A petition calling for the cancellation of the Netflix documentary Queen Cleopatra has garnered over 62,000 signatures in just two days.
The Netflix documentary, produced and narrated by Jada Pinket Smith, has been widely lambasted for its depiction of Cleopatra VII Philopator as black, whereas the historical figure was a Macedonian Greek member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled Egypt between 305 BC and 30 BC.
The controversial series has also sparked lively debates on social media on the issues of historical revisionism, race, ethnicity, and representation.
Petition to Cancel Cleopatra documentary on Netflix
The petition to cancel the new documentary was started by Maha Shehata and Aikk Yasser for “falsifying history”. According to the petition’s founders, it was created by Egyptians who felt that Egyptian history was being misrepresented.
“Afrocentrism is a pseudoscience that is pushing a group’s agenda to claim Egypt’s history and rob the actual Egyptians of it. By using false articles and zero evidence, they are still attempting to falsify history,” read the petition’s opening description.
“Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the Ptolemaic dynasty to Greek descent. She was NOT black. This is in no way against black people, and is simply a wake up call to preserve the history and the integrity of the Egyptians and the Greeks.”
“The show is clearly done to complement the Afrocentric movement, which claims to be the owner of the ancient Egyptian civilization, and to consolidate what the movement promotes. Egypt was never black and it was never white, Egypt is just Egypt. There are many great African/black civilizations, but Egypt was/is NOT one of them. Sign the petition to stop the falsification of history!” argue the authors of the petition.
Thus far, the petition has been signed by over 62,000 people.
Debate on social media
For example, archaeologist Flint Dibble disagreed with the notion that the casting of a black actor to play Cleopatra mattered.
“News flash from an archaeologist. Our ideas of race are modern. There are no genetic distinctions that can separate white and black people. We overlap,” he tweeted.
“The ancient Greeks didn’t see race like you do,” Dibble added.
Cleopatra's race is trending again with @jadapsmith playing Cleopatra on Netflix
News flash from an archaeologist. Our ideas of race are modern. There are no genetic distinctions that can separate white and black people. We overlap
The ancient Greeks didn't see race like you do pic.twitter.com/bNPCzzf0Kk
— Flint Dibble 🍖🏺 (@FlintDibble) April 14, 2023
Others did not agree with Dibble. For instance, British Egyptian doctor and Middle Eastern political observer Nervana Mahmoud thought that the casting choice was an example of historical revisionism.
“The theft of Egyptian history continues. American revisionists decided that the Greek Egyptian Queen, #Cleopatra, was somehow Black!!!” tweeted Mahmoud.
“Nothing wrong with being black— if it was the truth, but that is a big fat pathetic lie!” she added.
The theft of Egyptian history continues.
American revisionists decided that the Greek Egyptian Queen , #Cleopatra, was somehow Black!!!
Nothing wrong with being black— if it was the truth, but that is a big fat pathetic lie! https://t.co/d7pqltfFCr
— Nervana Mahmoud (@Nervana_1) April 12, 2023
A few years ago, BBC had also casted a black Achilles, creating another internet controversy.