Image: Netflix

Netflix has once again found itself in trouble, thanks to the recent controversy surrounding Jada Pinkett Smith’s upcoming historical docu-drama about one of the most famous historical people in Egyptian history, Cleopatra.

For context, in April 12, 2023 Netflix released a trailer for her upcoming historical docu-drama, Queen Cleopatra. Without trying to state the obvious, the series focuses on the life and reign of Queen Cleopatra, one of Egypt’s most romantic and famous monarchs. However, the series has found itself at the center of controversy due to the show’s portrayal of Queen Cleopatra as black. This has upset many people online, leading many to accuse Netflix of “blackwashing” a historical icon.

Why is this controversial?

According to common historical records, Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek descent.

Cleopatra was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egyptwhich had been ruled by their ancestors for nearly three centuries when the Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great Ptolemy I Soter founded the Kingdom in 305 BC.

It reportedly took a century for the reign of the Ptolemaic dynasty, but became famous for sibling marriages and inbreeding, which was also common in earlier Egyptian dynasties. According to historical records, almost all marriages outside of marrying siblings or cousins ​​were to Greek and Persian royalty.

When you take into account the many generations of inbreeding that came before the birth of Cleopatrathe probability that she is what we would define today as «black» is extremely slim.

the answer online

Online criticism of the docu-drama has been overwhelming.

Much of the anger has been directed at Netflix, as many have accused the platform of not portraying history accurately. In a matter of hours, a The petition was raised on Change.Org accusing Netflix of falsifying the story. it was signed by 85,000 people from all over the world before it was removed from the platform.

Some of those who are most opposed to the series are of Greek and Egyptian descent, with many wishing to «preserve» Cleopatra’s story. As one of the most famous historical figures from both cultures, it is argued that Cleopatra should be portrayed «accurately» as a way of respecting her culture and heritage.

However, some extremely negative views have also been raised that go beyond questioning historical accuracy on a TV show and land squarely in the racist category.

This isn’t the first time Netflix has been accused of historical inaccuracies, we saw controversy in the vikings valhalla series, and the debate surrounding the ethnicity of King Yaroslav the Wise. And, we also saw a similar debate around blackwashing on film the king woman.

Why is the debate a minefield?

From a historical standpoint, it’s easy to see why there are many in favor of historically accurate depictions of historical figures or of a specific time period. While it’s also easy to understand that this is best for a historical performance from an entertainment standpoint, it may not actually be the most entertaining option for the audience. However, the lines are blurred when race and ethnicity are part of the equation. Contradicting yourself and coming across as a hypocrite, or worse, a fanatic, can be very easy when discussing these topics.

What do you think of the Queen Cleopatra series? Let us know in the comments below!