Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra documentary series has flopped with critics and audiences amid controversy over inaccurately portraying Cleopatra’s ethnic background.
The documentary series, which depicts Cleopatra as Sub-Saharan African, has so far been poorly received by critics since its Wednesday release. Queen Cleopatra has an 11% critics rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, among 9 reviews. Audiences have been even more harsh, with only 2% giving the documentary a positive review in over 2,500 reviews. (RELATED: Scientists Map The Genome Of Ancient Egyptian Kings, And They Weren’t From Africa)
Roger Moore, a reviewer with Movie Nation, rated the series a 2 out of 4 and said it does not convincingly sell its own narrative.
“The scripts set up a thesis — that she was an agent of her own destiny, not just swept along with it, that she was accomplished, learned and cunning and Black — and never quite closes the deal,” Moore said in his review.
Romey Norton of Ready Steady Cut questioned why the project was ever made in the first place.
“It’s not very good. Overall, it lacks context, personality, and a reason for being made,” Norton said.
My article for @ForeignPolicy about Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra: its makers decided to challenge historic anti-Black racism in the United States through revisionism of another racialized people’s own history without caring about how these people might react.https://t.co/es6OPPDY6G
— Sara Khorshid سارة خورشيد (she/her) (@SaraKhorshid) May 14, 2023
Audience reviewer “Sorin G” claimed the project was simply not good, even while trying to overlook the historical inaccuracies.
“So with all the controversy on this i tried to watch it and kinda ignore all the historic “accuracy” from this documentary ( i cant even write the word documentary related to this and not laugh ) and still was very bad,” Sorin G said.
Another audience reviewer said documentaries should remain factual and not veer into the realm of fantasy.
“[H]istory and fantasy shouldnt get mixed in a documentary,” said audience critic Daniel P
Audience reviewer Semilamist implied the documentary was an affront to the work of experts such as archeologists who have more knowledge about Cleopatra’s life.
“Archeologist could have just asked jada pinkett’s grandma what skin color Cleopatra had instead of spending years studying hieroglyphs, paintings, carvings and busts made by people who actually saw her 2000 years ago,” Semilamist said.
Queen Cleopatra has evoked much criticism over the project’s portrayal of Cleopatra was a black woman. An Egyptian lawyer sued Netflix, accusing the documentary of trying to “erase Egyptian identity.” Adele James, the actress who portrays Cleopatra, brushed off the criticism and claimed blackwashing, “isn’t a thing.” The director of the series claimed the backlash was rooted in Egyptians’ distaste of their African heritage.
“Perhaps, it’s not just that I’ve directed a series that portrays Cleopatra as Black, but that I have asked Egyptians to see themselves as Africans, and they are furious at me for that. I am okay with this,” Queen Cleopatra director Tina Gharavi wrote.