Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Cleopatra sparks controversy

An announcement from Warner Brothers Studios stating Israeli actress Gal Gadot would portray Queen Cleopatra in an upcoming film triggered angry reactions from social media users on Sunday.

After a months-long conflict between Warner Bros. and Netflix over which company would get rights to the film, Warner Bros. secured the film and made the announcement about Gadot.

Immediately, a storm of controversy erupted on Twitter and other social media platforms. Arabs, Egyptians, and fans of the historically famous queen weighed in on the studio’s decision.

Many users criticized the choice because of Gadot’s features, noting the actress’s white skin and stating that Cleopatra had African features. 

The anger of the first group of users was met with mockery by other users who pointed out that Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek origin, as many statues that depict her features prove that opinion.

Historians weighed in, stating that Cleopatra was likely not brown in complexion due to her Mediterranean origins, and users who defended Gadot as a good choice to embody the character relied on that opinion.

“People are upset because Gal Gadot, who isn’t black, is playing Cleopatra, who wasn’t black either,” one said sarcastically.

Another group of users ignored the Gadot’s features and rather criticized her politics. Gadot has, in the past, made clear on social media that she is pro-Israeli Defense Force and supports the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

For her part, Gadot said: “As you might have heard I teamed up with @PattyJenks and @LKalogridis to bring the story of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, to the big screen in a way she’s never been seen before. To tell her story for the first time through women’s eyes, both behind and in front of the camera.”

A number of actresses from different ethnic backgrounds have previously portrayed the famous queen’s character, the most prominent of which being American actress Elizabeth Taylor, in the movie “Cleopatra”, co-starring with Richard Burton.

Cleopatra was the daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy XII, and she succeeded him as queen in 51 BC. She was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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