David Benioff and D.B. Weiss quickly jumped out in front of the controversy over their new series Confederate, which saw a massive social media backlash when it was announced on Wednesday. Much of their defense came down to, “Hey! Don’t judge the show before you’ve seen it, and don’t you think based on our previous work that we deserve the benefit of the doubt?”
Ummm? You know what was a really fucking good movie? 25th Hour, which David Benioff wrote. (That’s my attempt to sidestep the question of whether they deserve the benefit of the doubt).
In their interview with Vulture, there were careful to include Nichelle Tramble and Malcolm Spellman, who are equal collaborators in the series (and I had no idea they were married!). It’s their voices I’m most interested in from the interview, and Tramble and Spellman conceded themselves that they knew they were dealing with “weapons-grade material” here. Nichelle had some decent things to say:
And immediately what the conversation turned into is how we could draw parallels between what has been described as America’s original sin to a present-day conversation. In this futuristic world, you could have this conversation in a straightforward manner without it being steeped in history: “What does this look like now.” I think what was interesting to all of us was that we were going to handle this show, and handle the content of the show, without using typical antebellum imagery. There is not going to be, you know, the big Gone With the Wind mansion. This is present day, or close to present day, and how the world would have evolved if the South had been successful seceding from the Union. And what was also exciting to me was the idea that in order to build this, we would have to rebuild world history … Okay, if this had happened here, how did the rest of the world change? That was another huge bonus factor for me — the idea of rewriting some of the history of, like, the French Revolution. What happened in the entire world if that one event had ended differently?
This is present day, or close to present day …
Oh, well, that’s interesting, and apparently the “third Civil War” takes place in the 20th century, which is to say: We’ll see the North go to war with the South again over slavery. “This is not a world in which the entire country is enslaved,” Malcolm adds. “Slavery is in one half of the country. And the North is the North. As Nichelle was saying, the imagery should be no whips and no plantations.”
Here’s Malcolm again:
[In the world of Confederate], it was a standstill. They maintain their position, the North maintains theirs. What people need to recognize is, and it makes me really want to get into the show: The shit is alive and real today. I think people have got to stop pretending that slavery was something that happened and went away. The shit is affecting people in the present day. And it’s easy for folks to hide from it, because sometimes you’re not able to map it out, especially with how insidious racism has become. But everyone knows that with Trump coming into power, a bunch of shit that had always been there got resurfaced. So the idea that this would be pornography goes back to people imagining whips and plantations. What they need to be imagining is how fucked up things are today, and a story that allows us to now dramatize it in a more tangible matter.
So, no whips. No plantations. And the North is going to war against the South over slavery again, because of some of the very real parallels between the South in our world and the South in a world in which the Confederacy seceded.
My guess is that the South will be depicted as the villains here, and that there’s a very good chance that the series could actually kick up a lot of hate from the alt-right/white nationalists.
Honestly, it sounds like “weapons-grade material” on both sides of the spectrum.