Do you look like this?
That’s the Biblical Noah and, um, Mrs. Noah, as cast in Darren Aronofsky’s movie based on the Biblical story of Noah, due out next March. Russell Crowe will play the titular character and Jennifer Connelly his wife.
New casting news from Deadline.com has Noah’s sons cast as Douglas Booth as Shem, Logan Lerman as Ham, and Saorise Ronan as (perhaps) a love interest for one of the sons. They look like this:
They’re all lovely, beautiful people and fine actors. But, hold the phone, there’s a problem.
Traditionally, Shem is supposed to be the father of the Semites (Jewish people, Arabs, etc) and Ham of Africans and the third son Japheth of the Europeans. (I’ve always wondered where Asians were supposed to have come from. I’m sure some Biblical scholar could tell me.) Japheth has not been cast, but apparently his genes were the strong ones in the family.
That boy don’t look Jewish and that other boy don’t look black.
They look like the scions of a WASPy country club, or maybe members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Booth is the only one without blue eyes. I don’t consider that diversity.
Target ads are more diverse. Heck, toothpaste ads are more diverse.
I know, I know, it’s just a movie. And movies are hard to cast.
In some ways, we can’t take the stories too seriously.
On the other hand, we must take them very seriously indeed, in all their complexity.
We all know there has been centuries racism and hurt associated with these origin stories, especially with the supposed justification of the mistreatment of “Hamitic” peoples.
We don’t want that all over again. But is the answer to leave non-Europeans out of the story all together?
Along with Adam, Noah is described as the father of all humanity in the Bible and many people believe this to be true. Shouldn’t he, and his family, look a little bit more like the breadth and diversity of humankind?
UPDATE 7/2014: This post was written June of 2012, when casting was announced. The cast subsequently changed, although not to include any characters of color. For my eventual review of the film (which I loved), click here. For my interview with Aronfosky and co-writer Ari Handel, click here.