It’s hard to deny that HBO’s Game of Thrones was a massive success, and that was largely due to the vision of turning a well-loved fantasy series into a sweeping TV epic the likes of which TV had not seen in a long time. But creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are hoping that they get lightning to strike twice with their newest show, Confederate.
Already greenlit by HBO, the show would follow an alternate timeline, in which the Confederate stated win the Civil War and secede from the union, creating a separate country in which slavery is preserved as an institution. The story itself will take place during the Third American Civil War, and look at the lives of various people on either side of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone.
It’s not hard to believe that this show already has people coming out against it. Some are upset that the concept may attempt to make racism sympathetic or use the show as an excuse to further objectify Black bodies through torture and rape scenes (these are the guys who did Game of Thrones after all). Others wonder why WGN’s show Underground, about the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape to Canada, was cancelled while HBO chose to pick this up instead. It’s not hard to see why people are upset — considering how American institutions treat Black people now (police brutality, the highest rates of incarceration per population, discrimination at nearly every level from housing to employment to education), a show in which African Americans are likely to be explicitly and violently subjugated is going to hit a lot of nerves.
To me, the concept itself is a little silly. Slavery as a global institution was already becoming increasingly unpopular and being abandoned by the start 20th Century, and while it is still practiced in some place, it is more on a personal level than as an institution. This also overlooks Southern abolitionists, who wanted to see the South end slavery, and the fact that the South lacked a lot of the industry and resources needed to win the war, let alone stand alone as its own nation.
The alternate universe genre has begun to open up against ever since Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle began earning praise (though even that show had its controversial decisions as well). Still, this premise might hit a little too close to home, and if done poorly, could easily result in a lot of angry (and potentially, rightly so) criticism aimed at them.