A new Netflix documentary drama has been slammed for ‘woke washing’ as viewers review bomb the show.
The six-part documentary Alexander: The Making Of A God has an average Google review score of just 2.5 stars, with a number of viewers complaining at its focus on the historic ruler’s sexuality.
Alexander the Great is well-known as one of the most successful military men of all time, amassing an empire in the fourth century BC from his native Macedonia as far as India, and also into Egypt, before he died aged just 32.
But, with the help of experts, Alexander: The Making Of A God aims to recount his conquest through a new lens including by exploring his relationships.
An X account named ‘End Wokeness’ gave a review the week after the January 31 release: ‘Netflix made a new documentary about Alexander The Great. Within the first 8 minutes, they turned him gay.’
However, that post was soon hit with a community note which explained that the Macedonian king, born in 356 BC, is commonly believed by scholars to have engaged in sexual relations with other men.
One commenter on the post said: ‘I don’t think it was Netflix that made him gay.’
Men having sexual relations with each other was, in fact, commonplace in ancient Greece.
In the first episode, Cardiff University professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones explained that ‘same-sex relationships were quite the norm throughout the Greek world.’
He added: ‘The Greeks did not have a word for homosexuality, or to be gay. It just wasn’t in their vocabulary whatsoever. There was just being sexual.’
History graduate at the University of Manchester in England Alexandra Birch previously wrote of the era for The Manchester Historian: ‘Sexual orientation was not the defining factor in sex, rather the role that each participant played: the dominant, higher-class, older partner took an active role, and the younger, lower-class partner took a passive one.
‘Nonetheless, homosexual men of the same class experienced social stigma as the passive role was more effeminate. As a Macedonian king, Alexander could partake in sexual relations with anyone, so long as he maintained the dominant role.’
Despite the early explanation, a number of other viewers were also left dissatisfied.
One posted a one-star review to Google: ‘ The show starts off full on homoerotic, because according to Netflix everyone is gay. 30 minutes of skippable scenes later the show goes full on into Woke Washing.
‘What is that? Every single piece of history was made as “Safe and inoffensive [sic]” as possible. Even the supposed “experts” were choking on their sanitized descriptions.
‘The dialog and lines appear to be written by a child who grew up on memes. The “Total War” video game series had better motivational “pre war” speeches than this show of charged positivity.
‘Both Kings, Alexander and Darius [Alexander’s Persian adversary] were depicted as weak and groveling. Not words and behaviors you’d expect from warlord rulers. The show seemed to lean more towards a pity show for Darius than a Documentary of Alexander.
‘It was terrible. Netflix needs to stop making shows and go back to being a streaming service.’
While Alexander the Great had at least two children and three marriages, literature concerning him also notes that his most prominent companion was his general and bodyguard Hephaestion.
Additionally, upon conquering King Darius’ Persia, Alexander is said to have taken the former king’s eunuch Bagoas as a lover.
But his apparent love of Hephaestion endured until the bodyguard’s death, when Alexander was said to be ‘lay weeping on his comrade for a day & night before being pried away’.
Elaborate funeral games were held in Babylon in Hephaestion’s honour, and Alexander died aged just 32 a year later.
One unconvinced, self-proclaimed ‘history buff’ insisted that ‘I can say with certainty that there is zero evidence Alexander was gay,’ as they left a two-star review.
A major reason people believe that Alexander the Great’s sexuality is not completely clear is due to previous scholars erasing LGBTQ references in previous eras including the Byzantine and Victorian periods.
George Washington University professor Athena Richardson wrote: ‘Even in a culture that accepted bisexuality, Alexander and Hephaestion’s relationship was an outlier and thus treated differently.
‘My research shows how this same-sex relationship was erased, censored, and altered to fit norms of subsequent cultures.
‘Ancient biographers may have conducted censorship to conceal any implication of femininity or submissiveness in Alexander that this relationship dynamic might suggest. As a result, subsequent cultures would have hidden the relationship too.’
But, with one-star the most popular score for reviewers of the docudrama, there were many who criticised the series regardless of its presentation of sexuality.
One read: ‘Appalling. Historically inaccurate, misses out all the most interesting parts of Alexander’s political and military life, and even barely shows him as gay.
‘There are reviews saying this show is somehow “woke” ( as if that’s a bad thing?), but it isn’t, it’s far worse.’
Many reviews slammed the acting, casting and storytelling as their reasons for leaving a negative review rather than any political or social agenda.
But it was not all bad for the streaming giant.
One of the series’ five-star reviews reads: ‘I enjoyed watching the documentary/movie. It’s interesting to hear from experts explaining events based on the little traces that were left behind from Alexander’s time.
‘I’ve read the reviews here, and I don’t understand why people are over-critical regarding the acts or the production. I guess, for some people they need to see blood smashing on their screens to enjoy the watching. I hope Netflix will continue the series.’