Streaming service giant Netflix is being sued after depicting Cleopatra as a Black African woman in a new documentary series African Queens: Queen Cleopatra.
On Sunday, Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary filed a lawsuit against Netflix, accusing the streaming service of ‘erasing the Egyptian identity’ of Cleopatra.
The filing demanded legal action against the show makers and for Netflix to be shut down in Egypt.
In his complaint, the lawyer said: “Most of what Netflix platform displays do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones.”
British actress Adele James, who is mixed race, has been cast as Cleopatra. However, the decision has been met with negative response, including outrage from many Egyptians.
James took to Twitter and shared screenshots of hurtful words she received, writing: “If you don’t like the casting, don’t watch the show.”
Jada Pinkett Smith, who serves as executive producer of the show, is quoted in the promotional video 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!”
But many experts on ancient Egypt and historians disagreed with Pinkett Smith, explaining Cleopatra was of Macedonian heritage and had fair skin.
Other scholars said that the Queen may have had more ancestries and may not have been fair-skinned.
When asked about the upcoming documentary series, Kathryn Bard – a professor of archeology and classical studies at Boston University – said to Newsweek: “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.
“Her father was a Ptolemy of Macedonian descent, but it’s less certain who her mother was. But even a so-called docudrama is bound to fictionalize much of her life—for entertainment’s sake.”
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