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Pet Sins March 2001

Prince of Egypt

Dreamworks SKG's 1998 animated release Prince of Egypt is a refreshing break from earlier Moses movies (both life acting and animated movies) because it at least does not portray the Egyptians and Hebrews as white people. Biblical inaccuracies aside (the movie did have a disclaimer stating it took artistic license with the Bible), the plot follows the story of Moses, a Hebrew adopted into the Egyptian royal family at a time the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt.

pharoah and queen Prince of Egypt is probably the first (and to this date - only) U.S.-made full-length animated feature to show only brown faces on screen in an African setting. Egyptians were portrayed as both brown-skinned and black-skinned. Evidently, this portrayal of Egyptians as dark-skinned people jarred some stereotypes and offended some people. A man from China complained vehemently after watching the movie, "The queen is too black! Lower class Egyptians can be black but the queen should not be so black!"

moses In the film, the Hebrews were generally a shade lighter than the Egyptians. Moses' biological family is portrayed as Semitic in appearance, and a little lighter than his adoptive family. In the opening scene where hundreds of Hebrew slaves labored under the burning sun, both Africoid and Semitic features could be observed among the animated characters. In the exodus scene, a few black people walked alongside the brown ones.

A black film industry professional made the interesting observation that Moses got lighter and lighter as the movie progresses. The unredeemed Moses, living as a Prince of Egypt, wore a wig in Egyptian custom and looked as black as his brother the future Pharoah. ramesesAfter leaving the palace and reinventing himself as a shepherd, the reformed Moses does seem to look more Caucasian. Well, the Semites are arguably Caucasian, but Moses was beginning to look like the European characters in Dreamworks' next animated movie The Road to El Dorado) After his meeting with God, the redeemed Moses returns to Egypt to confront his brother. There, Moses, who could by now pass for an European guy with a tan, faces off with the Pharoah Rameses, who, in his most sinister moments, looks more Africoid than ever.

brothers Both young men start out looking very similar and pretty black at the beginning of the movie. As Moses gets better and whiter, Rameses gets badder and blacker. Most of the physical details mentioned above can be observed in the image books section of the downloads selection on the official Dreamworks site.

The female characters in the movie are worth noting. Moses' wife, the fierce Zipporah, does not hesitate to bite at humans in self-defense. She is the first such a physically aggressive female character in American animation. Following the lame performance of so called "fighting" animated heroines such as Disney's Mulan and Warner Brothers' Kayley, Zipporah's few seconds of aggression outdoes Mulan's or Kayley's 90 minutes of trying to prove themselves any day. Many members of the general public are turned off by "no-holds-barred" fighting, or any fighting at all by women, but the same people won't be joining anti-rape organizations or anything like that.

Moses' older sister, Miriam, comes off as two-dimensional. She is goody-two-shoes who is always positive. Though it is possible to create a saintly character that is compelling, Miriam somehow lacked the depth and the character development needed to make it happen.

6/2000