David Benioff and DB Weiss, the showrunners of Game of Thrones, are set to make an alternate reality show called confederate. It will be a drama in which the South succeeded in seceding from the Union, and slavery in the South is alive and well.
My initial response was, “NOOOOOPE”. Titties and dragons is one thing, but Titties and GRAND Dragons? That’s the damn line. How much more alternate reality torture porn can one consume? The Man in the High Castle is still on, for crying out loud, and I just finished watching The Handmaid’s Tale! And what about all the romanticized visions of the Civil War and its after effects? Do we need another Gone with the Wind, or a Birth of a Nation (both the rapey one AND the rapey one)?Are we not sick of seeing subjugated minorities be even more subjugated? No thanks!
But then I remembered that I had finished reading Underground Airlines. It’s a book by Ben H. Winters about an alternative reality in which the South succeeded in seceding from the Union, and slavery in the South is alive and well. The Underground Railroad has taken to the skies. The main character is a double-agent; trying to join the Airlines, but he’s part of an agency that catches escaped slaves. He’s working to earn his freedom by finding others who tried to steal theirs. There were so many twists and turns, I have barely told you a thing about it. It was goooood.
I can’t forget that I read Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. this was a sci-fi that married the very real horrors and hazards of traveling through the country while black with fantastical Lovecraftian horrors. It even referenced the Negro Motorist Green Book, known in the novel as the Negro Safe Travel Guide.
I also have The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead on deck. That’s an alternative HISTORY narrative about an ACTUAL subterranean train that is the Underground Railroad. That’s all I know about it. I don’t care. I read The Intuitionist, so I know it is going to be good.
ALSO, it is not like this is an original idea. One of the first things I saw on streaming Netflix was a movie called c.S.A: confederate States of America. It was a mockumentary by British filmmakers who went to a South that not only rose the first time; it took over the entire country. One drop rules were in place. Lincoln lived in exile in Canada. The Harlem renaissance was the Toronto Renaissance, because that was where blacks escaped slavery. Movie was broken up by “commercials” that advertised actual products with egregiously racist names. As if the idea of the story weren’t scary enough, the reality of the historical facts gave me nightmares. I would suggest that everyone watch that.
That initial “NOOOOOOPE” was a knee-jerk reaction. Notice that the aforementioned narratives are all created by people of color, except for Matt Ruff, although he IS from Queens...but so it 45, so...I may also be a little bit salty over Underground being cancelled earlier this year. I know a lot of folks think this is a terrible idea, given the political climate. Also, we have enough films that depict black bodies being tormented at the hands of white oppressors, made by both black and white filmmakers. 12 Years a Slave was my limit, and I liked that movie, but I cannot see it again. Now you tell me that two white guys behind Game of Thrones, the show whose first 3 seasons guaranteed gratuitous full frontal nudity and usually subsequent horrid brutalization of women in nearly every episode, are making a romanticized modern slave narrative? It just sounds like a bad idea…
However, Weiss and Benioff hired two writers that give me a little hope: Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman. Nichelle wrote for The Good Wife and The Good Wife, and Malcolm wrote for Empire. Whatever you think of these shows, you must admit that they all were a whirlwind of action and drama. Both of them are black, and Nichelle is a woman, and I would think that their perspectives would be well reflected in what they write. Also, the executive producers will be Carolyn Strauss and Bernadette Caulfield, who produced Game of Thrones. So we may not see a Dukes of Hazzard situation, where you want to root hard for the protagonists, but for that fucking American swastika on that fucking car roof.
Who knows if confederate will be good and interesting, or if it will be a masturbatory fantasy fiction for white supremacists history revisionists and confederate apologists who parrot, “Heritage not Hate”, when we all know that the heritage WAS hate. They won’t start filming until the end of Game of Thrones. Given their backup team, I would hope that this will be a cool anti-confederate saboteur film in which a female black descendant of Robert E. Lee topples the country…given that it’s GoT showrunners, I guess a boob here or there, but an empowered breast, not slave breasts. The ball is in their court, though. They’d better not fuck this up.