Exodus: Gods and Kings has everyone talking, and it isn’t even out yet (it hits theaters tomorrow). The reason? Because of its all-white top-billed cast, which director Ridley Scott is making no apologies for. On casting Christian Bale as Moses, Scott told Variety: “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.” Real smooth of Scott to defend a racist movie with a racist answer. The cast is rounded out by Joel Edgerton as Ramses, Sigourney Weaver as Tuya, John Turturro as Seti, and Aaron Paul as Joshua. Exodus isn’t the first movie to use white actors as stand-ins for the rest of the human race, nor is it the first racist big-budget flick ever made (let alone their first racist movie Scott ever made). It’s actually in very recognizable company. Here are the 10 most racist blockbusters of all time.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Scott has been under some fire recently for his complete whitewashing of his new film, but, uh, maybe he just doesn’t know what people from certain areas of the world actually look like? In his 2001 film Black Hawk Down, he cast African-Americans as Somalis. If you’re unfamiliar, African-Americans don’t look like Somalis, and they were demonized as a bloodthirsty mob who had no reason to attack U.S. Army Rangers. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)
When most people recall Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’s sequel, they often remember it fondly, with a crazed Jim Carrey at his comedic best. But have you watched it recently? It’s racist overtones are impossible to miss. Ace travels to Africa to become a white savior and find an albino bat, to be used in a marriage proposal, so two tribes don’t go to war. In the process, he often mocks the cultures of the tribes. Now, that’s a family film.
The Planet of the Apes (1968)
It’s not hard to spot the racism in The Planet of the Apes. Fans of the movie will argue that there’s a deep hidden meaning, one in which white people try to experience what it must be like for people of color, living in fear of another race. Sort of like the Civil Rights movement, when black people were forced to be separated from the “superior” whites. But, uh, why does it have to be monkeys? White people don’t only live in fear of the apes, but light-skinned apes boss around huge dark-skinned ones. There’s no stretch of the imagination here: You’re on Earth, and it’s been racist all along. It’s no surprise that people like Glenn Beck spout out hate like, “Obama’s America is Planet of the Apes.”
With 3D glasses on, a lot of cinema-goers were ready to roll with Avatar. The art of the film was beautiful, its imagery breathtaking, it’s storyline… racist? There were a few uncomfortable moments where people had to ask themselves, “Was that maybe not OK?” Take for example the fact that the Na’vi, whose leader is played by a woman of color (Zoe Saldana), have mannerisms more akin to beasts than civilized creatures. They travel by plugging their appendages into whatever creature they’re trying to tame, the same action they practice during intercourse. Toward the end of the film, when the white villain asks the white paraplegic Marine turned 9-foot-tall blue alien, “How’s it feel to betray your own race?” most people were like, “Ah, no, we just helped a pretty racist white savior movie become the most profitable film ever made.”
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
In the recent trailer of the new Star Wars film, the first shot is a black man as a stormtrooper. And people lost their minds. #blackstormtrooper was trending on Twitter, and some haters were not shy about sharing their views on the subject. Maybe we should revisit The Phantom Menace, with one of the most hated characters of all time, Jar Jar Binks. The character is reminiscent of the often criticized act of Stepin’ Fetchit, the stage name of Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, a comedian who used African-American stereotypes to create his character, “The Laziest Man in the World.” Lucas combined that with Jamaican stereotypes, but tried to cover it up by making him orange.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
There are a lot of complaints about J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. There are no women and every character is white except evil Black Orcs. It’s understandable that he’s created an entire fantasy world, with races, like Hobbits and Elves, but everyone is white because he created the story to be a mythological history for England. The problem is, it is a fantasy world, and Peter Jackson easily could have cast people of color. Fans are supposed to believe in dragons, but casting a black or brown man as a Hobbit is completely impossible?
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Jesus is white, apparently, and the Jews take a lot of pleasure watching him suffer for the sins of mankind. Like, seriously, they love watching Jesus get beaten and hung up on a cross. Oh, and it was directed by Mel Gibson, so, you know, if you think it’s anti-Semitism at work, you’re probably right.
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
When the film was released, it shattered box office records. That’s disturbing, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s original title was “The Clansmen,” it didn’t use black actors, but simply had white people in blackface, as unintelligent caricatures, and their only mission in life was to sleep with white women. Even worse? It was used as a recruitment tool for the KKK. In the film, set after the civil war, black men entered congress to pass laws that allowed interracial marriages and forced white people to salute black people in office. The KKK rolled into town, crosses burning, and lynched people; the KKK was the hero of the film.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]