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HBO’s ‘Confederate’ Shows Tone Deafness

Clockwise from top left: Nichelle Tramble Spellman, D.B. Weiss, Malcolm Spellman, David Benioff Photo: Getty Images

Let’s get this out of the way now. To whoever pitched the idea for Confederate to HBO, it’s an idea that NO ONE in their RIGHT mind in Black America signed off on. In case you didn’t get the memo, the history of black people on television didn’t begin with slavery in America, so we still cannot understand the fixation on this time period.

What exactly is Confederate?

Ok… for anyone who is still in the dark about what this show is about, here is a quick summary:

Confederate chronicles events leading to the Third American Civil War. It 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.

Yes boys and girls, it is a Southern white man’s wet dream. A show depicting a world where slavery still existed and is legal. Now before we get too sidetracked, there has been nothing filmed, no one has been cast and no premier date set. What is troubling however is that the Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss actually are pitching this as the next big fantasy series once GoT ends and somehow think that it’s going to be a hit.

Is anyone paying attention?

Hey HBO, especially Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman, I am not sure if you have been paying attention, but uuuummm….America is not in a great state right now. We have police officers walking free after shooting unarmed Black people, we have a rising tide of white nationalists bullying minorities and we have a president doing everything he can to turn the clock back 100 years – not to mention that individual states have been battling internally with what to do to destroy their hateful confederate past. We finally have a museum dedicated to our history that in less than a year was defiled by having a noose placed there. So why, would the thought of a show like this even cross your mind? What exactly are you hoping to gain by doing this show because this has to be one of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas. Why would you wait until now in the precarious state we are in to do a show based on ‘what if’?

Roxanne Gay summed it up best in her op-ed in the New York Times:

My exhaustion with the idea of “Confederate” is multiplied by the realization that this show is the brainchild of two white men who oversee a show that has few people of color to speak of and where sexual violence is often gratuitous and treated as no big deal. I shudder to imagine the enslaved black body in their creative hands. And when I think about the number of people who gave this project the green light, the number of people who thought this was a great idea, my weariness grows exponentially.

And we are all tired. The slave narrative is lazy. I am sorry, but while some thought it was great that there was a reimagining of Roots but I didn’t watch. I didn’t need to see an updated show about our suffering that was going to have the same ending. I don’t need to sit through Underground to know what it’s about. And I cringed when 12 Years a Slave won for best picture knowing that a movie that was just a shade over 2 hours about black suffering was the orgasm that White Hollywood needed to have in order to award the biggest prize that year.

What else can be done?

Here is the fun part. With world building that Beinoff and Weiss have done for Game of Thrones, how hard would it have been for them to do with the history of Africa? And for once, JUST this one time, let’s not do anything in Egypt. I love the myths that have come out of Egypt, I love the culture and history, and I have had the opportunity to stand in the shadows of the pyramids, but there is a HUGE continent (so huge that the US can fit into the African continent numerous times) with a backlog of history. So let me help you with a few ideas:

  • How about telling the stories of how Axum came to be in Ethiopia?
  • The Rise and fall of Nubia (and you can get a little bit of Egypt in as well)
  • What about how Sunni Ali Ber made Songhay a major power after capturing Timbuktu
  • Mansa Musa and his great pilgrimage across the Sahara desert and becoming king of Mali
  • We have all seen the story of Shaka Zulu, what about his mother Nandi?

It’s really not that hard HBO, but the problem is these four people are being so lazy that the best that they could do with coming up with the great so called hit is an idea that not only has been done to death but just plain offensive. I mean you don’t see Jewish people clamoring for an alternate history on WWII yet, there is Man in the High Castle. I am hoping that this idea never sees the light of day but I fear that HBO, in their hubris of the success of Game of Thrones and Westworld (which is problematic in its own right with how women are treated) that they will green light this project and see it fail and wonder what happened. At that point, as a voice, Black America will say in unison, “We told you so.”

HBO the message is clear, we don’t need another slave narrative. We especially don’t need one considering the time we are living in and worst of all, we don’t need to have a fan fiction show based on ‘what if the Confederate States won’? This is not something that we need to see visualized that will give white nationalists woodies on a weekly basis. I don’t care how much the production value is, how carefully the cast is picked on how ‘compelling’ the story is, I will take a hard pass if this show ever sees the light of day.

About Harry C. (1210 Articles)
Founder of The Next Issue Podcast and Pop Culture Uncovered, Harry has been reading comics since he could reach a news stand. He is also a cosplayer with his current favorite role as being Bishop, of the X-men. He is a fan of Marvel, Image and DC and is really passionate about making sure that kids get the opportunity to read. This leads him to getting out to places with comics that others no longer need and putting them into the hands of kids who will treasure them. His favorite comic characters are Batman, Spider-man, and Tony Chiu.
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