"Blackwashing" Accusations Spark Heated Debate Over Netflix's "Queen Cleopatra"


"Blackwashing" Accusations Spark Heated Debate Over Netflix's "Queen Cleopatra"
"Blackwashing" Accusations Spark Heated Debate Over Netflix's "Queen Cleopatra"

The release of the Netflix documentary series "Queen Cleopatra" has sparked a heated debate on social media. The series, produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, portrays Cleopatra as a black woman, a depiction that has upset viewers, historians, and Egyptians alike.

Trailer Reaction

The trailer for the series has received mixed reactions, with over 222,000 dislikes and only 20,000 likes on YouTube in just four days. Many viewers are furious with Netflix and Jada Pinkett Smith for what they see as a misinterpretation of history.

One commentator in the trailer states, "My grandmother said, 'I don’t care what they tell you in school, Cleopatra was black.' "

Debate on Social Media

The series has become a hot topic on Twitter, with people angry about the depiction of Cleopatra as a black woman and calling the series "blackwashing" by Jada Pinkett Smith.

The Greeks and Egyptians, as well as numerous historians, have expressed their frustration with the portrayal of Cleopatra's blackness. Greek journalist Paul Antonopoulos writes, "Cleopatra was NOT Black, she was the GREEK Queen of Egypt and is a beautiful connection between Greek and Egyptian civilizations.

Even worse, the CEO of @netflix is 'Greek'-American Ted Sarandos. He's allowing a blackwashing of Greek history."

Historical Background

Cleopatra VII Philopathor was the ruler of Egypt prior to Roman rule. She was a descendant of Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general, who ruled over Egypt when it was part of Alexander the Great's empire.

The Ptolemies practiced interbreeding and sibling marriage, and Cleopatra spoke Koine Greek as her mother tongue. She was the only Ptolemaic leader to learn and regularly use the Egyptian language. Cleopatra's Greek Macedonian background has been the crux of the argument many on social media have been making, with a number of Egyptian, African American, and international critics slamming the decision to portray the ruler as of Sub-Saharan origin.

Critics Speak Out

TikTok user Jianna Ewuresi stated in a video, "This is not the Black representation I wanted or needed. They cast a Black woman to play Queen Cleopatra, the problem is she wasn’t Black." TikTok user Dennis added, "Every time something like this happens, we are taking away the opportunity to tell a real Black story from real Black history."

Moving Forward

Despite the criticism, the team behind the Netflix documentary is moving forward with the series.

Jada Pinkett Smith shared in a statement, "We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens. And that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them!" Smith added, "Cleopatra is a queen who many know about, but not in her truth.

She’s been displayed as overtly sexual, excessive, and corrupt, yet she was a strategist, an intellect, a commanding force of nature, who fought to protect her kingdom… and her heritage is highly debated. This season will dive deeper into her history and re-assess this fascinating part of her story." The release date for "Queen Cleopatra" is May 10th, 2023, and it remains to be seen how the series will be received by audiences.


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