Identity politics ruins everything — by design.

JEFF JACOBY: Outrage over Gal Gadot portraying Cleopatra gets the history wrong — and flies in the face of what acting is meant to accomplish.

Though the identity of Cleopatra’s mother has never been definitively established, there is no doubt that Cleopatra was regarded as Greek. Egypt today is the most populous Arab country, but there was nothing Arab about it in Cleopatra’s day: The Arab conquest of North Africa occurred six centuries after her death.

The indigenous people of Egypt are the Copts, who still exist as a persecuted minority in their homeland; to the extent that any of Cleopatra’s lineage was native, it was probably Coptic. Her image on contemporaneous coins shows a woman of Mediterranean appearance. “The best evidence is that she was three-quarters Macedonian Greek and one-quarter Egyptian,” writes historian and archaeologist Duane Roller of Ohio State University. Applying today’s labels, Cleopatra would be considered Middle Eastern. Just like Gadot, whose father is a sixth-generation Israeli.

But leave all that aside. Assume for the sake of argument that Cleopatra and Gadot are from two wholly different racial/ethnic categories. Why should that matter?

The notion that dramatic roles must go only to actors who check the same demographic box as the people they portray may line up with progressive identity politics, but it flies in the face of what acting is. Actors pretend. They embody characters and bring them to life.

Great acting doesn’t depend on whether the race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, color, or physical condition of actors matches that of the character they are depicting. It depends on whether the actors can surmount such considerations — whether they can make their portrayals so believable, so compelling, that audiences see not the actor, but the character.

 

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h/t Ed