By March 29, 2014 11 Comments Read More →

Where Are All The Black People In The New ‘Noah’ Movie?

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In Miriam Krule’s article for Slate, “How Biblically Accurate Is Noah?” I found no mention at all of the most glaring error in the entire film: the absence of black people. Let’s be more to the point, no one is particularly “Middle Eastern” looking for that matter. This raises a number of important questions:

1. Is Hollywood afraid of casting African or Middle Eastern people as the predominant leads in big-budget films. If so, why? Is this a product of their own overt or covert racism? Or is this based on the marketing belief that Caucasians will not turn out to see a movie with such demographics? Either way, this is an important question to ask ourselves and Hollywood alike.

2. Why do all of the critiques about the “inaccuracies” of the Noah movie not even apparently notice this most basic of errors.

3. Is this error based, in any way, on the long-discredited racist myth of the “Curse of Ham”: the origins of blackness deriving from a curse put on Ham the son of Noah?

To be clear, I am a scholar of religion, with an emphasis on Near Eastern traditions. To speak of “inaccuracies” in an movie about “Noah” misses the point. The name “Noah,” like most names of patriarchs in the Torah, is a play on words, even a pun. There is no sense that these were thought to be the historical names of personages. If we are to go back before the Bible, “Noah” was called “Atrahasis.” Even “Atra’Hasis” was itself a reference to an unnamed man, simply called in “he who is Extremely Wise”. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, he is called “Utnapishtim” (“he who is far away”), a seeming reference to the Sumerian King “ZI.UD.SURA.” But I digress. Back to the issue of where all of these white people came from in the Noah movie.

In terms of Jewish Midrashic tradition, Noah was thought to be “white,” probably an albino. In Louis Ginzberg’s worth collection of Midrashim “Legends of the Jews”, the birth of Noah is described as follows:

Methuselah took a wife for his son Lamekh, and she bore him a man child. The body of the babe was white as snow and red as a blooming rose, and the hair of his head and his long locks were white as wool, and his eyes like the rays of the sun. When he opened his eyes, he lighted up the whole house, like the sun, and the whole house was very full of light. And when he was taken from the hand of the midwife, he opened his mouth and praised the Lord of righteousness. His father Lamekh was afraid of him, and fled, and came to his own father Methuselah. And he said to him: “I have begotten a strange son; he is not like a human being, but resembles the children of the angels of heaven, and his nature is different, and he is not like us, and his eyes are as the rays of the sun, and his countenance is glorious. And it seems to me that he is not sprung from me, but from the angels, and I fear that in his days a wonder may be wrought on the earth. And now, my father, I am here to petition you and implore you, that you mayest go to Enoch, our father, and learn from him the truth, for his dwelling place is among the angels.”

That’s right, Noah was white (if we are to imagine these traditions as history), but this was an anomaly. It was so rare that Noah’s father thought his son was a child of the angels, not a human being. Why? Because human beings didn’t look white… at least not in that geographical region.

It turned out that Noah was just a regular old human being in the story. He wasn’t an angel baby, and he wasn’t black. Again, if the tradition is true then he was likely an albino. But if whiteness was so rare, and if we know that even apart from what religious tradition says, why does Hollywood insist on white-washing the cast of Noah?

One theory that I have kicked around is that there is some influence of the long-discredited “Curse of Ham” myth, on the making (and makers) of the film. So what about the old racist notion that the “Curse of Ham” was blackness? Linguistically, this comes from the closeness of “Ham” to the Hebrew word for “brown.” But here are some points to remember:

1. Ham was not the source of brown people according to the Bible, and he was not according to broader Jewish Midrashic accounts.

2. Ham was also not cursed according to the Bible, only one of his descendants was. Other descendants, and he himself were not cursed. There goes the “Curse of Ham” theory racists so used to enjoy.

3. In “Enochian” Jewish Second Temple tradition (think offshoots like the Essenes, Ethiopian Jewry and such, which all came from a common “Enochian” source), Ham was regarded as a prophet. See the Book of Jubilees, which can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls or even in Ethiopian Jewish communities and even Christianity.

Oh yeah, here’s one more important point: in Jewish tradition Shem and Ham were both said to be black and brown. Specifically, tradition states that both were beautiful and dark. This was hardly a curse.

How did Middle Easterners get lighter in many cases, according to tradition? The Bible says that Shem would dwell in the tents of Japheth, who tradition regarded as white. Thus, this mixing led to an array of shades and hues in the Middle East. That’s the Biblical and Midrashic way of explaining it at least.

He blessed Noach and his sons, as it is said, and God granted them their gifts and bequeathed the entire world to them. He blessed Shem and his sons, black (shehorim) and comely and granted them the entire cultivated world. He blessed Cham and his sons, black (shehorim) as the raven, and granted them the coast of the sea [in East Africa]. He blessed Yafet and his sons, all of them white (levanim) and handsome and granted them deserts and fields.

Either way, whatever the actual – historical – case may be, the tradition is not that black people came from some “Curse of Ham”… Even though that seems to be the myth that the Noah movie is buying in to.

(Article by M.B. David; image screenshot from Noah movie)

11 Comments on "Where Are All The Black People In The New ‘Noah’ Movie?"

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  1. Gordon Ross says:

    kidding right??? like this is anything resembling reality – mountains and molehills – waste of time

  2. Bmore1100 Ms Rhea's husband says:

    The reason there are no Asians in the movie is because there are no black people. It has been scientifically proven that Asians are decended from Africans. Check out he video on youtube where Chinese scientist proves that China ancient ancestors are African.

  3. Crazy says:

    Ms. Scholar, Noah was a black albino. And his father, grandfather, etc. were ALL black people. Wake up! The middle east was once a part of Africa. And all 3 of Noah’s sons were black. Why is it so hard for folks to believe. Why is it so hard for folks to believe that Christ too was black. Read Leviticus and read were it defines leprosy. And how if you have white spots in your skin, etc. it is leprosy. If the ancients were white or anything close to it, having white in the skin wouldn’t be something they would concern over. But scholars love to look over that part. Or how in Due. it specifically states what would happen to the children of Israel if they disobeyed the covenant the Most High made w/ ONE PEOPLE on planet earth. And it just so happens to ALL line up w/ a group of people who went into slavery, spread out over the world, and endured various hardships, INCLUDING losing their identity as a nation. But again, scholar love to paint that as another people and ignore it for all hopes of not going against the communities logic of truths vs hidden truths. And countless of other materials such as Zondervan’s biblical dictionary where it plainly states that Ham was the progenitor of the dark races such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, etc. but NOT THE NEGROS!! Add those two small apples up and you begin to understand where many people today are beginning to realize as a truth. This is not about racism. People of all walks of life are tired of lies and want truth for a change. The movie Noah was based on a real time and event, but much of it was falsely depicted w/ hints of racism that had Ham as the dark son who wanted to kill Noah and dwelt w/ Satan aka Cain on the ship. This would have one to believe that Ham, through a dark spirit eventually became black through such and this is how the black race came to be. When in reality, the entire planet was black. And no whites were around back then. But scholars always look at their side of the story as being the beginning to base any truths off of. The movie was horrible to say the least and painted a very misleading image of the man Noah, that time, and his sons. For crying out loud, the movie has Shem as the eldest. Ham as the middle. And Japheth as the youngest. In reality, Japheth was the eldest-father of the Europeans/Asians of today. Shem was the middle son-father of the Arabs, others, and so called African Americans. And Ham-youngest and the father of the Africans such as the Egyptians. Yes the same Egyptians that build the pyramids w/ Pharaohs, etc. The same group of people that raised Moses as their own. But was actually a Hebrew. Another black people. Scholars never add those apples up either. Ham father of the dark races to include Egyptians. But in the movies they continue to paint those images as Europeans and discredit any notion that the Hebrews were and still are a black people. Society wake up! You are in for one big surprise. Stop looking for ways to discredit truth and just accept it for what it is. Stop looking at blacks and justifiable means for slavery or other demeaning areas. Slavery came on AA because their ancestors broke the covenant w/ the Most High. And this is NOT the 1st time they went into slavery. Assyria, Babylon, Romans, Greeks, and yes Egypt.

    • Originalblackman says:

      Smh, Zondervan is a Eurocentric bible dictionary that uses the Hamitic Hypothesis (Google it). In fact, google Zondervan Canaan Caucasian and see for yourself. And stop being hoodwinked.

  4. Robert459 says:

    Maybe the director just didn’t want any black people in the film. This is ok, isn’t it? I mean, he’s entitled to make the film the way he wants, isn’t he? Does every film have to have black people in, just to satisfy the politically correct agenda? What, by law or something? The whole history of film and cinema creation and development is due to white people. What are you going to do about that? No doubt that offends you too. No one would object about a film with an entirely black cast, would they? The recent African version of Julius Caesar for instance. This argument is tired, and silly, and keeps black people in the them and us, white, left-wing politically correct bubble. Burst it for goodness sake.

    • zdroberts says:

      “No one would object about a film with an entirely black cast, would they?”

      You’re kidding right?
      People lost their collective minds when there was a black Spiderman.

  5. Andreas Meyer says:

    Maybe he was concerned about his inventory.

  6. lummzy says:

    We as blacks should be glad that we were not included in this horrible film.

  7. Lev Raphael says:

    MBD critiques a ridiculous critique and produces something almost as nonsensical. It doesn’t matter what kind of people are in the movie because the story of Noah is a fable. None of its figures were real. And to quote midrash? Does the author have any understanding of what midrash really means and how it functions? As for the pun: what pun? Noah (Noach) in Hebrew means rest, comfort. Where’s the pun in that?

  8. Olterigo says:

    Some scholar of religion, who can’t even correctly refer to the Biblical verse. Genesis 9:27 talks not of Shem dwelling in the tents of Japheth but of reverse, Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem. How do we know you haven’t mixed anything else up?

  9. Rhondayes says:

    I don’t even bother to get upset with the whitewash. They only kid themselves. They re self-deniers and delusional and live in a world of pure fiction. I like it. They’re fools and laughable. Most people are growing tired of the same things coming out of hollywood. White people are deluding themselves and feel important, but the numbers are down and dropping. Leave them and let them continue to spree kill each other

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