Netflix Accused of ‘Blackwashing’ Cleopatra – Egyptians Trying to Get Show Banned

A new series about to debut on Netflix is causing a stir worldwide, with Egyptian experts criticizing Netflix for “blackwashing.

“African Queens: Queen Cleopatra” is narrated and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, 51, and stars Adele James, 27, who is biracial, as the legendary queen of Egypt.

Pinkett Smith wanted to be involved in the project because she “really wanted to represent Black women.”

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Blackwashing Cleopatra

But Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who previously served as Egypt’s antiquities minister, is not happy with the “completely fake” portrayal of the famous queen, who was wholly Greek — and “not black.”

He’s accused Netflix of “trying to provoke confusion by spreading false and deceptive facts that the origin of the Egyptian civilization is black.”

“Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was light-skinned, not black,” the archaeologist told the Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper.

In addition, lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary filed a complaint Sunday with the country’s public prosecutor to demand that Netflix be blocked in Egypt.

Now, they’re taking action to see that the show never airs — by banning the streaming giant from the country completely.

The two-minute official trailer, which has two million views, was released last week and stirred up so much controversy that Netflix had its YouTube comments turned off.

Netflix is pushing back and previously addressed Cleopatra’s debatable racial background head-on, reminding viewers that “Egypt’s population was multicultural and multiracial.”

“The creative choice to cast a biracial actor to play Cleopatra is a nod to the centuries-long conversation about the ruler’s race,” explained a news release on the platform’s “Tudum” site.

Netflix consulted its own Egyptologist, Sally-Ann Ashton, in preparation for the series.

“Cleopatra ruled in Egypt long before the Arab settlement in North Africa. If the maternal side of her family were indigenous women, they would’ve been African, and this should be reflected in contemporary representations of Cleopatra,” Ashton stated.

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Following backlash prompted by the trailer, the show’s star, Adele James, addressed the hateful comments she received on social media, including one that claimed: “Cleopatra was a queen, not a slave.” She told fans to skip the show if they don’t approve of her as the lead.


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