Netflix’s latest documentary series, African Queens: Queen Cleopatra, has stirred up controversy and become one of the streaming service’s most disliked trailers ever.
Produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, who expressed her enthusiasm for the series as “we don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens,” Queen Cleopatra follows the life of Egypt’s final pharaoh as she fights for her right to the throne, her family, and her lasting legacy.
The trailer, which dropped online via Netflix last week, has sparked uproar across social media, particularly on YouTube, where it has been viewed by millions. Many have expressed dissatisfaction with the portrayal of Cleopatra as a Black woman, despite historical records stating that she originated from Macedonian Greek heritage.
“Despite not being ethnically Egyptian, Cleopatra embraced many of her country’s ancient customs and was the first member of the Ptolemaic line to learn the Egyptian language,” according to History.com.
British actor Adele James, who has been cast in the titular role of Cleopatra, took to Twitter to share her opinion on the casting decision. However, the backlash against the trailer has been so strong that Netflix has taken drastic action.
Following the release of the teaser, which has received a staggering 2.1 million views on YouTube, Netflix has turned off the ability to comment and has also removed and hidden the number of “dislikes” the video has received. While the exact number of dislikes is unknown, it has been reported that at last count, over 263,000 people had expressed their displeasure with the trailer, making it one of Netflix’s worst-rated and most-disliked trailers to date.
This statistic falls short of the backlash received by the Harry and Meghan trailer, which was released in December 2022 and received over 400,000 dislikes from YouTube users. At the time of its release, there were reports that Netflix had disabled the dislike button on the trailer, but it is now available for both likes and dislikes.
The controversy surrounding Queen Cleopatra and its portrayal of the legendary queen has ignited discussions about historical accuracy, representation, and creative choices in film and television. While some viewers appreciate the retelling of Cleopatra’s story with a Black lead, others argue that it deviates from historical records and perpetuates misinformation.
Netflix’s decision to produce a documentary series with a Black actress playing Cleopatra has raised important questions about representation in media and the responsibilities of filmmakers to portray historical figures accurately. As debates continue to rage on social media, it is clear that Queen Cleopatra has become a lightning rod for discussions on race, history, and representation in the entertainment industry.
Jada Pinkett Smith, who has been at the forefront of this project, has yet to respond to the backlash. However, her initial statement about the importance of telling stories about Black queens indicates her intention to shed light on lesser-known narratives from history.
As the controversy surrounding Queen Cleopatra continues to unfold, it serves as a reminder of the power of media to shape perceptions, spark debates, and provoke discussions about important social and cultural issues.