There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that the Game of Thrones producers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, are capable of creating gorgeous, scintillating television. There is much doubt surrounding whether they should do so about slave-owners.
HBO has announced that the two show runners will be creating a new series called Confederate, set in an alternate future where the confederacy won the right to secede from the Union, portraying legal slavery in modern-day America. The network describes the show as following the stories of “slave hunters, abolitionists, executives of a slave-holding conglomerate,” and more:
“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.”
The backlash online to the announcement of the controversial show was swift. The number of people on Twitter who are enthused about two white men writing a likely sensationalized show about legalized slavery that empathizes with “both sides” of the divide seems about equal to the number of people who genuinely enjoyed Fyre Festival.
Many writers and television viewers are disgusted by the concept, pointing out Game of Thrones‘ lack of diversity and the inevitable tone-deaf nature of a show in which white men attempt to capture the horrors of slavery.
“I guess that’s what was a little bit surprising about some of the outrage. It’s just a little premature,” Beinoff told Vulture of the backlash. “You know, we might f**k it up. But we haven’t yet.”
One thing that has been minimized in the backlash, Vulture notes, is the fact that Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, both black, will be writers and executive producers on the show, and the Game of Thrones duo promise that they will be their partners on the project.
Confederate seems in many ways an attempt to emulate the successes of such bold alternate-history projects as The Handmaid’s Tale and it may well be a valiant effort to give voices to those narratives that have not been told during the Civil War. Still, there are many questions over if this is the story to tell right now in Trump’s America, and if these are the people to tell it.