Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have shouldered their share of controversy over the years regarding the hit HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin‘s acclaimed series of novels. Rather than learn from that experience, the pair appears to be running straight into the teeth of yet another controversy, one based on actual, factual history and loaded with real-world implications.
Benioff and Weiss recently announced their post-Game of Thrones plans for a new HBO drama titled Confederate. Set in an alternate reality, one in which the Confederacy won the first Civil War and created a new nation where slavery is a legal, modern institution, while a new Civil War is looming on the horizon. “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.”
Obviously a neo-slavery drama from a pair of White, middle-aged dude bros did not sit well with a number of people. It’s important to note that husband and wife duo Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire), who are Black, will be writers and executive producers on the series, but also that D&D will still be the showrunners. Within two days, however, the foursome were already addressing the hornets nest that was stirred up. During the Television Critics Association press tour this week, HBO programming president Casey Bloys weighed in as well, expressing hope that viewers will “judge the actual material versus what it might be.”
File this under hindsight is 20-20, Our mistake — HBO’s mistake, not the producers — was the idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part.
Richard [Plepler, CEO of HBO] and I had the benefit of sitting with these four producers. We heard why they wanted to do the show, what they were excited about. So we had that context. But I completely understand why somebody reading the press release wouldn’t have that.
One would hope for a little more substance, rather than ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ , from the network’s programming president, especially considering the volume of criticism from writers, activists, and journalists in response to Confederate. Those criticisms range from outright anger to eye-rolling fatigue. especially since shows like Underground, The Man in the High Castle, and The Handmaid’s Tale have found cultural purchase in recent years. The most relevant concerns, of course, include the portrayal of slave-owners as “good people caught in a bad system.” Bloys added:
The producers have said they’re not looking to do ‘Gone With the Wind’ 2017′. It’s not whips and plantations. It’s what they imagine a modern day institution of slavery would look like.
As it stands now, HBO is still planning on going ahead with production on Confederate once Game of Thrones wraps its eighth and final season. Things may change within that time frame, but for all intents and purposes, it looks like those criticisms may have fallen on deaf ears.
Do you take issue with Confederate, are you bored by the premise, or are you excited to see how it turns out? Be sure to let us know in the comments!