Netflix finds itself in the midst of another controversy as its upcoming docu-drama, “Queen Cleopatra,” starring Adele James, faces backlash ahead of its release.

The trailer has sparked heated discussions surrounding historical revisionism, race, representation, and cultural integrity. Critics argue that casting a dark-toned actress to play Cleopatra perpetuates inaccuracies about ancient Egyptian civilization and accuses Netflix of “blackwashing” the historical figure.

They substantiate their argument by stating historical records that indicate that Cleopatra, as the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, was of Macedonian Greek heritage. The backlash has led to a petition demanding the show’s cancellation, with thousands of signatures gathered within hours.

The creators are further accused of pushing an agenda and disregarding proper research. Speaking on the matter, Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass and several celebrities have expressed their displeasure with the show.

The controversy surrounding the show ‘Queen Cleopatra’ has spurred debates about historical accuracy versus entertainment value, which prompted Real Research, an online survey app, to launch a survey and gather public opinion on the controversy over Netflix’s docu-series ‘Blackwashing’ Cleopatra.

As the release date approaches, the debate surrounding “Queen Cleopatra” continues to intensify, however, these survey findings might give clarity to the debate.

Key Highlights

  • Nearly 78.43% have watched the trailer of the Netflix docu-series “Queen Cleopatra.”
  • Accurate depiction of appearance in biographical docu-series is critical for 49.72%.
  • 69.15% plan to watch the show, despite the controversy around the show.

From Trailer to Trouble

The survey began by asking the respondents if they had watched the trailer of Netflix’s upcoming docu-series “Queen Cleopatra,” to which a majority of 78.43% claimed to have watched the trailer, whereas 21.57% said they hadn’t.

Fig 1: Responses on watching the trailer

Surprisingly, a significant majority of respondents, or 78.38%, demonstrated awareness of the controversy surrounding the upcoming Netflix docu-series on Cleopatra, while 21.62% admitted being unaware of it.

Cleopatra Under Fire

Among those familiar with the controversy surrounding Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra, 34.81% adopted a neutral stance on the ‘blackwashing’ debate, while 27.56% believed the rage against ‘blackwashing’ the historic character was highly justified and 27.25% considered it somewhat justified. Whereas, 7.79% felt the controversy was somewhat unjustified, and only 2.59% deemed it highly unjustified.

In another question, respondents were asked about the importance of accurately depicting the appearance of individuals in biographical documentaries/movies.

The majority (49.72%) emphasized its significance, while 36.58% considered it somewhat important. On the other hand, a small portion (9.96%) expressed that it was somewhat unimportant, and 3.74% deemed it not important at all.

Battle Over Cleopatra’s Legacy

Some of the strongest critics of the series are people of Greek and Egyptian heritage, who feel their ancestry has been misrepresented. Interestingly, when surveyed about their stance, participants showed a mixed response.

Netflix should have been more sensitive toward representation, reckoned 29.08%, while 26.28% highlighted that the creators should have conducted adequate research. 22.54% argued that the backlash is unnecessary and is spreading more negativity, and another 22.1% suspected it’s an Afro-centric agenda propagated by the creators.

Fig 2: Stance on Cleopatra being misrepresented

Within a few hours of Queen Cleopatra’s trailer’s release, an online petition demanding the show’s cancellation amassed over 85,000 signatures.

When asked whether Netflix should heed these criticisms and cancel the show, the majority of respondents (37.78%) suggested that those who have an issue with the show can simply choose not to watch it.

Additionally, 34.24% regarded the show as a work of fiction, not bound by historical accuracy, and therefore saw no need for its cancellation.

Conversely, 27.98% resonated with the protestors, expressing the belief that the show should be canceled due to its misrepresentation of history.

Shades of Influence

When asked about the potential impact of the “blackwashing” controversy on attitudes and discrimination towards the black community, the survey revealed that approximately 42.66% of respondents thought it could possibly evoke negativity, while 26.23% believed it would certainly do so.

In contrast, 22.75% believed it was unlikely to contribute to discrimination, and 8.36% firmly stated it would not generate negativity towards the community.

In the following question, the survey asked whether the controversy surrounding Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra could boost the show’s popularity. Among the respondents, 32.35% strongly agreed that the negativity will ignite a “controversy boost” phenomenon, while 31.61% believed it could potentially increase the show’s popularity to some extent.

On the other hand, 28.91% neither agreed nor disagreed with the prediction. Only 5.46% expressed skepticism about the show’s increased popularity due to this controversy surrounding Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra, and a minority of 1.67% firmly stated that the show’s popularity definitely doesn’t depend on the controversy.

To Watch or Not to Watch

The survey further asked respondents’ opinions on the accusation made by critics that Netflix “blackwashed” a historical figure, Cleopatra, to which 29.19% agreed with the accusation, emphasizing the importance of accurately representing a popular figure associated with a specific culture and civilization.

27.91% also agreed that historical records indicate Cleopatra’s Macedonian Greek heritage. On the other hand, 22.34% disagreed with the accusations, viewing the series as mere entertainment and suggesting that the negativity surrounding it is unnecessary.

Furthermore, 20.56% expressed disagreement, highlighting the importance of granting creative freedom to the creators of the docu-series.

And lastly, respondents were asked if, despite all the controversies, they were planning to watch the show on Netflix. A vast majority of 69.15% expressed their plan to watch it, while 30.85% indicated that they would not.

Fig 3: Whether or not to watch the show?

Creative Freedom vs. Historical Accuracy

In conclusion, the results of this survey provide valuable insights into the multifaceted and contentious landscape of media representation, particularly when it comes to portraying historical characters.

As the finding suggests, respondents of this survey had varied opinions on the ‘blackwashing’ debate and the importance of accurate representation in biographical documentaries, movies, and series.

However, the key takeaway from this survey would be the importance of striking a delicate balance between creative freedom and the responsibility to accurately portray historical characters.

As society continues to evolve, discussions surrounding representation and the ethical implications of media choices will undoubtedly persist, provoking critical discourse and challenging content creators, audiences, and critics alike.


Survey TitlePublic Opinion on Controversy Over Netflix’s Docu-Series ‘Blackwashing’ Cleopatra
DurationApr 23, 2023 to Apr 30, 2023
Number of Participants10,000
DemographicsMales and females, aged 21 to 99
Participating Countries Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, China (Hong Kong) China (Macao), China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greanada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Maluritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar [Burma], Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.