Netflix’s “Queen Cleopatra” Docudrama Sparks Controversy
Netflix’s new docudrama series “Queen Cleopatra” has caused a stir among various publications, including this one, for its ahistorical portrayal of the famed Egyptian monarch as dark-skinned. While race-blind castings are becoming more common in Hollywood, “Queen Cleopatra” claims to present historical truth through interviews with scholars and historians who argue that Cleopatra was black.
Shelley Haley and the Society for Classical Studies
One of the classicists Netflix consulted for the series is Shelley Haley, a professor at Hamilton College and leader of the Society for Classical Studies (SCS). The SCS has been at the forefront of the “history wars,” promoting “antiracist education” and “Queering the Past.” Haley’s approach to defining Cleopatra as black aligns with this agenda and was the subject of a New York Times piece titled “Fear of a Black Cleopatra.”
- Haley’s idea of “cultural Blackness” is deeply reductive and ignores black achievement and culture.
- The concept of “cultural Blackness” is so broad that it could apply to nearly every culture on Earth.
- Cleopatra was not a victim of oppression but an absolute monarch who owned thousands of slaves.
The idea of “cultural Blackness” is not only historically inaccurate but also serves to expand blackness to fit a presentist narrative and privilege black scholars in discussing these topics. It reduces an entire ethnicity and culture to the experience of oppression, appropriating the history of others.
In short, the academics who espouse this claptrap should be defenestrated, their universities razed, and the ground salted. Or, to put it in words even Cleopatra would comprehend: woke history delenda est.
Mike Coté is a writer and podcaster focusing on history, Great Power rivalry, and geopolitics. He has also written for National Review and The National Interest, blogs at rationalpolicy.com, and can be found on Twitter @ratlpolicy.
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