Gods That Look Like Men

Nelsan Ellis is signed up to play a god in his next movie.

I’ve complained in the past that nobody knows how to do the divine in movies and television any more. And Gods Behaving Badly, which involves a bunch of Greek deities hanging out in a Manhattan brownstone may not exactly inspire a sense of awe and wonder. But the casting sounds straight-up awesome, and for once, decently representational: Phylicia Rashad as Demeter is nice, as is Rosie Perez as Persephone. And Nelsan Ellis, who is far and away my favorite part of True Blood, as Dionysus is just genius. (Ditto for picking World’s Twitchiest Catholic John Turturro as Hades, and Christopher Walken, who will be the most dour Zeus ever.) It’s not perfectly proportional representation, but having three out of ten gods be played by people of color is a step up from pure tokenism.

I can’t quite make up my mind if I think the quest to make Hollywood’s outputs look more like America is better served by a focus on original content, remakes that racebend in the opposite direction (something I’m working on a separate piece about), adaptations, or historical dramas and biopics that shade in the country’s history so it’s not all white. The obvious answer is a combination of all of these categories, though I wonder if original content has an advantage because folks can’t have preconceptions about the race or ethnicity of characters they’re not already familiar with.