Posted on April 21, 2023

Netflix Sued for Depicting Cleopatra as Black

Jon Jackson, Newsweek, April 20, 2023

An Egyptian lawyer on Sunday filed a lawsuit over Netflix‘s upcoming Queen Cleopatra, accusing the streaming service of “erasing the Egyptian identity” for depicting the ruler as a Black woman.

Mahmoud al-Semary submitted the legal complaint with Egypt’s public prosecutor following the recent release of a trailer for the docudrama series, which premieres May 10. His filing not only requested legal action be taken against the makers of the show but for Netflix to be shut down in Egypt.

“Most of what Netflix platform displays do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones,” Mahmoud al-Semary said in his complaint {snip}

Adele James, a British actress who is of mixed race, stars as the queen in the upcoming Netflix production. Jada Pinkett Smith serves as executive producer of the series, and she is quoted in promotional material from Netflix as saying, “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!”

However, many historians and experts on ancient Egypt disagree with Pinkett Smith, instead saying Cleopatra was of Macedonian heritage and likely fair-skinned. {snip}


When asked about Cleopatra in regards to the upcoming Netflix series, Kathryn Bard— professor of archaeology and classical studies at Boston University—told Newsweek that “we don’t know what color Cleopatra’s skin was and unless her mummy is found (unlikely) and DNA can be analyzed from it, we will never know.”


According to the BBC, al-Semary’s complaint accuses Netflix of trying to “promote the Afrocentric thinking…which includes slogans and writings aimed at distorting and erasing the Egyptian identity.”