Having previously taken fans on adventures through diverse cultures and mythologies, the MCU is about to take its first deeper look into Ancient Egyptian history in the upcoming Moon Knight series. Mercenary Marc Spector is caught up in a deadly mystery involving the Egyptian Gods while suffering from a dissociative identity disorder.
Director Mohamed Diab, Justin Benson, and Aaron Moorhead will share directing duties for the remaining two episodes of Moon Knight, under the direction of Diab. In addition to Budapest, Jordan, and Atlanta being locations for filming, the series appears to be a globetrotting adventure.
This project was all about capturing the Egyptian vibe for lead director Diab.
With so many mistakes under his belt as a native Egyptian, getting it right the first time was critical. When it comes to misrepresenting a nation’s culture and its people for dramatic effect, the director has a personal favorite that he’s been mentioning in interviews.
Director Mohamed Diab discussed the importance of accurately portraying Egypt and its culture in Moon Knight in an interview with SFX Magazine. Diab used Wonder Woman 1984 as an example of a project that erred significantly in its depiction of Egypt.
“A big part about Egypt” was Diab’s pitch for the upcoming MCU series, and he explained “how inauthentically it has been portrayed” on both the big and small screens.
When it comes to the country’s people, the director says they’re always portrayed as “sexy” and “over the top.”
“It’s always exotic – we call it orientalism. It dehumanizes us. We are always naked, we are always sexy, we are always bad, we are always over the top.”
It is always “Jordan, Morocco, Spain” that stands in for Cairo in movies and television, according to him: “Audiences never see Cairo.”
“You never see Cairo. You always see Jordan shot for Cairo, Morocco shot for Cairo, sometimes Spain shot for Cairo. This really angers us.”
The director referred to Wonder Woman 1984 as an example. As Diab pointed out, Warner Bros. made Egypt look like it belonged in the “Middle Ages” in the DC film:
“I remember seeing Wonder Woman 1984 and there was a big sequence in Egypt and it was a disgrace for us. You had a sheik – that doesn’t make any sense to us. Egypt looked like a country from the Middle Ages. It looked like the desert.”
Because Egyptian culture was so “ingrained” in the source material, Moon Knight director Christopher Nolan set out to correct these instances of misrepresenting Egypt in the film. To keep things “as authentic as possible,” he emphasized.
“There was definitely room to play [in Moon Knight] but keep it as authentic as possible, in the realm of being fantastical. Even in the original comic books they did a great job of researching and trying to make Egypt authentic.”
I don’t mean to disparage Warner Bros. for their work on big-screen epics that depict other cultures and peoples, but Diab’s observations do paint a picture of two distinct studios.
While WB allowed the Egyptian sequence in WW84 to make it into the finished film, it appears Marvel Studios is doing everything they can to avoid a similar mess.
Because of people like Ryan Coogler (of Black Panther fame) and now Mohamed Diab, Kevin Feige and the MCU’s brain trust have done a pretty good job representing diverse cultures on screen. It’s refreshing to know that some of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry are making these kinds of decisions on a regular basis.