HomeLatestEgyptian Lawyer Sues Netflix For "Blackwashing History" In "Queen Cleopatra"

Egyptian Lawyer Sues Netflix For “Blackwashing History” In “Queen Cleopatra”

Netflix is in hot water as Egyptian lawyer, Mahmoud al-Semary sued Netflix for depicting Queen Cleopatra as a Black woman in its new documentary. The case was filed with the public prosecutor, demanding to shut down the streaming service in Egypt. The news comes following the release of the trailer for Queen Cleopatra.

Netflix Is Promoting Afrocentrism, And Distorting History

An Egyptian lawyer, Mahmoud al-Semary, filed a legal suit against Netflix following the release of the trailer for its upcoming documentary, “Queen Cleopatra”. The lawyer has slammed the streaming service for portraying a black woman in the documentary and asked the court to shut down Netflix in Egypt.

In the trailer, released on April 12, Queen Cleopatra’s character is played by Adele James, a black actress, despite several historians and Egyptian critics, pointing out that the Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt was likely, not Black.

Mahmoud’s complaint pinpoints that Netflix has committed forgery and misled viewers. The complaint also accuses Netflix of promoting “Afrocentrism and falsifying and distorting the history of Egypt”. It demanded that “all works aimed at obliterating and distorting the Egyptian identity be stopped from being broadcast”.

At one point in the complaint, the lawyer alleges: “Most of what Netflix platform displays do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones.” It added: “In order to preserve the Egyptian national and cultural identity among Egyptians all over the world there must be pride in the makings of such work.”

Researches & Historians Shed Light On Cleopatra’s Roots

The aforementioned lawyer has called in for an investigation into Netflix management, requesting the court to block Netflix from Egypt. Not only this, but the lawyer has urged to block any broadcast depicting a distorted view of Egyptian history or identity.

The complaint reads, “In order to preserve the Egyptian national and cultural identity among Egyptians all over the world and take pride in it, and to consolidate the spirit of belonging to the homeland, and accordingly, we ask and seek you to take the necessary legal measures against this platform.”

The logical argument behind Cleopatra’s roots stands in the fact that she was the last Ptolemy ruler, which makes her of Greek or Macedonian descent. Even though her race has not been confirmed, many historians and researchers have come forward with their set of arguments.

Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass sided with the lawyer and condemned the series for “falsifying facts.” Hawass argued, “Netflix is trying to stir up confusion to spread false information that the origin of Egyptian civilization is black.” He insisted that she was blonde as she came of Greek descent.

On the other hand, Egyptian Archeology researcher Dr. Sally-Anne Ashton came to Netflix’s defense. She believes, “Given that Cleopatra represents herself as an Egyptian, it seems strange to insist on depicting her as wholly European…Cleopatra ruled in Egypt long before the Arab settlement in North Africa.”

Sally argues that if Cleopatra’s maternal side were indigenous women, there isn’t any doubt that they would be African, and this should be reflected in contemporary representations of Cleopatra.

Netflix Din’t Make A Mistake, Did It?

As the controversy continues to gain momentum, many actresses, including Gal Gadot, who was declared in 2020 to portray Cleopatra in a new biopic directed by Patty Jenkins, came forward to Netflix’s defense arguing, Cleopatra was Arab or African. 

The actress responded to criticisms of “whitewashing” from fans, and alleged that the role of the Egyptian queen should be played by an Arab or African actress. “First of all if you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian,” Gadot told BBC Arabic back in time.

She continued, “We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn’t there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra.” She added: “I have friends from across the globe, whether they’re Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course… People are people, and with me, I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honor this amazing historic icon that I admire so much.”

Apart from this, Jada Pinkett Smith explained that the project went through different machinations, but “it started with Willow…I really wanted to represent Black women.” She continued, “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!”

She continued, “The sad part is that we don’t have ready access to these historical women who were so powerful and were the backbones of African nations.” Netflix is yet to respond to the complaint but the streaming service isn’t a stranger to such controversies.

In 2020, Netflix faced massive backlash for portraying the Polish royal family in “The Crown”. The Polish government demanded that Netflix add a disclaimer to the show, stating that it was a work of fiction.

Queen Cleopatra airs on Netflix on May 10. This comes as the second season of an African Queens” docudrama which previously followed the story of the 17th-century warrior Queen Njinga. What are your thoughts on this controversy?

I am Mallika Singh, a lawyer and writer by profession. Writing gives me a sense of freedom and independence. I am a keen observer and an ardent reader. When not at work, you can find me at the stable. Horse riding is another passion that keeps me going.


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