Netflix series Queen Cleopatra depicting the ancient monarch as black receives the lowest audience score in history

When Netflix debuted its Queen Cleopatra 4-part series that has a black actress in the title role, it caused a furor in Egypt.  We now know that, for whatever reason, Netflix subscribers and reviewers aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes have not been pleased, either.  Paul Tassi reports in Forbes:

[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)

I haven't watched the program, billed as a documentary, but I know that it is possible that it's lousy for reasons that have nothing to do with the casting of a black actress.  Because the series was created by Jada Pinkett-Smith, I hope that this observation will not lead to a beating by her husband, Will Smith.  But we do move in very different social circles, so I am not really worried.

But I also know that we live in an era in which straight actors are absolutely not supposed to get gigs portraying homosexuals, and the idea of a white portraying a black would not even occur to a casting director who wants to keep working in Hollywood (or Vancouver or Toronto or Atlanta or any other production center).  That would not be authentic, and somehow it would be an insult, and it would diminish the opportunities for "authentic" actors.

But somehow, this logic does not apply to black actors.  See, for example, another Netflix series, Bridgerton, set in elite circles in Regency England, with black actors portraying key roles.

In my book, there is nothing wrong with an actor...acting — that is, portraying someone he is not like at all.  We don't require actors portraying serial killers to have committed multiple homicides, after all.  The genius of a good actor is the ability to inhabit a character that is different from the reality of the actor's own life.

But the rules have now changed.  For heterosexuals and whites, at least.  And the uneven application of these new rules really angers me.  Actors have a terribly tough life, facing rejection most of time.  Being ruled out of a good percentage of roles (and the percentage of roles going to black actors seems to have skyrocketed well beyond the 13% of the U.S. population that is African American) just seems morally wrong.

If Netflix is in danger of driving away subscribers with its uneven racial politics, I suppose it may dial back the racial double-standard.  But I have little hope of that happening.  After all, these people live in Hollywood, and going against the P.C. grain is almost impossible there.

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