There has been a good deal of controversy around HBO’s new project from Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, an alternative history series titled Confederate where slavery is legal and has even become institutionalized. Perhaps you can see why that premise has ruffled some feathers, to put it mildly, well before the show even enters production; or perhaps not. However, it’s easier to see HBO’s cultural/political/social-media missteps when compared to the idea behind the new Amazon series, Black America.
As Deadline reports, Black America hails from Emmy-nominated producer Will Packer, known for Think Like a Man, Ride Along, and Straight Outta Compton, not to mention the recent Roots miniseries and the currently playing comedy, Girls Trip. His Hollywood hits have made him one of the industry’s only African-American producers to see a number of his films open at the top box office spot. His pedigree is complemented by Peabody-winner Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks and co-creator of Black Jesus. If their involvement isn’t enough to compare and contrast HBO and Amazon’s alt-history series, perhaps this will help clarify things.
Here’s the synopsis for each:
Confederate “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.”
Black America “envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming ‘Big Neighbor,’ both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.
If it’s still not clear to you, allow me to simplify things: Confederate seeks to put Black people back in chains; Black America explores what happens when Black people are empowered and free of shackles. If nothing else, one of these ideas is far more interesting.
Be sure to head over to Deadline for more from Packer on the state of Black America, how the project came to be, the intention to strive for historical accuracy, and the intended tone of the final project.