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April 21, 2023

This isn’t the kind of story I’d normally cover, but bear with me because it’s fascinating. It includes a Hollywood celebrity, a top streaming service, an International lawsuit by an entire nation, and most interesting of all, a legal battle between two entrenched concepts of wokeness.

It all began when Netflix signed everyone’s favorite celebrity, Jada Pinkett Smith, to produce a “documentary” called “Queen Cleopatra.” As is the fashionable trend, Smith went with depicting Cleopatra as a black African, a narrative that’s become popular in movies, music videos, etc., since the rise of “Afrocentric” history. This is a school of “history” that claims many of history’s major figures and greatest achievements, like math and science, were actually part of black African culture and were stolen by white people. It was the early prototype for “The 1619 Project.”

But now, an unexpected objection has arisen. The nation of Egypt is suing Netflix, calling the film a “crime” against their culture.

They say that in fact, Cleopatra was the last of the 300-year Ptolemaic Dynasty, descended from Ptolemy 1, a general who served under Alexander the Great. She wasn’t a black African, she was Macedonian Greek, and might even have been a blonde. There are also surviving artistic representations of the people of that ancient era, so we know there were people of various skin colors and what their roles in society were.

Now, before anyone starts accusing Egypt of being racist, note: their lawsuit accuses Netflix of promoting a political agenda by falsifying facts that misrepresent “the Egyptian national and cultural identity” and airing programs that “do not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones.” The star of the movie is even being accused of “cultural appropriation” on social media.

See what I mean? This story not only has Hollywood celebrities and international conflict, it’s also a courtroom battle between sacred totems of wokeness: Afrocentric history vs. cultural appropriation and misrepresenting identities! I don’t know which side you’re rooting for, but personally, I hope that what’s left standing at the end is the concept of once again making documentaries based on interesting historical facts. Like learning that Cleopatra was Greek!

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