HBO, the premium cable network developing such Black creator-led projects as “Insecure” and “Lovecraft Country,” received backlash for an upcoming drama series that will depict a fictional present where the Confederacy won the American Civil War and slavery lived on.
The network announced “Confederate” in a press release distributed on its Medium page yesterday (July 19). “The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution,” reads the announcement. ”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.”
The release, which does not mention the word “Black,” adds that White male “Game of Thrones” showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benihoff will write and executive produce “Confederacy.” The announcement also lists two Black screenwriters, married couple Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“The Good Wife”) and Malcolm Spellman (“Empire”), as executive producers.
The Spellmans’ association with “Confederate” did not stop social media users from criticizing the network for producing a show that will make fictional drama out of real Black enslavement and trauma—especially given Weiss and Benihoff’s headlining involvement and the fact that HBO not pick up Black “Lovecraft Country” showrunner Misha Green’s “Underground,” which WGN America canceled after the network’s acquisition by the allegedly-right-wing Sinclair broadcast group.
These seven tweets sum up the outrage around “Confederate’s” existence:
give me the confidence of white showrunners telling hbo they wanna write slavery fanfic
— pilot (@pilotbacon) July 19, 2017
— Fabiola Charles (@fabi07a) July 20, 2017
How about @HBO series where black people were armed & supported (not abandoned) by the US military to defeat KKK and finish Reconstruction?
— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) July 19, 2017
Of Course HBO Greenlit “Confederate” Because White Guys Get Funding For Every Idea (Even Bad Ones) https://t.co/NBaCMVpx43
— VSB (@VerySmartBros) July 20, 2017
— Kellee Terrell (@kelleent) July 19, 2017
— Jordan Calhoun (@JordanMCalhoun) July 19, 2017
— RAWIMAGINE (@Rawimagine) July 20, 2017
HBO’s announcement says that “Confederate’s” production will begin after the “Game of Thrones’ ” final season, which HBO programming president Casey Bloys told Entertainment Weekly may not air until 2019. Neither HBO, Bloys nor any of the involved creators have publicly responded to the backlash as of press time.