Around the time it became clear the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t going away and that much of the world was stuck inside waiting out the viral spread, Gal Gadot and several other celebs put out a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” that didn’t land well.
Gal Gadot just addressed that genuinely awkward moment, defending it by saying it “came from the best place.” Better late than never, but it’s interesting to note she chose to say something now when she has become the subject of another controversy—her casting as the title character in an upcoming Patty Jenkins (Gadot’s Wonder Woman director) production of Cleopatra.
The gist of the criticism is just that—Gadot is not Egyptian, nor is she even from the continent of Africa.
Then again, many scholars might say Cleopatra wasn’t an Egyptian herself. Newsweek reports:
The debate about what exactly Cleopatra looked like isn’t really a new one. Shakespeare dramatically described her beauty, while ancient artwork often depicts her as rather plain. A coin discovered in 2007 from 32BC depicts her as somewhat homely. On the big screen, she’s been played most notably by white women–and glamorous ones, at that: Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, and, most memorable of all, Elizabeth Taylor.
Of the matter of her ethnicity, there is still quite a bit of debate. “Cleopatra VII was white—of Macedonian descent, as were all of the Ptolemy rulers, who lived in Egypt,” said Kathryn Bard, Professor of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Boston University.
Gadot is an Ashkenazi Jew with a mix of western European ancestry, and one defense of her casting seems to be that technically speaking, Cleopatra herself was essentially white.
However, Newsweek also interviewed Dr. Sally-Ann Ashton, an Egyptologist who has theorized that Cleopatra did indeed have African blood after discovering the remains of her sister, Princess Arsinoe, and determining she had an African father.
Dr. Ashton wasn’t too enthused about Gadot playing the mysterious queen, saying “filmmakers should have considered an actor of mixed ancestry to play the role of Cleopatra and that this would have been a valid choice.”
On Twitter, there was a clear divide between those offended:
And those who thought it was much ado about nothing:
Apologies for “Imagine” aside, maybe it’s time Gal Gadot released another cover song performed with her famous friends to further distract from this dust-up.
Just leave the Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian” off the song list.