Gods of Get a Grip
The following is an open letter to ALEX PROYAS, whom I do not know personally and whose prior works I have often enjoyed.
Dear Mr. Proyas.
I'm a Tv writer of primarily African descent. That means, in common parlance, a Black American writer of fantasy and science fiction.
While I'm not in your strata, earning-wise, neither am I some random civilian schmo following the opinions of film critics to determine my movie-going experiences or enjoyments. I'm not really sure that schmo exists. Critics do not determine box office. Civilian or pro, we mostly make our own decisions about what to see and what not to see. We are not lemmings, none of us.
I have, in fact, seen all of your work to date. Not because critics told me to, but because, till now, you were making product that i enjoyed and which tweaked my imagination in every good way. DARK CITY, especially, stands tall in my mental library of awesomeness. KNOWING, perhaps, not so tall.
In regards to GODS OF EGYPT and the recent public and critical backlash against it as well as your whining about that:
Stop whining. That's it. Just stop.
To paraphrase Tom Hanks' famous line from A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: There's no whining in moviemaking.
Here is what happened to bring GODS OF EGYPT to this sad pass.
You fucked up.
You made a movie set in ancient Africa, focused upon the activities of African gods and you cast nearly all of those gods (and apparently a goodly number of the mortal puopulation, as well as your mortal hero) as white Europeans.
You fucked up.
This isn't a matter of "political correctness." You are not allowed to take refuge in claiming the "cowardice of critics bowing to a PC culture" is what caused the bulk of us to avoid your flick in droves.
First of all, critics are people. They go to the film, for free, and, in theory, write their honest opinions about those films. They're not elected. They have no reason to pander to anyone with the exception of, possibly, their bosses who are also unelected and have less reason to pander. You should assume, harsh or glowing, that most of them write what they write honestly and in ernest.
Secondly and more importantly, the critics were the LAST people in line to decide to tank your little exercise in white privilege for you. In fact WE, the filmgoing public,(including your core audience of SciFi and fantasy geeks who love this stuff as a rule) WE saw your casting on this project WHILE YOU WERE STILL SHOOTING IT and decided then and there that it was a bridge too far. Not just the black members of the audience. MOST of us.
What does that mean in easy-to-digest words?
It means you fucked up.
Even a cursory look at Egypt's physical placement in the world (Africa) or a look at its mythology (combinations of several smaller "mystery" faiths into what we now refer to as Egyptian mythology) and of course the actual age of that mythology (considerably earlier origins in sub Saharan Africa that predate everything in Europe or the Middle East) you would have realized one of two things.
Either, you would have realized your Egyptian gods would have to be played by a combination of "Arabians" and Africans with a heavy lean towards negroid africans OR you should probably have made a film about a pantheon that is , in actuality, composed of white people. There are scads of those and you could have had your pick.
But you fucked up. You made a series of poor choices that resulted in this current flop of a film and the backlash of a lot of people who are dead sick of being whitewashed out of humanity's collective story.
I am one such person. I am not a lemming. I have enjoyed much of your work in the past and I'll likely enjoy more of it the future.
But you are not OWED box office. You are not OWED our approbation. In the arena of art, as you should well know by now, the audience will always say, "Yes, we loved your last thing, but what have you done for us lately?" And that is their right. That is the agreement we, as commercial artists, make with the audience.
Lately you smacked in the face all the brown-skinned people, all the white-skinned people and all the other people of various hues who actually give a shit about living in the actual world.
You fucked up.
There was a SIMPLE and easy way to have made this movie that would have incurred zero backlash. Indeed, had you chosen properly, THIS film could have been the one to say to all those brown-skinned peoples and their paler allies, "Welcome! Finally, for the FIRST TIME you can come and see a NEW kind of film about powerful gods doing amazing things in an adventure for the ages."
You could have been THAT breakthrough guy without changing one line in your script or one shot of your film. All you had to do was SEE the world a bit differently. All you had to do was see the world. You did not.
You failed. You fucked up.
And we noticed. WE, the people you expect to spend money on your work and support your lifestyle and your ability to make more flicks. WE, the audience, without prompting, without guidance without any tweak from "the critics" took one look at your whitewashed story and said, "Nope. Not this fucking time."
And your flop is the result.
Man the fuck up and make better choices in the future.
Nobody OWES you anything. Not even our attention.
You should have known better. There's literally no excuse in the world for you NOT to have known better.
But you fucked up.
How you proceed is your choice, of course. No one should dictate to any artist, commercial or otherwise, what they choose to make or how they choose to make it. No one is telling you not to do as you like when it comes to making your artwork. If you want to tell the Rosa Parks story next and your vision dictates you cast Kim Kardashian in the title role, go forth and create.
But understand that the audience will respond and you don't get to dictate our response. Nor whine about that response when it doesn't go your way.
YOU are to blame for this. You. Your choices. Your vision. YOU.
As is everyone who didn't mention to you that you were fucking up, that it was likely a really bad idea to cast your film as you did.
You fucked up, man. Take the hit. Learn from it. Or don't. Move on.