The new Netflix docudrama series Queen Cleopatra, which debuted on May 10, has received record low audience and critic scores on review websites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.
The series, produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and starring Adele James, has been controversial since a trailer for the docudrama was released last month. Since then, it has been widely lambasted for what many perceive as a misleading and revisionist portrayal of Queen Cleopatra VII Philopator.
Last month, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Archaeology weighed in on the issue. It released a lengthy statement criticizing the Netflix docudrama about Cleopatra as “a falsification of Egyptian history and a blatant historical misconception”.
Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra panned by online reviews
Any hope Netflix may have had that Queen Cleopatra would prove a surprise hit despite the pre-launch controversy has now seemingly evaporated with the release of reviews for the series online.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the series presently holds an audience score of just 2% based on over 5,000 reviews by viewers. Queen Cleopatra received an almost equally poor reception from professional critics, receiving a score of just 10%.
The simultaneously low critics and audience scores hammer home just how poorly the reception for Netflix’s docudrama about Cleopatra has been. In recent years, there has been a growing disparity between audience and critic scores on review sites like Rotten Tomatoes. This time, however, audiences and critics alike were in unanimous agreement about the quality of Queen Cleopatra.
What audiences and critics had to say
“It’s not very good. Overall, it lacks context, personality, and a reason for being made,” wrote Romey Norton, a critic for Ready Steady Cut.
Camilla Long, a critic for The Times, dismissed the series as a “patchy sub-Game of Thrones cosplay interwoven with academics you’ve never heard of.”
Most of the audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra were similarly dismissive of the show.
“Not very informative. Without authoritative sources and no experts giving interviews in this piece of fiction lacking actual facts and history. Altogether poorly done,” said one review.
A handful of reviewers offered more favorable opinions, with one saying “I actually really enjoyed this despite what the critics said. It’s an easy watch for those who enjoy a bit of history and a soap opera or two.”
The docudrama series did not fare much better on other review sites like IMDB, where it currently holds a rating of just one star out of ten.
Historical revisionism controversy
The controversy surrounding the series before it even debuted is likely to have played a role in the poor reception it received.
Anger over the depiction of Cleopatra VII Philopator as a black woman when the consensus among credible historians is that she was an ethnic Greek Macedonian member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, does not seem to have died down since the release of the series.
Last month, Egyptologist Dr. Mustafa Waziri denounced the Netflix documentary, saying “The appearance of the heroine in this body is a falsification of Egyptian history and a blatant historical misconception, especially (given) that the film is classified as a documentary and not a drama”.