‘Black America’ Vs. ‘Confederate’ – Forbes

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 18: Writer/producers David Benioff (L) and D.B. Weiss accept Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for ‘Game of Thrones’ episode ‘Battle of the Bastards’ onstage during the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It’d be hard to miss the outcry surrounding the announcement of Confederate, a new HBO series from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Confederate is an alternate history drama, a bit like The Man in the High Castle, in that it imagines a world in which the tyrannical forces won, and continue to persecute the innocent.

But imagining a modern-day narrative of African American slaves ruled over by the Confederacy has proven an incredibly sore topic, with some activists so furious at the concept that they are demanding that the show is canceled before it sees the light of day.

The conversation on Twitter during last Sunday’s Game of Thrones wasn’t drama over the show’s latest death or plot twist, but an organized protest against the intentions of the Thrones showrunners. The hashtag #NoConfederate rose to become the number two trending topic on Twitter during the airing of the show. HBO responded to the social media uproar by reminding the protestors that nobody has actually watched the show yet, stating:

“We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around Confederate. We have faith that [writers] Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see,”

The protest raises an interesting debate about the limits of creative freedom, and whether some ideas are so inherently offensive that they aren’t worth exploring. Personally, I think art should be completely untethered, and that it is up to the audience to decide whether a piece of fiction is valuable, or offensive trash.

The vast majority of fiction out there has the potential to offend large segments of the population, and frequently does. I don’t think that justifies censorship, but there are a large group of people out there that vehemently disagree. Game of Thrones attracted controversy for the apparent enthusiasm in which it depicted sexual violence, while others viewed the controversial scenes as an opportunity to promote dialogue about an issue that continues to plague society.  

Interestingly, there’s another alt-history series in development over at Amazon, currently known as Black America. This series imagines a timeline in which newly freed African American slaves have acquired the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations – forming the sovereign nation of “New Colonia.”

This is a fascinating idea, and perhaps more realistic than the idea of slavery continuing into the present day. It’s certainly less offensive. Although Black America has been in development for over a year, the announcement was expertly timed as a direct response to the Confederate controversy.

I enjoy any form of alternative history; I believe imagining the narrowly avoided atrocities (or achievements) of humanity is a healthy mental exercise. Most of us regularly reflect on our own life and wonder what could have been, roads not taken and all that. Reflecting on our own choices helps us make better future decisions. Why not do it from a societal perspective? Shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Man in the High Castle bring us back to a darker time many of us would rather forget. But they also highlight the misogyny and antisemitism that still, unfortunately, thrive today.

‘Black America’ Vs. ‘Confederate’ – Forbes