Satan isn’t just Black anymore—he looks like President Obama, too, according to HISTORY channel. The debut of the President’s doppelganger as “Satan” on HISTORY channel’s hit miniseries The Bible went viral this week once fans, including conservative radio host Glenn Beck, began tweeting their reactions to the uncanny resemblance between the actor (Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni) cast to play Christianity’s fallen angel and Obama.
But wait, there’s more: Ouazanni is Moroccan! Without makeup to darken his skin and accentuate his features, he looks nothing like Obama. The actor, who has starred in several biblical TV films, has light skin; long, graying hair; and facial hair. Scroll down to see the image below.
Satan Looks Like Obama? Coincidence?
It’s a casting—and costuming—gaffe that has the public slamming The Bible producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (both white) with accusations of racism. The controversy that according to this married Hollywood couple is “utter nonsense.” Burnett says, “Mehdi Ouzaani is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several biblical epics—including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President.”
The stereotype of the devil having a dark-skinned appearance has existed since the early third and fourth centuries. How many films actually feature a Black actor or someone with darkened skin in that role?
As it turns out, the majority of movies since the early 1940s personify Satan as a white, middle-aged man—The Devil and Daniel Webster (Walter Huston, 1941), Angel Heart (Robert DeNiro, 1987), The Witches of Eastwick (Jack Nicholson, 1987), The Devil’s Advocate (Al Pacino, 1997), The Reaping (David Morrissey, 2007); as a large red monster—Legend (Tim Curry, 1985) and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (voice of Trey Parker, 1999); or as a seemingly innocent, possessed white child—The Exorcist (Linda Blair, 1973) and The Omen (Harvey Stephens, 1976, and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, 2006). You can click here to see more examples.
Research shows the damaging effects that stereotypes can have on individuals’ sense of self. For example, Dr. Claude Steele’s study on stereotypes in the workplace and schools (detailed in the video below) shows a direct correlation between negative slurs and low performance.
What The Bible Producers, HISTORY Channel Have to Say
So why did Burnett and Downey think this was a good idea? In a statement, they denied any intended connection between Blacks and Obama and the Satan character.
Downey added that both she and Burnett, her husband, love and respect Obama. She says that “false statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction.”
HISTORY channel, owned by A+E Networks, also released a statement that similarly expressed its approval and respect for the President. “The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It’s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection,” the statement read.
But are their responses enough? Will The Bible lose its status as Sunday’s No. 1–watched show? As Lisa Suhay writes on The Christian Science Monitor’s website: “The problem with ‘utter nonsense’ is that people just can’t seem to stop uttering it all over the Twitterverse and other social-media sites.”