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  • Mary Kay McBrayer

The Mummy: Devastation Occurs

I am not sure what I want to say here yet

Let me tell you about how I defended my interest in The Mummy before it actually dropped. The Mummy is my Ghostbusters. And it's also my The Wiz. I know those are big statements, but hear me out. My mom is Lebanese, which by extension makes me also Lebanese, and as a 12-year-old girl in rural Georgia I knew of exactly two pretty Arab women in pop-culture--and my own mother didn't count because although she auditioned to be a model, "Yallah, they didn't want curvy ethnic women then, but that's all the fuck I'm seeing now." (Direct quote from my mother looking through a fashion magazine last month.)

One of said pop-culture women was a cartoon (Jasmine, duh, even though she was from pseudo-Afghanistan "Agribah," which is a whole 'nother issue for another time) and the other was Anak-su-namun, from the 1999 remake of The Mummy (which counts even though she's Ancient, even though she's in Egypt, and even though she's a side-villain. Actually maybe ESPECIALLY because she's the side-villain.) So, when I saw the trailer for the 2017 Mummy, the 12-year-old inside me drew her tiny fists up by her chubby taupeish cheeks and shrieked, "It's a girl!" and then promptly passed out on the cold kitchen floor.

You know what else I loved about her being a girl? It's Sofia Boutella. Who is partly Algerian. I'm not in a position to split hairs. Anak-su-namun's actress was from Venezuela. I can't tell you how much that devastated me when I found out last year. I don't have time for this culture nationalism. It's positive strides, and I will take it.

I had planned to see the movie by myself because I didn't want to subject anyone to my extreme reactions, but a friend of mine insisted that he thought I was funny (which I am) and he didn't mind it (you'll see). On the way to the theater, he asked how I felt about Tom Cruise playing the lead, and I responded that I didn't care about him at all--was he the "lead?" was he the titular character? was the movie really about him? wait, Russell Crowe is in this, too?...why?

It's at this point I should have become wary, but look at her eyes! Look at that makeup! Her costume! And do you know why she's taking over the world? Do you know why she wants to have so much power? TO HAVE THE POWER. She don't give a fuck about some fuckboy who can't stand up to the pharaoh. She don't give a fuck about shit. She came here to win--she in't come here to make friends.

And you know what else? Wrecking the city. She's wrecking London, nowhere in Egypt, but still. Wreckage. Devastation occurs. You know this from the trailers and the hieroglyphic tattoos and the iris-splitting.

For the first third of the movie, I was on board, despite two glaring errors.

  1. On the anthropologist's treasure map, the term "Haram" was written. In English letters. I leaned over to my friend to say, "that means 'forbidden,' or 'pity,' in Levantine Arabic," because, as I mentioned above, I am an insufferable know-it-all who can't control her extreme reactions. And yet. The next line of dialogue says, "'Haram' means treasure." So now not only are they exactly wrong, but they made me sound like a dumbass in front of my friend who is insanely smart.

  2. The setting. WE ARE NEVER IN EGYPT. We're in "Mesopotamia" the subtitles faded in, and then, in case someone missed that year of middle school, they overstated, "the cradle of civilization." I'll give you a second to look up where Mesopotamia is in the modern world. Right. Iraq. Now click on the map. Now zoom out. It's a different damn continent. And what language do they speak in Iraq? Still Arabic. Which confirms my first problem.

So I wrote these off, thinking, Meh, Hollywood can get a few liberties. Mostly I was distracted by this smolder: 

I can get past a few inaccuracies when girl got eyes like that. (Granted the whole time I was like... so is that a blue eyeliner with a liquid liner outside of it? I bet you I can pull that off. I might not get it the first time, but I WILL ACCOMPLISH THAT LOOK.) I also waved it away... like maybe he mistranslated on purpose, that "Haram" even in the zeitgeist of the story does still mean "Don't open that tomb, you dummy, the guy with face tats isn't in this one so he can't save your ass." Which was another supreme bummer because, incidentally, that guy was my first celebrity crush. 

So what, they were in Iraq. The story will at least make a tenuous narrative connection, I told myself the way you sell the story of the guy who's a total jerk but sooooo pretty you can probably get past his total lack of personality because his chin, right? I mean, damn. So admittedly I had high expectations. But I was totally willing to suspend my disbelief. All through that helicopter fiasco. All through the naked morgue. All through Jake Johnson's makeup--actually, I really loved that. He was discreetly hilarious and I am HERE FOR that excellent choice. You know what else I really loved? How Princess Ahmanet was hot AND gross. Yasssssss. That's the niche I want to be in. Like when she's stalking him all spidery-like down that alley in back of the bar? How to him she looks all hot but in real life she's all croney? I'm not necessarily saying I've been in a position of trying to convince a guy in an alley that I'm hot when I'm a crone BUT SHE NAILS IT AND IT'S AMAZING.

Here's where the spoilers come. I normally make my students do wall-sits if they give spoilers, but I'm a save y'all $7-15 here: this movie is not about the mummy. I repeat. THIS MOVIE IS NOT ABOUT THE MOTHERFUCKING MUMMY. Princess Ahmanet has like zero face time--even with THAT face, so there's no hope for the rest of us medium-hot women--but you know who DOES have a lot of face time? Tom Cruise. Whose face we know deeply because it hasn't changed since the beginning of time thanks to injecting diamonds directly into his smile lines or whatever. And guess who else's beautiful Orientalist face gets a lot of screen space? Russell Crowe. I mean Dr. Jekyll. I mean Mr. Jackass. Literally DOCTOR JEKYLL AND MISTER HYDE IS A MAIN CHARACTER IN THE MUMMY. For why? Is my girl not interesting and beautiful enough? What does that mean for all of the rest of us marginally interesting marginally beautiful women? We have already seen you guys beat up each other. You already got to be your iconic machismo bootstrappy characters. We loved Gladiator. Truly. We loved Top Gun. Please can we just have this? Then Ardeth Bay (face tats hottie) said from a different franchise, 

"Know this: this creature is the bringer of death. He will never eat, he will never sleep, and he will never stop."

That's what I thought leaving the theater. Walking slowly. Stopping walking. Dropping my head. My friend saying, "What...? Are you okay?" as I backed into the theater and turned around and screeched at full harpy volume: IT IS NOT YOUR DAY. (Pictured below.)

Just kidding. I looked like this:

JUST KIDDING. SHE'S FROM VENEZUELA. And thusly my 12-year-old heart remains shattered. Maybe my expectations were unrealistic in that I wanted an adversary worthy of my admiration, but isn't dreams the shit of which these movies are made?

There are other, bigger issues in analysis of this movie, of course, like, What's this white savior business? Why does the blonde always get to be the final girl? Why y'all letting these dudes hijack the narrative? And (leaning in), y'all know that not all Arabs crash planes, right? It's really important to me that you know that.

But instead of tackling those very pressing and urgent hard-hitting impossible topics, these are the few issues on which I have chosen to focus, the ones that my evil, adolescent girl-brain can articulate.

If you got stuff to say, get at me. --MK



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