On July 19, HBO announced a “straight to series” order for a new show titled Confederate.
Developed by Game of Thrones show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the concept is an alternate history in which the Confederate States of America survives today, complete with slavery.
HBO’s announcement describes the show as follows:
CONFEDERATE chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.
In the weeks since the announcement, the momentum of protests against the project seem to be growing.
The protests have not been loud enough.
HBO emphasized that two prominent black Hollywood writers/producers – Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman (Justified and Empire, respectively) are on board as co-producers of Confederate.
Nevertheless, African American reactions have been harshly negative. During the July 30 broadcast of the latest episode of Game of Thrones, a #NoConfederate Twitter campaign went viral. The New York Times published an OpEd titled “I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction” by black author and Purdue associate professor Roxanne Gay. Beyond the obligatory bashing of Trump, the “deplorables,” and non-progressives, Professor Gay makes some excellent points.
But it’s still not enough.
Just who are the villains going to be in the program? How will the bad guys be portrayed?
They will have southern accents (even though the actors, like Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara or Jude Law in Cold Mountain or many others, will likely be British), they will be white working class folks, they will be portrayed as surviving among modern conservatives and libertarians, they will be Christians, they will be amoral executives and employees of heartless capitalist enterprises.
As with Roxanne Gay — a Caucasian whose parents immigrated to the US in the second half of the 20th century, with absolutely no ancestor listed in Lee’s Lieutenants or its northern equivalent — most are exhausted by the slavery narrative.
In addition, the worn out narrative that people of any color who see things differently than through the lens of the progressives who populate entertainment media are racist, misogynist, violent xenophobes is in turn an exhausted shibboleth. Most are exhausted by the progressive longing for “a conversation about race” that so often seems to mean “let’s focus on those things that divide us” rather than constructive discussions about solving the problems of modern life.
Ironcially, the #NoConfederate campaign finds surprising unity among those with deep concerns about the series. HBO should deep six this divisive idea.