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Netflix’s “Cleopatra” Is an Actium-Level Entertainment Disaster

Netflix’s “Cleopatra” Is an Actium-Level Entertainment Disaster

The audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is….2%!

A few weeks ago, I noted that Netflix had created a furor with the “black-washing” of the upcoming “documentary focused on Cleopatra VII, the famous queen of Egypt.

The ire in Egypt over casting a black actress as historically accurate, when records and historians show she had Macedonian Greek lineage, was astonishing. One of the nation’s lawyers was planning to sue the streaming network and many Egyptians wanted to boot Netflix completely out of the country.

I said I would probably watch it. However, this weekend, I opted not to do so.

Despite my love of ancient Egypt, I was in no mood for a woke-umentary. Additionally, Cleopatra as “Xena, Warrior Princess” in ancient Egyptian attire is an insult to my intelligence and sensibilities.

It seems I made a good choice. Netflix’s “Cleopatra” has been an entertainment disaster. It has achieved a historically low number on Rotten Tomatoes.

…[T]he show has done something I didn’t think was even possible. It has not just the lowest audience score in Netflix history, it has essentially the lowest audience score possible on Rotten Tomatoes, a 1%. Not a 10%, a 1%. (Update: It just ticked up to 2%. Still an unprecedented low)

There aren’t many critic reviews in, but those are low as well, with the show sitting at a 13%. But those audience scores? I’ve never seen anything like this. Not with bad shows. Not with politically controversial shows prone to review bombing. Never this bad, not in Netflix history. Honesty, I think not even in TV history, at least with this many reviews in (over a thousand).

The audience reviews are scathing.

This is a disaster on all levels in its failure to entertain, captivate, world-build (or re-create, I guess), and educate. Everything about it is or at least feels wrong, either through bad artistic direction or plain historic inaccuracy.

I’ve never seen a show also fail so big globally, upsetting entire countries of people overnight; and on different continents, no less!

This truly represents the end of culture, the art of film-making has been reduced to nothing more than copy-pasting Wikipedia and spewing unfiltered nonsense into a five-page paper the night before it’s due, with nothing else in mind but beating the limit.

How big a disaster is this? About the same level of failure as the Battle of Actium was for the Egyptians.

Clearly, people worldwide are pushing back against woke, racialist narratives. However, instead of considering the complaints might be valid, the progressive press asserts the criticisms are…..racist.

To be clear, the docu-drama isn’t, in fact, arguing that Cleopatra was a dark-skinned Black woman with no Macedonian-Greek heritage at all, although the media storm around it might make you assume otherwise. Rather, its creators, including scholar Shelley Haley, professor of classics and African studies at Hamilton College, have asked us to imagine her as a woman of mixed heritage, hence the casting of a biracial actress. “Her ethnicity is not the focus of Queen Cleopatra, but we did intentionally decide to depict her of mixed ethnicity to reflect theories about Cleopatra’s possible Egyptian ancestry and the multicultural nature of ancient Egypt,” a statement from Netflix reads.

Unsurprisingly, past depictions of Cleopatra featuring white women have been critically and publicly acclaimed, with Vivien Leigh, Claudette Colbert and Elizabeth Taylor all appearing as the Egyptian queen over the course of the 20th century. Not one of these women is Macedonian, Greek or Egyptian, meaning their casting was no more “authentic” than James’s, and yet it never incited scandal. And while Israeli actor Gal Gadot’s decision to play Cleopatra in a forthcoming biopic raised a few eyebrows when it was announced in 2020, it wasn’t met with nearly the level of vitriol as James’s casting.

Actually, in the trailer, an “expert” asserts Cleopatra was black…which counters the above argument.

There is good news for me, at least. The Egyptians are creating their own documentary.

Egypt has announced its own high-budget documentary about Queen Cleopatra VII, challenging Netflix’s controversial documentary about the same subject. The documentary will be produced by newly-launched channel Al-Watha’eqeya (The Documentary), according to an announcement on the channel’s Facebook page on April 30.

“Al-Watha’eqeya have started preparations for the production of a documentary film about Queen Cleopatra, the daughter of Ptolemy XII, the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt following the death of Alexander the Great,” explains the post, indicating the documentary’s intention to highlight Cleopatra’s Macedonian-Greek origins.

The channel also highlighted its aim to provide a detailed and accurate view, primarily through sessions with specialists in archaeology, anthropology, and history.

I imagine this project will be much better in every regard.

Netflix may have averted this disaster if any of its producers or executives had differing cultural or societal views and could order modifications to the project. However, until changes to the entertainment industry are allowed to occur, Hollywood will continue to sink under the weight of its woke dogma, just like Cleopatra’s barges did at Actium.


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DIEversity (e.g. racism).

Not unexpected. Films injecting wokism have so little to do with art, and so much to do about ideology. The audiences must have been a sight to see.

And on cue, Dylan Mulvaney is promoting new teen film, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” a coming-of-age novel written by sell out Judy Blume.

The film earned just $16 million after three weeks of release, with a budget is reportedly $30 million.

Continued good success to both films.

After watching the first episode, upper management at Anheuser-Busch decided to put Cleopatra’s picture on Bud Light in hopes that sales will pick up.

    diver64 in reply to Paula. | May 17, 2023 at 3:24 am

    That would be more historically accurate than the Netflix disaster as some of the earliest recorded beer was brewed in Egypt.

      MattMusson in reply to diver64. | May 17, 2023 at 8:19 am

      I am a fan of PBS Masterpiece but they continually insert black characters into their period dramas when the number of Africans in the entire country would have numbered in the few thousands. They are literally rewriting history as having been inclusive.

You – will – be – “compelled” – to – pay – for – “quality” – movies – like – these.

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henrybowman | May 16, 2023 at 8:08 pm


It’s all so crazy, personally I don’t care if the actress is biracial, she probably was, but it’s the all things black non stop

Unfortunately, the black race as a whole , have done little in a thousand years as the Arabs have done little for humanity

Yet we are to believe the white race, who literally has probably brought humanity out of the dark ages with its inventions, is the cause for all the worlds problems

    randian in reply to gonzotx. | May 16, 2023 at 9:59 pm

    Even if Cleopatra was “biracial”, she would have been mixed Greek and Egyptian, both of which are Caucasian at this time. This long predates the Arab conquests of Greece and North Africa. She likely wouldn’t have been visually distinctive in either Greece or Egypt.

    healthguyfsu in reply to gonzotx. | May 17, 2023 at 1:04 am

    Don’t be ignorant. Arabs have contributed quite a bit to our history and early advancement of civilization. Unfortunately, they got stuck in antiquity somewhere along the way due to their inability to allow individual freedom and capitalism to flourish.

    You have a better argument with the contributions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

      ThePrimordialOrderedPair in reply to healthguyfsu. | May 17, 2023 at 2:41 am

      The arabs greatest contributions were transmitting inventions from the Hindus and preserving some of the ancient Greek knowledge in Egypt. Most of the “arab” contrinutions of the islamic age were Persian. Whenever the arabs were in control things were, generally, run down and destroyed. Not always, but mostly.

      If you want to know what lots of muslims thought about arabs read Ibn Khaldun. Here’s a little bit from The Muqadimmah – 14th century Chapter 2:

      25. Places that succumb to the Arabs are quickly ruined.

      The reason for this is that (the Arabs) are a savage nation, fully accustomed to savagery and the things that cause it. Savagery has become their character and nature. They enjoy it, because it means freedom from authority and no subservience to leadership. Such a natural disposition is the negation and antithesis of civilization. All the customary activities of the Arabs lead to travel and movement. This is the antithesis and negation of stationariness, which produces civilization. For instance, the Arabs need stones to set them up as supports for their cooking pots. So, they take them from buildings which they tear down to get the stones, and use them for that purpose. Wood, too, is needed by them for props for their tents and for use as tent poles for their dwell­ings. So, they tear down roofs to get the wood for that purpose. The very nature of their existence is the negation of building, which is the basis of civilization. This is the case with them quite generally.

      Furthermore, it is their nature to plunder whatever other people possess. Their sustenance lies wherever the shadow of their lances falls. They recognize no limit in taking the possessions of other people. Whenever their eyes fall upon some property, furnishings, or utensils, they take it. When they acquire superiority and royal authority, they have complete power to plunder (as they please). There no longer exists any political (power) to protect property, and civilization is ruined.

      Furthermore, since they use force to make craftsmen and professional workers do their work, they do not see any value in it and do not pay them for it. Now, as we shall mention, labor is the real basis of profit. When labor is not appreciated and is done for nothing, the hope for profit vanishes, and no (productive) work is done. The sedentary population disperses, and civilization decays.

      diver64 in reply to healthguyfsu. | May 17, 2023 at 3:27 am

      Arabs did indeed contribute quite a bit to our history.
      They are the reason the US Marines and the US Navy was formed.

      Dathurtz in reply to healthguyfsu. | May 17, 2023 at 6:23 am

      No, they didn’t. What they did do is steal from those whom they conquered. Then, they ran everything into the ground because they didn’t understand the value of what they had gained.

      gonzotx in reply to healthguyfsu. | May 17, 2023 at 3:20 pm

      Ahh it’s been hundreds if not a thousand years since the Arabs had done anything productive, like 825, so YOU are the ignorant one and just seem filled with hate

      But haters gunna hate, have a nice day

    Crawford in reply to gonzotx. | May 17, 2023 at 8:18 am

    From her ancestor Ptolemy down to her, Cleopatra’s family adopted the Egyptian royal practice of sibling marriage. While it’s likely the women had other lovers, they couldn’t have strayed too far, or the child could have obviously not been their husband’s. So it’s more likely Cleopatra’s ancestry was all Greek — though some scholars think there may have been a Persian woman in her line as well.

      gonzotx in reply to Crawford. | May 17, 2023 at 3:21 pm

      Biracial or multiracial doesn’t necessarily mean mixed with black

      Jeff Cox in reply to Crawford. | May 18, 2023 at 9:32 pm

      The possible Persian in Cleopatra VII’s ancestry would have come from a few of her Ptolemaic ancestors intermarrying with the Seleucids, the Hellenistic rulers of what is now Iran, Iraq, and nearby places.

      It is curious that Netflix defense of their “documentary”, such as it is, leaves out Leonor Varela, who played the queen in an underrated 1990s miniseries with Timothy Dalton as Julius Caesar, Billy Zane as Mark Antony, and Rupert Graves as Octavius Caesar (the future Augustus). Maybe because Varela, who is from South America, had olive skin. Few objected to her.

      As it is, Varela, Elizabeth Taylor, et al, were far closer to Cleopatra VII in appearance than this latest model.

It makes you root for the snake.

You don’t get scores that bad because of one person’s skin. There has to be a lot more wrong with. Bad acting, bad script, etc.

    Lucifer Morningstar in reply to irv. | May 16, 2023 at 10:17 pm

    I think this comment by Rohan Naahar (The Indian Express) says it all about this production:

    A surface-level docudrama that often slips into Mills & Boon territory, Netflix’s Queen Cleopatra tells the legendary monarch’s tale with all the dramatic heft of a Wikipedia article.

    I guess when your production is compared to wikipedia article you’ve got some major problems.

    Flatworm in reply to irv. | May 17, 2023 at 6:56 am

    I’ve had a theory for a while now that inciting some sort of “woke” controversy has become a go-to strategy to cover for weak art. The idea is to provoke the hate of some truly awful bigots, so when actual criticism comes in, you can turn the spotlight on them and make them the face of your critics. The overwhelmingly liberal crowd of professional critics and studio leadership then feel obligated to side with you against the bigots.

About a year ago I discovered Critical Drinker on youtube. His reviews of woke movies are better than the movies themselves. The reviews are well researched and the dude is a writer by profession and can put words together in sentences in a way that gets him paid in followers. I’d say his review of Cleopatra was par, but wow does he slay stuff like Peter and Wendy, Little Mermaid and all things Star Wars

Honestly his reviews are must watch entertainment.

    healthguyfsu in reply to Andy. | May 17, 2023 at 1:05 am is pretty good for a quick overview of both quality and level of wokeness.

    Dathurtz in reply to Andy. | May 17, 2023 at 6:25 am

    Seconded. Highly entertaining, but actually well thought through and insightful.

    daniel_ream in reply to Andy. | May 17, 2023 at 7:31 am

    That the Drinker is as popular as he is is just an indication of how successful the psyop campaign has been.

    He’s doing freshman-level film crit of pop culture ephemera and stoking the nerdrage of consoooomers who think these films are important. They aren’t. But people frothing at the mouth that the latest tax writeoff from Hollywood isn’t stroking their childhood nostalgia the way they want aren’t paying attention to laws being passed and what’s going on in the schools.

    The Drinker knows his audience and he’s pandering to it. At one point he still had some of his earliest videos up, before he adopted the drunk Scotsman persona and was doing much more sophisticated criticism of dramas and indie films. What you’re seeing now is no different than Sony pre-emptively claiming “misogyny!” to get people to see the 2016 Ghostbusters.

      Crawford in reply to daniel_ream. | May 17, 2023 at 8:19 am

      Jealous, much?

        forksdad in reply to Crawford. | May 17, 2023 at 10:47 am

        Dude just say you’ll never sleep with him and move on. The repressed desire and envy are dripping off the page.

      If he’s freshman level film critic, then zero make it to be sophomores.

      Is he stroking an audience? Some. But he also calls out when he’s called it wrong. He also calls out the gap between good movies / good writing.

      Despite the constant cursing and PG13 content I’ve got my 11 year old daughter watching for the stuff he calls out about story devices and writing. Things like “character arc” and plot devices like “a mcguffin” and countless others. Like “why?” does something happen in a movie other than “the script needed this to happen for the next thing to happen.” Does it tell a story or just set up the next scene?

      So far as his talent goes- there’s a thousand other creators trying to make a subscriber base by shouting “woke,” “diversity,” “girl boss,” and “mary sue,” but he’s next level.

      I see where you are coming from if you are saying it’s “not for you” Back in the day I hated Weird Al’s stuff. It wasn’t for me. Decades later people still love it. Just not me.

    I enjoy his videos. I mostly watch the ones that are also critical of “woke” culture and how it has infiltrated the film/television industry. His vid on the “Myth of the Modern Audience” is really good, and I enjoy his discussions of the way men and women are portrayed in film. Something about how men aren’t men anymore, no strong silent types, no “typical” male responses to whatever is happening, just long weepy speeches. Likewise, his points about how female heroes just start out “super” and never have an arc, a heroic journey. They are already competent at everything, so what’s the compelling reason to watch or care about her?

    I don’t really care about film crit per se, so his takes on how leftist culture has taken over are what is compelling to me. Plus, he’s funny. 😛

    irv in reply to Andy. | May 17, 2023 at 10:08 pm

    I want to be just like the drinker when I grow up. But I’m not Scottish so I may have to re-learn the English language.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | May 16, 2023 at 10:48 pm

but we did intentionally decide to depict her of mixed ethnicity to reflect theories about Cleopatra’s possible Egyptian ancestry


Egyptians were not black. Not even a little bit.

And … as to the modern “Egyptians” complaining … that’s rich. The modern “Egyptians” are arabs who took over, who weren’t Egyptians. Most of the Egyptians who are left are in the minority of Coptic Christians, who the arabs love to attack and try to do away with. The modern “egyptians” (the arabs) love to deny all of Egyptian history and are very much into destroying Egyptian historical pieces that are Egyptian and not islamic (i.e. arab).

There are large movements in Egypt, among the arabs, to destroy the pyramids and other ancient artifacts (as the Taliban was into doing). muslims hate history and care for absolutely nothing that is not islamic (and they don’t care much for islamic artifacts too much, either).

We should all be waiting for “Cleopatra, the Sequel”, where Cleopatra does the Michael Jackson thing and whitens her skin, and comes to look like Cleopatra again.

Does anybody really benefit from this scholar’s scholarship? Obviously she lives and works in a bubble, divorced from real world reality.

And there are obviously many many many others like her.

Why would any rational adult pay money to have anything to do with this woman? or the place that employs her?

– – – –

Instead , make it your mission to (1) acquire another language, and (2) acquire useful employable job experience.

Four years from now, let’s say you’re fluent in for example Spanish or Japanese or ??…….. and you’re also an experienced bartender or ESL teacher or ?? ………… do you honestly believe you would have been better off spending four years in with scholars like the one quoted in this article?

The emperor wears no clothes

The evidence is all around you.

Accept reality. Deal with it. It’s ok, you’ll be fine


What could go wrong with a “melanated sister” as the lead and fanciful history passed on as a rewriting of the facts? Everyone knew what this thing was all about and now we know why Will Smith is so whipped. What an angry, hateful racist woman he married.

Next up: Sandra Bullock as Harriet Tubman and Keanu Reeves starring as Frederick Douglas.

I’ll watch black Cleopatra the moment the leading actors in the next Wakanda sequel are Scandinavian..

It’s a little early for “what Jesus really looked like” season) but now the same stickers for accuracy when it comes to Jesus are making black Cleopatra flicks.

In case anyone is interested I’ve been in Catholic churches on five continents. The Jesus on the crucifix always looks like the locals. How hard is an artist supposed to look for a model? Iron age Jews are in short supply in most of the world.

    Arminius in reply to Arminius. | May 17, 2023 at 5:11 am

    I’ll watch black Cleopatra the moment the leading actors in the next Wakanda sequel are Scandinavian..

    It’s a little early for “what Jesus really looked like” season) but now the same stickers for accuracy when it comes to Jesus are making black Cleopatra flicks.

    In case anyone is interested I’ve been in Catholic churches on five continents. The Jesus on the crucifix always looks like the locals. How hard is an artist supposed to look for a model? Iron age Jews are in short supply in most of the world.

I don’t know about the double comment. Normally when you hit submit the text field clears. As far as the race/ethnicity of the ancient Egyptians they were Caucasian. If their artwork isn’t proof enough every mummy that has DNA that can be extracted is Caucasian

Modern Egyptians typically have 8% Sub-Saharan African DNA. Which is more than the ancients. On the other hand despite the European DNA in the ancient Egyptian remains almost nobody who has studied the matter will go so far as to say they were white. It seems to be a PC thing

    Crawford in reply to Arminius. | May 17, 2023 at 8:22 am

    That mixture came from the few children of slaves who were permitted to survive. Likely only or nearly-only children of a Muslim man and an enslaved sub-Saharan woman.

    There was a time when Kushites ruled Egypt, but it wasn’t for long.

Thad Jarvis | May 17, 2023 at 11:57 am

Professor Shelley Halley’s bio is a hilarious, right out of central casting, predictable mess of trendy academic-speak that would make Scientologists blush:

“She is an expert in applying Black feminist and critical race approaches to the study and teaching of Classics.”

Her publications titles are hysterical. You’d think someone made them up to parody the state of higher ed today:

“When I Enter’: Disrupting the White, Heteronormative Narrative of Librarianship”

“Re-presenting Reality: Provincial Women As Tools of Roman Social Reproduction.”

“Be Not Afraid of the Dark: Critical Race Theory and Classical Studies,”

Woke Director #1: “We’ve created the ultimate in woke with Velma.”
Woke Director #2: “Hold my soy latte while I cast Cleopatra.”

E Howard Hunt | May 17, 2023 at 12:08 pm

How bad is it? It’s so bad it makes 1973’s Cleopatra Jones look like Oscar material.

I predict all sorts of nominations for all sorts of awards from the woke Hollywood award community. They are not going to miss an opportunity to signal their anti-racist virtue to the systemic-racism world.

Impressive work getting a Battle of Actium reference into an entertainment story LOL. Now that you’ve crossed that Rubicon I really want to know how the live action Little Mermaid movie compares to the Romans defeat at Lake Trasimene.

inspectorudy | May 18, 2023 at 1:16 am

I think if this movie had been produced ten years ago it wouldn’t have caused such a stir. Remember “The Wiz”, a black version of the “Wizard of Oz” and no one cared and in fact, it was a big hit. “Hamilton” on Broadway has been a big hit with blacks playing white founding fathers. It is a big hit too. But in these times of everyone being called a racist and the left trying to take our culture away, this movie didn’t stand a chance. A-B just found that out in spades and I suspect several more corporations will too, soon. If we are lucky the leftward arc of the pendulum has reached its limit and will start back soon.

    docduracoat in reply to inspectorudy. | May 18, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    I think your analysis is wrong.
    I never saw “the Wiz” and can’t comment about it.

    “Hamilton “ was a hit because it was a great musical.
    The sister giving up her chance at love so her sister could be happy.
    Aaron Burr telling everyone not to talk too much.
    Hamilton charging the British singing “ I’m not going to miss my shot”
    These were great theater.

    It sounds like this movie was just stupid