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Is A Black Woman Playing Queen Cleopatra Such A Big Deal?

There’s no reliable evidence about who Cleopatra’s mother was, or what was her lineage. So there’s a good possibility that her mother was an African woman, which could make Queen Cleopatra black.

Happened to catch the docuseries ‘Queen Cleopatra’ on Netflix. And no, I’m not reviewing it here, just pointing out something I have been hearing about the series for some time now.

Well, there’s a huge controversy shrouding the 4-episode mini-series, that Queen Cleopatra has been portrayed as a Black woman, a woman of colour. Audiences around the world, especially Egyptians, have been voicing their anger over the series. So much so, that it now has a 1/10 rating on IMDB.

Their reason, they believe Queen Cleopatra wasn’t Black. They justify that her dynasty was of Greek and Macedonian descent, so her skin colour couldn’t have been what they showed in the docuseries. And thanks to this, people have been bashing it all over.

Why she may have been black

But the makers seem to have another theory, they say there’s no reliable evidence about who Cleopatra’s mother was, or what was her lineage. So there’s a good possibility that her mother was an African woman, which could make Queen Cleopatra black.

To cut a long story short, Cleopatra may not have been black. But she couldn’t have been entirely white either, she had Macedonian lineage.

There are various movies and biographies created about the queen, and for ages, the protagonist has been played largely by white women. Nobody seems to have objected then or in the least pointed out that Cleopatra had a mixed ancestry.

Why then, all this storm, when the protagonist is a woman of colour? All of a sudden, everyone seems to have woken up and taken notice, raising a question or an opinion about the exact skin colour of a queen about whom nothing much was ever known.

An excellent, well made series

The series definitely worked for me, because I had only heard or read bits and pieces about the mysterious queen. She had always been made to seem like an enigma. This documentary has effectively chronicled her whole life, from birth to death, her affairs, her husbands, her children, and of course her rule. The narrators are acclaimed historians who seem to have researched her in deep.

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Cleopatra, brilliantly played by Adele James, comes across as a beautiful, strong, and clever leader who would go to any extent for Egypt, to help her country progress. She did use her beauty to her advantage, she lured powerful kings like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony to strengthen Egypt’s position. She wasn’t a slave to her emotions, she was ruthless and made some tough decisions against her family who turned traitors. In short, she was a true feminist. As a wife, daughter, mother, and monarch, she did justice to all her roles. For the very first time, I learned about Cleopatra, to the minutest detail. And the queen thankfully looked like a real person and not some apparition.

It’s sad that even in the twenty-first century, racism is such a huge part of our lives. If the actress playing a certain role fits the bill perfectly and does a great job, why can’t she be accepted? Irrespective of the colour of her skin? If the content and acting are impressive, what’s the big deal?

Instead, the leading lady and the woman director are brought down on purpose, subjected to racist slurs, and the entire series is labelled a failure.

It’s like that joke on ‘Daily Show’, that the world was fine with ‘The Mummy’ series, a figment of someone’s Egyptian fantasy. But a realistic and mature documentary is shunned for skin colour.

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