Netflix is in hot water again!
The streaming giant is facing backlash over Jada Pinkett Smith’s upcoming docu-drama, “Queen Cleopatra,” about the famous historical figure from Egypt, Cleopatra. With just a few short weeks to go before the show’s official release date, the trailer has caused a massive stir online related to issues of historical revisionism, race, ethnicity, and representation, leaving Netflix scrambling to put out the fires of controversy.
The dramatized documentary series featuring Adele James in the lead role has caused a stir on social media, with many criticizing the decision to cast a dark-toned actress to play Cleopatra. Netflix has been accused of “blackwashing” the historical figure, while others have argued that the show is perpetuating inaccuracies about ancient Egyptian civilization.
The backlash has been swift and fierce, with a petition calling for the cancellation of the show garnering over 85,000 signatures in just a few hours before it was removed from Change.org. Critics have accused Netflix of falsifying history and disrespecting the legacy of one of the most famous figures in ancient history.
But what is all the fuss about?
Peering Into the Past
Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, was of Macedonian Greek heritage, as per historical records. Her ancestors had ruled Egypt for almost three centuries before her. The Ptolemaic dynasty became infamous for sibling marriages and inbreeding, a common practice in previous Egyptian dynasties. Records show that most marriages outside of these were with Greek and Persian royalty. Given the many generations of inbreeding that preceded Cleopatra’s birth, the chances of her being “black” by modern standards are extremely slim.
However, the promotion of Afro-centrism presents a different narrative. Some Afro-centrists claim that African Americans were the original Egyptians and that pharaohs and ancient Egyptians were fully black. They propagate the idea of returning to Egypt and kicking out Egyptians, whom they accuse of stealing their history and culture. Hence, some have critiqued that this narrative is disrespectful and dismissive of the struggles and suffering of Egyptians under different colonizers.
Outcry Over the Show
The four-episode documentary, which will release on May 10, has garnered backlash and accusations that the creators of the show failed to conduct adequate research and pushed their own agenda onto viewers.
Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass also commented on the trailer, stating that the depiction of Cleopatra as a black Egyptian is completely false. He added that claims about Egyptian civilization being of black origin are entirely untrue. He emphasized that there is no connection between black civilization and Egyptian civilization. Furthermore, Hawass is calling for a stand against the streaming giant after viewing the trailer.
Celebrities and influencers, including actors Nabil El-Halfawy and Somaya El-Khashab, have expressed their displeasure with the show and added their voices to the growing chorus of criticism.
However, many stated otherwise. Among them was archaeologist Flint Dibble, who took a different stance on the matter. He disagreed with the notion that the casting of a black actor to play Cleopatra mattered and argued that the concept of race as we know it today is a modern construct and that there are no genetic differences that can separate white and black people. In fact, he went on to say that the ancient Greeks did not perceive race in the same way that we do today.
Meanwhile, despite the backlash, some wonder whether the negative attention may ultimately benefit the show, as has been the case with past controversial releases.
Drawing the Line
There are those who argue for historical accuracy in depictions of figures and time periods due to their value from a historical perspective. Others contradict this, saying that what makes for an entertaining portrayal may not always align with a completely accurate representation.
While Queen Cleopatra continues to face backlash for representing the queen as black, the petition against it clarifies that “this is in no way against black people, and is simply a wake-up call to preserve the history and the integrity of the Egyptians and the Greeks.”
All of these allegations and debates prompted Real Research to launch a survey to gain a better understanding of the matter. Hence, hurry and answer the survey seeking public opinion on controversy over Netflix’s docu-series ‘Blackwashing’ Cleopatra in the Real Research app from April 24, 2023, and receive 60 TNCs as a reward.
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