A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Everything I Know About Cleopatra I Learned From...

Everything I first found out about Cleopatra, I learned from reading Asterix and Cleopatra.
Well, I had to start somewhere...
It's the only Asterix story that I remember with any great affection. Off-hand, I can't say why. Perhaps it's the mystique of Cleo. Afterall, a powerful female figure of history is a rare thing. But it was very funny too especially the running gag about her nose.
But even as a naive schoolgirl with a voracious appeitite for reading, I maintained a healthy degree of skepticism about the content that I was being regaled with. Recently I was told by some extremely reliable architect friends that the illustrators behind the Asterix series have done impeccable research and produced some fairly accurate depictions of historical landmarks. As trustworthy as my friends are, I couldn't help feeling a general twinge of skepticism about any piece of fiction being a completely reliable source of information. When twaddle like The Da Vinci Code can become bestsellers, it doesn't really inspire confidence to a nitpicker like myself that writers of fiction will feel obligated to do proper research. No matter what people say about books of fiction being only fiction, there's a part of them that is hardwired to believe that anything in print must have some kind of foundation, no matter how feeble.

Remember that monster of a movie, Cleopatra, (that almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox) starring Liz Taylor and sometimes husband, Richard Burton? I have a hazy memory of it. I tried watching it once but perhaps due to my youthful wilfulness, I thought it was rather dull and gave up after twenty minutes.
Well apparently Hollywood is feeling rather brave (why I'm not sure because it's certainly not reaping great results at the box office) and wants to have another shot at it. Oh yeah... and the rumour is that Angelina Jolie is the frontrunner to play the famous queen of Egypt.

It's a no brainer why... Jolie is a big name, well-known for playing tough icy women and apparently men find all of her nice to look at. A good business decision, whatever else one might think of Jolie as a person or an actor.

But there are detractors... as there usually are with these things... because, according to these special interest groups, Angelina is not quite darkly complected enough to play Cleo. Because... Cleopatra was a queen of Egypt and Egypt is in Africa and according to this logic, all Africans are of dark complexion.

Now, I was quite aware that the standard of journalism in free societies has deteriorated over the years to an all-time low of late but it amused me that the CNN article that I referenced earlier garnered 1 693 responses and most of them (I haven't read all of them. I think I stopped at five hundred and something.) had better knowledge of history than the sites that CNN linked to. According to the Wikipedia,

Cleopatra VII Philopator (in Greek, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; (Late 69 BC[1] – August 12, 30 BC) was the last person to rule Egypt as an Egyptian pharaoh – after she died, Egypt became a Roman province.
She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt. Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she also married, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name. [...]
Though Cleopatra bore the ancient Egyptian title of pharaoh, the Ptolemaic dynasty was Hellenistic, having been founded 300 years before by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general of Alexander the Great.[3][4][5][6] As such, Cleopatra's language was the Greek spoken by the Hellenic aristocracy, though she was reputed to be the first ruler of the dynasty to learn Egyptian. She also adopted common Egyptian beliefs and deities. Her patron goddess was Isis, and thus, during her reign, it was believed that she was the re-incarnation and embodiment of the goddess of wisdom. Her death marked the end of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Hellenistic period and the beginning of the Roman era in the eastern Mediterranean.

This is why I find affirmative action quite ludicrous... it's a form of racism under a veneer of so-called equal opportunity.

Also, I'm not sure why Hollywood is perceived as a purveyor of High Art. This kind of misguided elitism only leads to the industry becoming politicized and taking itself too seriously. And when that happens, their films became dull, lifeless commodities. Which they have.
In the old days, Hollywood knew what it did best... a production line for escapist fare.
And yet even so, the old studio system gave us all of the best Biblical epics. Wonder why that is?

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post. So, are they making a new movie on Cleopatra? Wow. Um, I think part of the problem of HW is they seem to wreck things for the sake of sales... eg sex etc. Hello, you know you CAN do a good movie without people being naked all the time.

    Really interesting points you have raised here


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