It’s been a few weeks out since Tut aired on Spike, and, to reiterate, I loved it. But I did notice one element of one of the characters that could be considered very loose queer coding, if you chose to see it that way. All this posturing is to say that the decision to show the evil priest, Amun, putting on makeup was a very decisive (and probably unconscious) decision on the part of the writing or staging.
The scene occurs in Night Three, when Amun is planning for his assassination of Tutankhamun. As he’s discussing it with either Horemheb or Ay (I can’t remember right now), he’s at his vanity, putting on eye makeup. I found it suspicious.
Of course, let me state that yes, makeup was a huge part of ancient Egyptian life. Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find that makeup, especially eye makeup, helped protect eyes and skin from the sun, dust, and to a certain extent, harmful bacteria, apart from it also having a purely cosmetic angle. So Amun putting on makeup isn’t anything anyone else wouldn’t be doing.
HOWEVER. It’s interesting to note that no one else is shown putting on makeup, even when they’re wearing full faces of makeup. In particular, no other men except from Amun are shown putting on makeup. For instance, the first time we see teen Tut, it could very well have been when a servant is applying his eye makeup for the day. But instead, we first meet teen Tut when he’s practicing his fighting skills. He’s shown as a young heterosexual male through this. Other scenes, such as him being massaged by several female attendants in an area of the palace that looks like it’s just meant for orgies, back this “virile heterosexual young man” perception up. Let’s also not forget that Avan Jogia, one of the biggest young heartthrobs out right now, played Tutankhamun, and that teen girl audience is crucial.
It’s also interesting how Amun is putting on makeup just as he’s talking about killing Tutankhamun. One of Hollywood’s oldest tropes is to show a man doing something seen as “feminine” by today’s Western standards, such as wearing makeup, or in Loki’s case, wearing dress-like robes and a necklace-esque chest piece, to make the audience think something’s up with that character on an integral level. (There are other examples of queer coding here). The scene seems to suggest that Amun’s villainy can be expressed through his vain qualities, his audacity to sit at a counter and apply makeup.
This scene lasts for about a minute, so it’s not like the scene even makes up a big part of the show. But it’s a minute that presses upon the audience how much of a villain we’re supposed to think Amun is. Just an observation.
Alexander Siddig as Amun. Photo credit: Jan Thijs/SPIKE