The Controversy Behind Netflix’s Alexander: The Making of a God, Explained

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Summary

  • Alexander: The Making of a God
    received a lukewarm reception due to its focus on personal drama over military accomplishments.
  • The series faces criticism for inaccuracies in battle depictions and weapon representation.
  • The show sparks controversy by exploring Alexander the Great’s same-sex relationship, though it aligns with historical speculation.


Netflix‘s latest documentary series is already making headlines, though not for the reasons they’d like. Alexander: The Making of a God tells the story of the ancient Greek king Alexander the Great and his rise to power. The Netflix docuseries combines historical reenactments with expert testimony to paint a picture of the ruler’s life in the 4th century BC.


Alexander: The Making of a God hasn’t left much of a mark on its viewers, with lukewarm critical and audience reception. Typically, that would translate to a forgettable series that fades away soon after its release. But it’s 2024, and apparently, all media now has to be sharply divisive and polarizing. In this case, the controversy stems from the depiction of Alexander’s love life. But how historically accurate is this depiction? And as a whole, does this series paint an accurate portrait of the Greek ruler?


The Historical Accuracy (or Lack Thereof)


So, who exactly was Alexander the Great? At age 20, in 336 BC, he succeeded his father, Phillip II, as king of the Greek kingdom of Macedon. Over the next ten years, he staged a massive military campaign across modern-day Asia and Egypt. By age 30, Alexander ruled one of history’s largest empires, which stretched from what is now Greece through India. His achievements earned him a reputation as one of history’s greatest military commanders, never losing a battle. Despite his impressive achievements, he died at 32 after reigning for just 13 years. Accounts of his manner of death vary, with fever, malaria, typhoid, and intentional poisoning all variously cited as possible causes.


The series was expected to take some creative liberties, as with any retelling. But how close do they get it? The show does focus on Alexander’s rise to power, but it’s been criticized and at the center of controversy for showcasing his personal drama over his military accomplishments. Viewers have also pointed out that it glosses over some of the crucial battles in Alexander’s life while lacking a focus on his precise strategy on the battlefield. Any battles that were featured appeared to be standard Hollywood renditions of two groups going at it. There was no real depiction of Alexander’s unique and pioneering methods. The weapons used by the actors were also not accurate to what they had in ancient Greek times.


All docuseries and historical pieces must find a balance between telling an accurate story and an entertaining one. Most opt for the entertaining route, which they likely tried with Alexander. When your audience feels that the most crucial element of Alexander’s life – his military campaign – is not the focus of the show, then you may have missed the mark. The short 6-episode season caused many critical moments of the king’s reign to be rushed through or skipped over entirely.

Alexander the Great’s Personal Identity


Even those who haven’t seen the show will have heard why it’s making the rounds in the media. Early in the first episode, a same-sex relationship between Alexander and his close friend Hephaestion is explored. This set conservatives online into a familiar frenzy, accusing the show of pushing a “woke” agenda by depicting Alexander as gay.


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Scholars have debated Alexander’s sexuality for years, with some consensus that he was, in fact, either gay or bisexual. Ancient Greeks had no labels for sexuality. Same-sex relationships were arguably just as common as opposite-sex ones. They believed in having relationships with each other, regardless of gender or identity. Alexander and Hephaestion likely knew each other on a more “personal” level. However, he was also involved with several women, one of whom gave birth to his son Alexander IV. Alex did the old devil’s tango with both men and women, but historians may never agree on how he would identify himself. It’s possible he may have also considered himself non-binary by today’s standards, with certain reports claiming that Alexander saw himself as a god and not male or female.

Audience and Critical Reception to Alexander: The Making of a God


Most of those who watched Alexander: The Making of a God strictly as a historical documentary came to a similar conclusion. It’s not worth the time. However, viewers who said they watched it for its storytelling and interpersonal drama aspects had a slightly better experience. The primary criticism comes from Alexander’s battles taking a backseat when that’s the only thing most new viewers know about him. Even those who enjoyed the drama seemed to agree that it’s still another unremarkable by-the-numbers docuseries. Conservative viewers slammed the show for depicting Alexander as gay, though ironically, that may be one of the more accurate elements of the story.


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Critics seemed to agree, with some noting that the show was no different from your average soap opera. Despite the expert talking heads, there’s little significant scholarly analysis behind the episodes. The decision to combine elements of documentary and drama divided some reviewers, who argued the show should have committed to one or the other. The series also featured too many interconnected characters, and audiences may have difficulty keeping track of who’s who if they have no knowledge of Ancient Greece. Ultimately, with a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say the series was divisive at the very least.

Will There Be a Season 2? (And Should There Be?)

Alexander the Great on horseback leading troops Alexander the Great on horseback leading troops into a battle with dirt and mud flying around them in Alexander: The Making of a Goda battle with dirt and mud flying around them i
Netflix


Currently, there is no news either way regarding Season 2. Season 1 consists of six episodes, all dealing with the earlier years of Alexander’s life. His reign continued after the defeat of Darius, which could provide enough material for a potential Season 2.


Given that critics and viewers seemed to agree about the lackluster nature of the show, a second season may not even be a good idea. You could argue that it is, as it could be a chance to fix what didn’t work from the first outing. Season 2 could center Alexander’s military strategies above soapy dramatic storytelling. But given how generally forgettable this show is, getting anyone to care about a second season could be more difficult than conquering South Asia. We can wait and see, but the odds aren’t in favor of a continuation. Alexander: The Making of a God is currently streaming on Netflix.


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