“Moon Night” and the future of Egyptian representation in Western media


“Moon Night” and the future of Egyptian representation in Western media

Illustration reproduced with permission of the author.

The advent of Disney’s “Moon Knight” (2022) came with the realization that I was the “Egyptian friend” of many people. I received a number of text messages asking for my opinion on the latest Marvel release. That’s right: they all know I’m taking the opportunity to discuss Egyptian representation in the media.

Were you excited when you first heard that Disney was developing a program on ‘Moon Knight’? No, but it’s because I did not know who the superhero was. However, after doing research and discovering that the story includes elements from ancient Egyptian mythology, I was cautiously excited. The depiction of ancient Egyptian myths in movies has always intrigued me, but I am often disappointed that Hollywood continues to whiten. Once I found out that Mohamed Diab would be the lead director, I got myself very excited.

I had just returned from Egypt when Moon Knight started broadcasting. I refrained from watching it until “My Second Homecoming” was over. Honestly, I was right to worry about feeling nostalgic. In the third episode, as the story travels from London to Cairo, we immerse ourselves in a refreshingly accurate depiction of contemporary Egypt. Cairo appears to be the capital as it is, rather than an aggressive reimagining of Ajraba. It’s impressive how they made Budapest look like Cairo, as she could not take the photo.

The remaining episodes, especially three and six, are filled with many references to modern Egyptian culture: a mixture of Old and New World, the souk, sellers of licorice and tamarind juice, the Cairo Tower, a felucca ride on the Nile is interrupted by the sound of canoes. It was a pleasure to watch. I was virtually shocked when I found out, according to Diab, 90% of the Egyptian roles in “Moon Knight” were given to Egyptian actors.

It’s big.

Often in Hollywood, Egyptian roles are given to actors of foreign (especially European) origin without worrying about historical accuracy and rather of attracting more box office. Diab and writer and producer Sarah Gohar worked to ensure that authentic Egyptian photography was at the forefront, a goal they achieved by using many Egyptian voices. Egyptian talent is woven into the fabric of ‘Moon Knight’: as part of the cast, editors, including Ahmed Hafez, brought in the soundtrack that used songs by Egyptian artists as well as a score by composer Hisham Nazih, and added extras and team . the set to help build a hero’s world The new Marvel. It is clear that a large part of Diab’s target audience was Egyptians in Egypt and the diaspora.

The writers, Diab and Gohar, created an opportunity for more Egyptian representation by rewriting Spector’s love interest as an Egyptian character: Laila Abdullah Al-Fouly, played by Mai Kalamawi.

There is always a debate between the faithful commitment to the sources and their updating to tell a more recent and often more diverse story. Despite the sadness of some hardcore fans, there are real benefits to such changes, and Laila is an excellent example of this. Leila quickly became my favorite character on the show. She is lively, smart, connects to the Spector when needed, and can withstand fights. Not to mention his version of stolen antiquities that made me – and I’m probably a number of Egyptians who had to pay to see Egyptian artifacts in non-Egyptian museums – clap their hands, “I’m not flying. already stolen.This is what people forget.

I was ready to throw pieces in the last episode when she agreed to become the avatar of the Egyptian goddess Taruit, but I only understood its meaning in a later scene.

After rescuing an Egyptian woman’s pickup truck, a girl looked at her in amazement and asked, “Are you an Egyptian superhero?” However, it should be noted that Arabic is a language with a grammatical gender, so a more accurate translation is: “Are you an Egyptian (female) superhero?” Laila replied, “I am.”

Laila is an Egyptian superhero who helps Egyptian women. What an incredibly powerful moment. Her character stands as a brilliant middle finger in the face of persistent stereotypes of North African and Middle Eastern women in Western media.

To paraphrase Echo Hellkinger, we can praise “Moon Knight” while pointing out where it failed. In fact, I have only one interest in Egyptian photography, which centers on the rooftop fight scene in Episode III between Spector and Amit’s three disciples.

Diab has the discomfort of Orientalism in previous films and has made it clear that he wants to avoid such problematic stereotypes in Moon Knight, so I was really surprised by this scene, because the three men who fought with Spector came to me as examples. of the “barbaric” orientalist. Arabic metaphor. The way they swung their knives seemed excessive and ridiculous to them. Even Spector shouted at them, saying, “What, shall we dance? Are we fighting? What shall we do?”

What struck the deal for me was the enlarged image of someone who looked like a pirate leaking his knife in the middle of a fight. We did not lose sight of the fact that the three bad guys were closely related, while Lily was not. Their skin was darker, and Lily was blond. The whole fight was probably supposed to be comical, but it made me check with some Egyptian friends to see if they shared my concerns – and they did.

What do I hope to see if we get a second season of ‘Moon Knight’, or Egyptian stories from Hollywood? Simple: more Egyptian representation.

Diab said he hopes to film parts of a possible second season in Egypt, which will be incredible. I’m pretty sure they will continue their practice of hiring Egyptian talents for Egyptian roles, but I would like to make one point about the appointment of Egyptian actors, especially in lead or lead roles, which is that it is important for them to be representative to be of the diversity of skin colors in Egypt.

Colored led to light Egyptians to dominate the entertainment world, both in Egyptian and Western media. In Egypt, it is slowly changing with the popularity of actors like Asmaa Abu Al-Yazid, Mahmoud Al-Lisi, Nancy Salah and Mohamed Ramadan, but there is still a long way to go. If we look at recent examples from the Western media, “In the Heights” (2021) and “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018) have been criticized for color problems due to the fact that they are largely non-Latin colored and have darker, brighter skin. Asian representation. On the other hand, the second season of Netflix’s “Bridgerton” (2022) was widely celebrated for choosing two black women of Indian descent as the heroine (something that even Bollywood is constantly criticized for avoiding).

Authentic Egyptian portrayal in the media can not and should not just celebrate light-colored Egyptians.

The hope is that all kinds of Egyptian creators will be hired, recognized, and above all, paid. Diab and Suheir are largely responsible for “Moon Knight” who gave this opportunity to many Egyptians, who affected a number of producers in the process.

Diab said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, expressed an interest in working with some of these Egyptian creators again. That’s very important. In the end, the Moon Knight’s real power lies in his position as a powerful example of why Egyptian stories should be told in various Egyptian voices, both in front of and behind the camera.

All opinions and views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To submit an opinion piece, please send an email [email protected]

Women, Art and Egypt by Jazbia Sri Paintings


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