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HISTORY Channel Racist? Why Satan Looks Like Obama

Obama Doppleganger on "The Bible" series Blows Up Social MediaSatan 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 (@bibleseries, #TheBible) 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.

You can read some of The Bible fans’ tweets here.

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.”

Moroccan actor Mehdi Ouzzani: Skin Darkened to Play Satan

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 manThe 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.”

–Stacy Straczynski

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23 Comments

  • Guess the History Channel folks were just calling it like they saw it. If their depiction of Satan (or anything else, for that matter) offends you or if you don’t agree with it, you can simply change the channel. Vote with your remote, so to speak.

    • grannybunny

      I don’t think we can fault the History Channel for the creative decisions involved in casting and make-up. Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have not denied that these were their decisions. And people certainly have a right to react to those decisions more ways than simply with their remote controls.

    • What’s your point? Like the people at the History Channel, the folks at Diversity Inc. were also just “calling it like they saw it.”

      Yes, people always have the option to change the channel when they are offended. Of course, People also have the option of drawing attention to the offending material.I suspect that most activists will find the second approach more effective.

  • grannybunny

    I watch the Bible, including the segment with Satan, and at no point did it occur to me that he resembled the President. In fact, when I heard that Rush Limbaugh had made that comparison, I discounted it on the basis that — perhaps — to him all persons of color “look alike.” It did appear to me, however, that the actor’s skin had been darkened, and the equation of dark skin with evil has always been troubling.

    • Sharon Jefferson

      I agree grannybunny that it didn’t look like our president. I also agree that too often dark skin is equated with evil. I don’t think the History Channel or the program’s producers meant to be racist in depicting the devil that way. However, I think it is something people should become more sensitive about. Was their depiction of the devil Biblically accurate? I need to ask my pastor about that.

  • Because they are not qualified to teach about the Bible, they tend to do these things.

    They never got the memo that the Bible is the Black History Book of the world, so they are unqualified to teach it or speak about it.

    This is what happens when ignorant people get their hands on something that really does not belong to them.

    • How Exactly is the bible the black history book of the world? Seems to me you are excluding a large segment of the christian population. It has always been my belief that the Bible belongs to anyone who wishes to make use of it to understand God and Jesus and all who came before us.

  • Jonscott Williams

    It occurs to me that those who think of President Obama as somehow satanic will now doubt enjoy the portrayal in The Bible … those of us who don’t won’t. But in the end, I think David Letterman made, albeit humorously, had the most cogent observation:

    “Have you been watching ‘The Bible’? They have a character who plays Satan, and he looked a little bit like Obama. And I thought, ‘If president Obama was actually Satan, Republicans might actually be willing to make a deal with him’”

  • Susan Mayhew

    First – Amen Jonscott (except haven’t the Pubs already decided that Obama is the anti-Christ?) –
    Second does this prove to the racist knuckle draggers that all men of color actually look alike???
    I’m sure that the latter drives this … But lets not forget – it was baby Bush that looked like a chimp.

  • Natasha P

    I have voted with my remote due to the largely inaccurate casting decisions made by the producers. The history that is depicted in the Old Testament, and much of the New Testament, of The Bible occurred in areas of the world where the population was either largely Negroid or entirely Negroid. Yet, many of the casting decisions would have one believing that The Bible occurred in an area that was almost entirely made up of Caucasoid people. I was particularly troubled by the depiction of Adam and Eve as being Caucasians, when science has traced the ancestry of the human race to a man and woman of Negroid descent. The oldest (and therefore most likely to be accurate) depictions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are found in Spain. Those statues show them to have dark skin, kinky/curly hair and negroid facial features. Yet, they are determinedly depicted as being Caucasian. The oldest depictions of the Disciples are found in the Catacombs of the city where the first church was founded, literally as an underground organization. These drawings, dating back approximately two thousand years, clearly depict the Disciples as black Africans. It is time that people accept that race is largely an illusion that has been perpetuated in spite of scientific advances to divide the masses, and to conquer the ignorant. Because we all began from Africa, and science has proven that we share a collective negroid ancestry, the continued denial of the rich, vast and varied nature of black history denies all people our collective history.

    • Amen, Amen!! I couldn’t have said it better!! It seems like some of us, including the producers, just can’t face the truth that our Lord and Savior is a person of color!!

      • Luke Visconti

        When Dr. Cole was President of Bennett College, she had a beautiful print of a Black Madonna and child in the entrance way to the President’s House. Every trustee meeting we’d have dinner there, and I always paused to look at the image. We’d also have the same meal every time: ribs, fried chicken, greens, mac and cheese, cobbler, sweet iced tea. At one dinner, Dr. Cole leaned over to me and said, “You know it’s the same dinner every time.” I said, “I know, that’s why I keep coming.” Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

        • The problem is that people do not understand that the different races upon the earth are merely a result of African Albinism. Blonde hair, pale skin and light-colored eyes are quite common among my African-American relatives. The remainder of my family looks like the United Nations, and yet the vast majority of our members have two African American parents. This could be explained by the heterogeneous racial heritage that is so often a byproduct of sexual exploitation during slavery. However two black Africans, with no other genetic makeup, are quite capable of having a white child. That is how they became the mothers and fathers of all of the races upon the planet. Unfortunately, this knowledge is uncommon in the United States.

          I do find it quite curious that “fundamentalist Christians,” would spend centuries gazing upon these paintings and statues that allege to be the image of Christ as he existed upon the earth that are based upon the image of Cesare Borgia, an incestuous serial killer. They even bow down and kiss the feet of such statues. Lucifer’s sense of humor, I suppose.

          You are correct. The black Madonna and child are quite beautiful. One that is found in France shows such a complexity in the face of Mary that I can never quite decide which emotion is most paramount: Sorrow, determination, concern, protectiveness, defiance, quiet assurance. The masterful artist displayed each emotion simultaneously.

          As for dinner, my sister-in law’s great-aunt offers a similar selection every Sunday after church. That is certainly why she continues to have a house filled with people each week.

          Incidentally, how do I go about submitting a question to “Ask The White Guy?” The solution is probably right in front of my face, but I have yet to discover it.

  • Trudy Hardin

    To me the conversation about Satan looking like Pres. Obama is a distraction from the real conversation that needs to be had, which is why Jesus looks Caucasian when we know he could not have been.

  • How ridiculous is this. Why does everything have to be turned into something racist? So he somewhat looks like Obama. So what? If he resembled George Bush would we be hearing anythng like this? Probably not. If he looked like a latino or asian or any other “race” would we be hearing all this fuss? Probably not. You people need to get off your offense and realize that not everything has to do with the color of your skin. He has to be SOME color. They aged him, changed him up, made him look dark and scary…SO WHAT! My goodness, everything has to be turned into something it was not meant to be just to stir up trouble. Move on. Worry about things that are actually important. Oh and by the way…. I respect our president because he’s our leader reguardless if I agree with him or not and no, I’m not “white” for those of you who think that I have this opinion because I’m a white Obama hater.

    • Natasha P

      I have a few points to clarify, here.

      1. When engaging someone in a discussion, it is helpful to not begin by calling their perspective “ridiculous.”

      2. I am unsure of whether Republicans or anyone else would be outraged, had the President been portrayed as George Bush, or as a member of another race. Other races certainly have made a “fuss” when they have been depicted in an unflattering and/or stereotypical manner. Jews have protested at the Sligo motif that was at one time popular in media, the Italians have protested over their persistent Mafioso stereotype, Arabs have objected to the terrorist stereotype, Native Americans have objected to being stereotyped as Tonto, and Latinos have decried their characterization as lazy and overly emotional, Asians have protested being painted as Mr. McGoo, or as a glorified sidekick. In fact, the movie, Avatar, The Last Airbender, opened to great protest, because the only Asian characters in a film that was based in Southeast Asia were evil. All major characters on the side of good had been replaced by Caucasians. Need I go on?

      3. No, everything is not about skin color, but many things are. Satan began to be depicted as black to make black into something sinister and evil. You used the words “dark and scary.” This belief is not consistent with its historic use, as in many cultures, white was considered to be the color of mourning, death and evil. To my knowledge, only eastern cultures such as Japan, China and India retain this practice today, but it was once widespread. White was never the color of purity. Blue was the color of purity, hence the phrase “true blue,” and that color belongs to no one.

      4. So what? If Satan, the very face of evil, is consistently depicted as being of a darker hue, then is black not the color of evil, just as you stated?

      5. By the way, “you people?” That is a loaded phrase, to say the least, and often found denigrating by minorities. That phrase has often been utilized to separate minorities from “the majority,” and used at the beginning of sentences designed to instruct us on how to better assimilate ourselves into a culture that is not our own.

      6. To protest to a perceived injustice is hardly “meant to stir up trouble.” It is the American way, and is meant to exercise our right to free speech.

      7. To “move on” is difficult when you are so often confronted with intolerance and indignity that is a direct result of racial bias.

      8. It is not your place to decide whether or not an issue is of importance to me, or to anyone else. Each individual is the best judge of that.

      9. It is good that you respect the Office of The President, even when you disagree with his politics. On that, we are of one mind.

    • I soooo agree with you J! I could care less what “color” people are…God created us ALL and we bleed the same. As for the actor that played Satan, he did a wonderful job at being scary and omnious (which is the point). Personally I thought he looked a little silver. As for the actor playing Jesus, wonderful, wonderful job! Yes he is beautiful, but then Jesus Christ is beautiful. I thought the casting was brilliant and in no way distracted from the REAL message.

    • It matters a lot. Our youth watch these shows and when they constantly see black as being evil it settles in their mind. They grow up and thinking that everyone black is a criminal or up to no good. In this age the media tends to be the main source of education for many households and this itself is another problem.

      They should depict the devil like a Chameleon. He will blend in with his surroundings. If the majority of the people he is trying to influence is black, then he should be depicted as black. If he is around a white crowd, then he should be white. This would let people know that the devil can be anywhere, at anytime, and more than likely he is among you.

      It doesn’t even have to be skin color. My idea of the devil is a cunning creature that would find his way in by the lowest common denominator of acceptance, using that as his foundation, and slowly work his way up.

      • Don Miller

        Yeah!
        Look what it did to Collin Powell, President Obama, and Martin Luther King.
        Or maybe the individual rises above it according to his character and parenting.

  • John Bender

    “No, everything is not about skin color, but many things are.” – You have not yet let go. Let go! Skin color means NOTHING. It is has no more meaning than having toenails, being short, tall, fat, or having lots of hair or being bald. Humans come in different shades simply because our species spread across the globe and into all the various – and varied – climates. Environment has shaded our skin, not our minds, souls, or psyches. And to be blunt, art is necessary but racial/ethnic culture is not. As our species matures we will continue to blend and unify until we become one culture, and this will be the culture of humanity – the culture of a species, not a race. Most people today are still unprepared to grasp this and the concept elicits fear and paranoia, but nonetheless it is our destiny, and this change will certainly be a part of our salvation – that is IF we are destined to survive. I am of German / English descent. I have befriended a 7 year old neighborhood boy who is of African American descent (he has no father). We hang out, talk about school, read Dr. Seuss, watch Pee Wee Herman, go on bike rides and walks with Pickles (a neighbor’s golden retriever). I love this little kid and I think he loves me. Anyhow, one day he tells me “I’m not black.” At first I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. But then I realized – and this child is extremely intelligent – that he had stepped ahead of the herd and into the future, and he is right. He has skin. So do I. And that is all there is to it.

  • RACISM is nothing but ignorant low-life minded people that really aren’t that happy the way they are themselves!

  • @ John Bender… I agree with what you had mentioned. The people throughout the world no matter what country you’re from all have the same blood! We range from extremely white albino to extremely black. Every single skin is different from everybody else.

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