Controversial Cleopatra Casting: Are Netflix and Disney Altering History?
From Disney’s terrible casting choices of white actors instead of Black and Indigenous actors to Netflix’s opposite problem – forcing black actors into wrong roles – Hollywood is persistent in its attempts in altering historical facts. Why is Nani (Lilo & Stitch) not indigenous? Why are, all of the sudden, Queen Charlotte (Bridgerton) and Cleopatra cast as black women, when history has proven their ancestry?
Netflix’s Controversial Casting for Cleopatra: Was she even black?
According to the renowned historian Sheila L. Ager, Cleopatra VII was not even Egyptian, contrary to many people’s opinions. This is due to the fact that her ancestors were not native Egyptians.
While the person’s roots do not necessarily distinguish their skin color, this needs to be addressed with historical facts. Therefore, let’s set the record straight when it comes to Cleopatra’s origins.
Cleopatra was born in 69 BCE and was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. She was the last pharaoh of Egypt before it was conquered by Rome. She became the Queen of Egypt via her marriage to Ptolemy V.
Apart from her beauty, intelligence, and her relationships with two powerful Roman leaders, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony, Cleopatra was a very skilled politician and one of the most powerful female leaders in the course of history.
As diverse as Egyptians were, their leaders were most definitely light-skinned or at-most olive-skinned. This is due to the fact that they spent most of their time enjoying lavish lives inside their dorms, while labor workers spent most of their time outside under the scorching sun.
Egyptians Suing Netflix For Trying to Erase Egyptian Identity by Wrongfully Casting Cleopatra
Egyptian lawyers are now standing up for their origins and fighting Netflix via lawsuits. Due to the fact that Cleopatra is one of the most important leaders in Egyptian history, the country’s lawyers are filling various reports on the topic of her casting choice by Netflix.
And as if all of the backlashes from the historians, Egyptians, Macedonians, and history enthusiasts weren’t enough – the producer behind Netflix’s upcoming Queen Cleopatra just addressed the situation. “Cleopatra’s heritage is still highly debated. If you don’t like the casting, don’t watch the show.” Rude, right? The comment section on Netflix’s Youtube trailer for Cleopatra got flooded with negative comments so much so that Netflix turned off comments.
For instance, Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary explained their legal measures against Netflix, saying “In order to preserve the Egyptian national and cultural identity among Egyptians all over the world… we ask and seek you to take the necessary legal measures against this platform.” In addition, he addressed Netflix’s Afrocentrism, which is not the first time they made the same mistake.
Another instance of Egyptian folks protecting their history is the renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass. Speaking of Netflix’s controversial casting for Cleopatra, he said “This is completely fake. Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she had light skin, not black. Netflix is trying to provoke confusion by spreading false and deceptive facts that the origin of the Egyptian civilization is black”.
Netflix’s Cleopatra is not only insulting to Egyptians but to African culture as well
The depiction of Cleopatra as a black woman did not only stir up Egyptian lawyers but also troubled many people from Africa. More specifically, a Nigerian Youtuber Frank Stephen addressed this topic, saying “You’re trying to celebrate African history by erasing and replacing it with wishful thinking, and as an African, I just find this very offensive. See, we don’t need lies to highlight our history, we have countless notable historical figures whose stories you are yet to explore.”
Jada Pinkett Smith defends casting for Cleopatra
If you’re curious, the popular American actress Jada Pinkett Smith is the executive producer of this controversial upcoming show. When asked about the casting choices, she explained her intentions were pure.
“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!” Jada Pinkett Smith about Cleopatra casting
The show’s director Tina Gharavi also publicly addressed the controversy, saying “All I ask is that we slow down and ask ‘What exactly bothers you so much about a black Cleopatra?’“ What do you think? Let us know in the comment section!
Thank you @Variety for allowing me to share my story on #QueenCleopatra for #Netflix. While it is blowing up the internet… All I ask is that we slow down and ask “What exactly bothers you so much about a black Cleopatra?” Full length version coming soon.https://t.co/hVQJNZjzNd
— Tina Gharavi (@Gharavi) April 21, 2023
The Importance of the Egyptian Race in History
Throughout history, many Egyptian leaders stood out from the crowd. Apart from their rich heritage, Ancient Egyptians are one of the most intelligent races to ever exist. They were ahead of their time by thousands of years. From forming astonishing, grand monuments, to becoming well-respected and ever-feared leaders, Cleopatra and her ancestors definitely changed the trajectory of history.
Their importance in the course of history is neither bigger nor smaller judging simply by their skin tone, however, this has been one of the longest debates in history. Many historians believe the skin tone of Egyptians depended on the region they lived in. For example, people from Lower Egypt and Nubia were depicted as dark-skinned, while Upper Egyptians were light-skinned.
Moreover, historians have also concluded that skin tone also strongly depended on a person’s lifestyle. Therefore, labor workers who spent hours under the Sun adapted and their skin was darker. On the same note, Cleopatra had bathed in goat milk and enjoyed grapes inside her grand, luxurious dorms.
Historically speaking, what was the actual tone of the skin of these folks? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint, as many of them were of mixed races. However, as depicted in saved documents and paintings, Cleopatra and her people were most definitely light-skinned. This, however, doesn’t mean white as we know Europeans or Caucasians can be nowadays. More likely, Cleopatra had light skin.
Ancient Egyptians as depicted throughout history
Netflix’s Afrocentrism in Other Shows
Apart from choosing a dark-skinned actress for the role of Cleopatra, Netflix made a similar mistake in their other programs. However, the other situations are not as terrible as that one.
For example, let’s take a look at the Bridgerton cast. While we all love and worship Rege Jean-Page for his portrayal of Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings, there was probably a 1% chance of a dark-skinned Duke at the time!
In fact, there were not many nobles of African descent in the 1800s, which is the Regency Era. In addition, historians are still fairly uncertain when it comes to Queen Charlotte’s skin tone. This is due to the fact that she is the descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, who did have mixed-African ancestry.
On another note, most of the paintings we have as evidence about historical figures show that Queen Charlotte was, indeed, white. Moreover, it was fairly impossible for Kings to fall for dark-skinned ladies! They simply didn’t belong to the same social circles in the early 1800s. However, this is a lesser mistake than Netflix’s controversial casting for Cleopatra.
Bridgerton show creator Chris Van Busen addressed this publicly, saying “It is a reimagined world, we’re not a history lesson, it’s not a documentary. What we’re really doing with the show is marrying history and fantasy in what I think is a very exciting way. One approach that we took to that is our approach to race. I took this one possible fact which was that Queen Charlotte was England’s first Queen of mixed race, and I think that’s something that a lot of historians believe there’s evidence for.”
Queen Charlotte as depicted in Bridgerton vs History
What about Disney’s Controversial Whitewashing Casting?
It’s obvious how Netflix and Disney are making wrongful choices when it comes to casting. Netflix is trying to alter history in order to “be woke” and allow diversity. This is obvious due to the controversial Cleopatra casting. However, Disney is doing the opposite.
For instance, Disney made yet another controversial casting choice just days ago. For the upcoming Lilo & Stitch live-action, Disney cast Sydney Elizabeth Agudong for the role of Nani.
While Sydney does have Hawaiian blood, fans are boiling over the fact that this is simply not enough. Why? Firstly, Nani (as well as most of the other Lilo & Stitch characters) were indigenous people. Therefore, Disney could’ve put a lot more effort into finding people perfect for the role.
And just like with Netflix, this is not the first mistake on this note that Disney made. A couple of years ago, there was casting for the live-action of Aladdin. As we know, characters from the 1993 Aladdin were of Arab origin. Thus, the fact that Disney cast Naomi Scott as Jasmine, who is of British and Indian descent, was outrageous. Will Disney, Netflix, and other streaming services stop pushing these “woke” trends down our throats? Why does every show need to have diversity in order to be successful?
It’s up for public debate whether or not Hollywood is doing these wrongful, disrespectful castings on purpose. However, we can all agree that Cleopatra was an Egyptian leader of Macedonian descent. Also, Nani was an indigenous Hawaiian woman, and Jasmine is Arab! Netflix and Disney need to correct their mistakes and stop trying to change historical and cinematographic facts. You need to do better. The controversial casting for Cleopatra and other characters are creating fake diversity!
oh disney we got a problem pic.twitter.com/uANaqjs4Sq
— ً (@letsmegetme) April 14, 2023
Obsessed with anime, all-things magical, collecting rare editions and funko pops, Natalija is a young writer who strives to read every comic and manga out there!