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Is Hollywood Finally Progressing In Its Representation Faults?

Lack of representation plagued the Hollywood industry for as long as Hollywood existed. People of color are denied roles due to their ethnicity and ‘white Hollywood’ has reached its peak. In Hollywood, representation and diversity in roles are slowly progressing. Slowly. The success of films starring people of color proves that Hollywood needs a diverse group of actors and actresses. The premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody is no exception. Currently, Bohemian Rhapsody reigns as the number one movie in the world. Its total gross in mid-November has almost sextupled its production budget of $52 million and that number is bound to increase further. This film stars Rami Malek, a Coptic-American actor who has officially debuted himself as a film star and debuted the presence of Coptic Americans in the Hollywood industry. Starring as Freddie Mercury in the new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek, evidently, immersed himself into his character and proved his talent to the world. The success of the film marks a victory for Copts across the globe.

Copts (plural for Coptic) are a religious minority in Egypt who have been suffering persecution for centuries. Many Copts immigrate to the United States and they are densely populated in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Texas, and Tennessee. Unlike Egypt, the majority of the United States’ Egyptian population is Coptic, comprising between 0.06% to 0.3% of the United States population.

Malek is the first Coptic-American to star in a Hollywood film and, frankly, he introduced the Coptic people with style. As a Coptic-American—or even an Egyptian for that matter—it is difficult to find any accurate type of representation. Egyptians are typically represented as the pharaoh or the luxurious sheik that mistreats women or the terrorist or the barbaric group of people; they are only depicted through stereotypes formulated by the superficial perspectives of the American society. Malek’s roles as Elliot Alderson in the USA hit show Mr. Robot and, now, Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic illustrate the progression the industry is making in averting these stereotypes.

The question of whether or not people of color have officially transcended the stereotypes forced on them by the industry has yet to be answered and it can only be answered through action. The unfortunate part of this is that the racial profiling and ‘type-casting’ may never cease and people of color—not only Egyptians, North Africans, and Middle Easterners—may never be able to fully transcend these roles. Contrary to this, there also exists the epidemic of actors and actresses of color being denied roles simply due to their race, ethnicity, or nationality. With recent issues among white actors and actresses being given roles curated for actors and actresses of certain ethnicities, Hollywood is under scrutiny to accurately portray individuals. While under this scrutiny, Hollywood had to think hard; they need actors that accurately portray individuals, and, this time, they could not go with Scarlett Johansson.

After putting in some thought for the new Freddie Mercury biopic, the producers gave British actor Sacha Baron Cohen a call. In 2013, he was initially meant to play Mercury, but after some fallout between him and Brian May, he called it quits. Now enters Rami Malek on his hit show Mr. Robot. The producers saw the film and, shortly after, gave Rami Malek a call. Honestly, there could not have been a better actor to portray Freddie Mercury. Not only is the resemblance between Mercury and Malek uncanny, but there also lies a similarity between the culture of the figures; Mercury’s parents were Persian and Mercury was born in the African Island of Zanzibar (a Tanzanian archipelago) and Malek’s parents are Egyptian. Although Malek is not from the exact nation, they both come from African nations.

Despite Malek’s uncertainty when he was offered the role in 2016, his portrayal of Freddie Mercury is impeccable. When he was called for the role, he assured the casting agents that he was not the right fit; he said he could not sing or dance or play the piano, so he was not able to take up such a figure. The producers insisted that the can take on the role and Malek decided to take up singing lessons, piano lessons and movement lessons to acquire the new skills necessary to connect with the role he was given.

Malek’s parallel to Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody stood out more than anything else. Most notably, the recreation of the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert in the beginning of the film profoundly displayed his true dedication to fully embody Mercury. The way he strutted across the stage in such spontaneity reminds any viewer of the best live performance in history. From the way he sat down and got up at the end of Radio Ga Ga to the way he danced with the cameraman during Hammer To Fall, it was almost I was watching a YouTube video from the actual 1985 benefit concert. Movements as minuscule as an arm raise or a circling of the microphone stand made a monumental difference between the audience watch Rami Malek playing Freddie Mercury and the audience watch Rami Malek channeling his inner Freddie Mercury. What separates his performance from any other actor’s performance is his ability to understand Mercury’s unique and distinguishable movement. None of it is choreographed, it just happens. They way Malek is able to mimic the movements without making it seem like it is choreographed is exceptional.

Malek’s determination to correctly illustrate Mercury was proved throughout the film and this determination made him the perfect introduction of Coptic actors and actresses to Hollywood. On his shoulders lies the future of the Coptic people in the industry, and he holds it up with poise and ease.

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