance in life and bolsters the theory that the 3,400-year-old mummy of King Tut’s biological mother, nicknamed the “Younger Lady,” is also Queen Nefertiti.
I’m no historian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do recall having a healthy appetite for the Boer Wars — and being impressed by the remarkable faithfulness of Usman dan Fodio. But, when it comes to Egyptian folklore or the ability to accurately manifest the strategic angles of past kingdoms that played host to “one of the world’s ancient states” — I’m just as ill-equipped as anyone who is endearingly fascinated — but unable to deny or confirm the ceaselessly eye-popping discoveries.
However, during my impressionable years — I was able to recognize how weird it was to watch Elizabeth Taylor playing the role of Cleopatra in a movie that was so long that we were always forced to speed to the ending by hitting the forward button. Cleopatra — like most revered historical figures — was a legendary beauty and in order for 20th Century-Fox to pay homage — they had to secure the most gorgeous woman in the world. Back in the sixties — the studio system only recognized the viability of White actresses — with no flexibility allowed.
Not much has changed since then — but in those days casting White actors and actresses in roles they were not born to play was a nasty habit that was rarely challenged.
It embarrassingly took me until adulthood to realize that the dude who played the King of Siam in my favorite musical — The King and I — was actually Swiss-German and Russian with a tiny bit of Mongol ancestry. The makeup he donned in the film definitely did the trick.
And then there was West Side Story and the horror of identifying the fact that a White actress played the role of a Puerto Rican while real Puerto Ricans like Rita Moreno had to give performances of a lifetime to hide the disgust of having to pretend that Natalie Woods was one of them. Of course the irony is that Moreno was forced to undergo a similar ritual — years before — when she was cast as the Burmese wife — Tuptim in The King and I.
When it comes to the accurate representation of ethnic groups — Hollywood has never held back it’s disdain for the real thing. The preferred default has always been White talent and even after all these years — there is no indication that the practice of Whitewashing for the defilement of authenticity will ever be eradicated.
Back in 2015 — Cameron Crowe’s god-awful movie Aloha — weathered warranted controversy when La La Land actress Emma Stone was commissioned to play the role of Allison Ng — who boasts both Hawaiian and Asian heritage. Stone — who has enjoyed the privilege of a trajectory that is only afforded to actresses who resemble her aesthetic — responded to the critics in a manner befitting someone of her status:
“The character was not supposed to look like her background which was a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese.”
But before poorly defending her casting, she at least had the decency to stay this:
“I’ve learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is. It’s ignited a conversation that’s very important.”
The conversation was already “ignited” way before millions of dollars was wasted on a lackluster romantic comedy that was greenlit based solely on the star power of White talent. But it’s not the “talking about the shit” that matters — but rather the outrageousness of casting Nordic-looking actors to portray Egyptians in films like Gods of Egypt and Exodus: Gods and Kings.
And that brings us to the latest nonsensical preview of what is supposed to be Queen Nefertiti in her most primal outfit. And yet we can’t escape the naggingly confusing visual that seems to match the image of a White woman with a terrifically bad makeup job — who annoyingly can’t wait to spew out her one-liner in a comedy special she booked at the last minute.
Nefertiti may have been astoundingly beautiful or that assumption could be due to the fantastical tendencies that usually infect factual recordings. Either way basic geography and the weightiness of a richly defined heritage — dictates that her physical attributes couldn’t have matched anything that resembles what the Travel Channel is excitedly distributing with shameless glee.
It’s hard to truly figure out how or why this is being heralded with such gusto when there’s clearly a glaring snag in presentation — but it certainly echos the never-ending issue with Whitewashing — that seems to maintain its value as the global currency of choice when attempting to elevate the value of notable figures or historical references.
In the meantime — the look on the “face of the moment” — says it all.