Netflix was forced to disable comments on the new Cleopatra trailer after thousands of users expressed their displeasure over the casting of a black actress to portray the Egyptian queen.
The message on the streaming platform's official YouTube channel reads: "Comments are turned off."
A racial agenda favoring black people
This week, numerous users expressed that this decision reflects a racial agenda favoring black people. In addition, several have brought up that Cleopatra was of Greek descent, not African-American, as the show presents.
The protagonist of the documentary is Adela James, a British actress. Netflix commented that Cleopatra's origins have been the subject of extensive debate that Hollywood often ignores. According to the trailer's description:
This season will feature Cleopatra, the world’s most famous, powerful, and misunderstood woman, a daring queen whose beauty and romances came to overshadow her real asset: her intellect.
Egyptians claim that there is an imposition of Afrocentrism in film to the point of robbing their country of an important part of its history. Some of the comments on the video expressed these sentiments:
Afrocentrism is a pseudoscience that is pushing a group's agenda to claim Egypt's history and rob the actual Egyptians of it, For the nth time, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was not an Egyptian. She was Greek! Cleopatra VII was white - of Macedonian descent, likewise all the Ptolemy rulers, who lived in Egypt.
The origins of Cleopatra and the lawsuit against Netflix.
According to History.com, historical records of Cleopatra's family (which was Greek-Macedonian) show that she ruled the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt for more than three centuries:
Despite not being ethnically Egyptian, Cleopatra embraced many of her country’s ancient customs and was the first member of the Ptolemaic line to learn the Egyptian language.
The controversy has reached such a point that Netflix is now facing a lawsuit filed by Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary.
After watching the trailer, Al-Semary argued that the platform committed a "crime" of "falsification" which misleads viewers. He further calls for an investigation into the facts and demands that the show be prevented from entering Egypt:
Most of what [Netflix] shows contradicts the societal values and principles of Islam, and especially those of Egypt. In the spirit of preserving the Egyptian national and cultural identity among Egyptians all over the world and taking pride in it, and consolidating the spirit of belonging to the homeland, we accordingly ask and request that the necessary legal measures be taken against this platform.
Egypt's former Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass also referred to this as being "completely fake." He asserted that "Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was light-skinned, not black."
Netflix is trying to provoke confusion by spreading false and deceptive facts that the origin of the Egyptian civilization is black.
Despite this, Netflix has defended the choice since the cast was revealed last February.
*Update: the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities issued a statement on Thursday, April 27, 2023 in which it assured that "Queen Cleopatra was white-skinned and had Hellenic features," also showing itself to be against the representation that Netflix wants to make of Cleopatra:
The appearance of the protagonist with these features represents a falsification of Egyptian history and a blatant historical fallacy, especially since the series is classified as a documentary.