Like Iron Fist and Shang-Chi before him, the comic book character of Moon Knight is built around several orientalist tropes that have not aged well in the slightest since these characters were first created in 70s. In the same way that Marvel’s been recently trying to untangle those tropes from Shang and Iron Fist in different ways, the upcoming Moon Knight show is making a similar attempt to kill the tropes respective to this character in the transition to live action.
Part of the aim with the character’s series was to show Egypt as a place beyond the pyramids and deserts that western film and TV have largely painted it as. In recent interviews ahead of the series premiere, director Mohamed Diab was candid about how one of his goals for the show was to help normalize how his home looked, stressing to IGN the importance of “portraying us as human beings.” He added that seeing his people portrayed in a particular way, where women are submissive and the men wander the desert, has always been upsetting to him. “We call it ‘orientalism.’ We are always naked, always sexy. Always bad, and always over the top.”
As an example, he used Entertainment Weekly to call out Wonder Woman 1984 from back in 2020, criticizing the film for its section in Cairo. He called the Cairo section a “disgrace,” saying that “it looked like the desert…Egypt looked like a country from the Middle Ages.” Conversely, he made sure that the Cairo in Moon Knight was true to how it actually looks in the real world, meaning it wouldn’t just be pyramids throughout the six-episode limited series. “Always we see the pyramids in the middle of the desert,” said Diab. “If you just looked a little bit to the right, the pyramids are in the middle of the city. It’s twenty million people, and we have skyscrapers, and it’s a normal place just like this.”
Having read Moon Knight’s comics to prepare for the show, Diab praised the comics for managing to make an authentic Egypt. All of that is what drew him to the series, and he and his producer wife Sarah Goher came up with a 200-page to work on the show. As much as he loved what the comics did, he was still excited to bring some actual Egyptian history to the show’s plot and titular character in a more direct way the comics don’t always allow. “There was definitely room to play,” Diab acknowledged, “but keep it as authentic as possible in the realm of being fantastical…It’s part of the show because it’s part of the comic book.”
Moon Knight hits Disney+ on March 30. Look for our impressions soon.
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