“Save my life? From who?”
I’ll never be able to reconcile the fact that the man who becomes Moses’ father is the same person who had ordered his death.
I think about Miriam’s words during the well scene — “Ask the man that you call ‘father’!” — in response to Moses wanting to know who their mother had to save his life from. It’s things like this that disturb me: They’re the ones who become his family. They say they love him, call him their son, or brother. Yet, in the same breath, they consider his people “only slaves,” not people at all. …Something is amiss. They should have done so much more.
Moses has a family before he is adopted (actually, this is true for all adoptees — none of us drop from the sky), and his arrival in the basket coincides with the genocide occurring that morning. Does Tuya ever stop and think about how and why this baby suddenly appears? Does she ever think about his mother? His family? Does she (and yes, I’m personifying her as though she were a real adoptive mother) think of Yocheved as merely the one who “gave” her this blessing, and not as a mother who would have kept him, had it not been for Pharaoh’s murderous edict? (But then Moses would have grown up in slavery? …Well, who created that condition in the first place?) And do any of them once think about the babies who died, or about the families who lost their sons?
The movie portrays Tuya’s belief that the gods brought Moses, and I once read a post regarding how this is connected to Ancient Egyptian faith, especially since it was the river that bore him. I feel this reflects great research on the part of the filmmakers. It’s respectfully done; it provides context, gives insight into culture, and makes Tuya a rounded character with her own perspective. But what else? I don’t think that this belief makes her/their actions right, or just. It certainly doesn’t change or erase the fact that Moses is the survivor of a genocide that they instrumented. Moreover, Moses obviously cares and questions it all once he learns how he came to be their son. …and they, his adoptive family, never do. What’s even more: For him to continue to be counted as family, in their eyes, he must remain compliant, and silent about an inalienable part of himself. Forget and be content.
Is it a culture clash? Film synopses describe the conflict between Moses and Rameses as one over tradition and responsibility. To paraphrase a sentence from The Prince of Egypt: The Movie Scrapbook, will Rameses choose his brother, or his honor? Fate, it says, pushes them onto opposite sides. It makes me think. What is the movie trying to say? What is it trying to spark, in terms of discussion?
…It’s about tradition? That makes me think about the demands Seti places on Rameses. The pressure to uphold traditions is very relatable, and sympathetic, as is the fear of being the “weak link.” So many stories center clashes between generations, tensions between duty and personal goals. However, the traditions that Rameses defends, and sees nothing wrong with, involve slavery. His kingdom’s economy and way of life, the monuments he seeks to build, depend on the subjugation of others. It’s not a tradition worth protecting. When I watch Egypt fall to ruins and more children die, when I watch Rameses lay his son’s body on that dais, I feel frustrated. I keep playing all these counter-arguments in my head, but they don’t ease my frustration with Rameses. I still view these as things he could have prevented, and that he was too myopic from the start to ever consider Moses’ perspective, much less the value of others’ lives. His own ego and refusal to end an inhumane practice were more important to him than even his people and son.
And, when I think about some of the last words he says to Moses:
My father had the right idea about how to deal with your people. And I think it’s time I finished the job.
…I cannot reconcile the fact that the man who has been Moses’ brother is the same person who espouses what their father did: the very order that threatened Moses’ life, and ended the lives of many infants, all those years ago.
Last edited: 7/7/17