Saturday, May 18, 2024

Was Cleopatra as White as the Actresses Who’ve Played Her?

*After reports surfaced that Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie are being considered to play Cleopatra in a new biopic, a debate erupted on Twitter over what the Egyptian queen really looked like.

Per vox.com:

Historically, white actresses such as Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, and, most famously, Elizabeth Taylor have portrayed Cleopatra. The thinking during Hollywood’s Golden Age seemed to be that kohl eyeliner and a black wig was all it took to transform any white woman into the Queen of the Nile.

But the long history of shutting out actresses of color from contention has proven offensive to people of color who believe the queen was not white.

Historians have long pushed what many consider a myth that Cleopatra was a Greek woman. But in 2009, as noted in the Vox report, a team of archaeologists found the remains of a woman believed to be Cleopatra’s sister, Princess Arsinoe. The researchers determined that the remains, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that their mother was African.

“That Arsinoe had an African mother is a real sensation which leads to a new insight on Cleopatra’s family and the relationship of the sisters Cleopatra and Arsinoe,” Hilke Thuer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who made the discovery, said at the time.

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Cleopatra

Egyptologist Sally Ann Ashton previously used forensics to create a 3D computer animated image of Cleopatra, which depicted her as a brown-skinned woman with cornrows.

“She probably wasn’t just completely European,” Ashton remarked at the time. “You’ve got to remember that her family had actually lived in Egypt for 300 years by the time she came to power.”

Ashton’s composite led NPR to ask its readers: “If Hollywood were to remake Cleopatra with this mixed-race image in mind, who would you like to see play the title role?”

While many will debate about the ancient queen’s ethnicity, historians agree that Cleopatra was hardly a beauty.

Per vox.com:

A coin featuring Cleopatra’s portrait, dated 32 BC, was discovered in 2007. The queen did not look like the stunning goddess Hollywood has long depicted her as. Instead, she had “a large nose, narrow lips and a sharp chin,” according to Smithsonian. The website noted that this was not an oversight of ancient historians, who never made the queen out to be breathtaking. Plutarch, for example, said of Cleopatra:

“Her actual beauty … was not so remarkable that none could be compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contact of her presence … was irresistible. … The character that attended all she said or did was something bewitching.”

Considering these various findings. how do you feel about white women white playing Cleopatra?

 

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