HBO faced immediate backlash after announcing new show “Confederate” from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, but the masterminds behind “Game of Thrones” wish people would reserve their judgement until they actually watch the show.
“It’s just a little premature,” Benioff said in an interview with Vulture after the announcement. “You know, we might f-ck it up. But we haven’t yet.”
According to the premium cable network, the new series “chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War,” which leads to “a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.” Word of the project immediately sparked criticism across social media for its depiction of modern day slavery.
The “GoT” team are working with Malcom and Nichelle Tramble Spellman, two African-American writers who say the real judgement of the show should come the day that people actually see it.
“This is not a world in which the entire country is enslaved. Slavery is in one half of the country. And the North is the North,” Malcolm said. “The imagery should be no whips and no plantations.”
“I do understand their concern. I wish their concern had been reserved to the night of the premiere, on HBO, on a Sunday night, when they watched and then they made a decision after they watched an hour of television as to whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do,” Nichelle said. “The concern is real. But I think that the four of us are very thoughtful, very serious, and not flip about what we are getting into in any way. What I’ve done in the past, what Malcolm has done in the past, what the D.B.s have done in the past, proves that.”
Benioff and Weiss are no strangers to controversy. “Game of Thrones” has been called out for a lack of black characters, too much rape, and too much female nudity. Weiss seems perfectly aware of what he was stepping into when turning one of the biggest injustices of American history into a fantasy series.
“We know that the elements in play in a show like ‘Confederate’ are much more raw, much more real, and people come into them much more sensitive and more invested, than they do with a story about a place called Westeros,” he said. “We know they are different things, and they need to be dealt with in very, very different ways. And we plan, all of us I think, to approach ‘Confederate’ in a much different spirit, by necessity.”
“It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history. It’s our original sin as a nation. And history doesn’t disappear. That sin is still with us in many ways,” Weiss said. “Confederate, in all of our minds, will be an alternative history show. It’s a science-fiction show. One of the strengths of science fiction is that it can show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could, whether it were a historical drama or a contemporary drama. It’s an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it.”
Weiss concluded that the show about “modern day slavery” is not just going to focus on how the world once was, but rather what it might have been had slavery continued. He even argued slavery never actually “went away.”
“People have got to stop pretending that slavery was something that happened and went away. The sh-t is affecting people in the present day,” Weiss said. “But everyone knows that with Trump coming into power, a bunch of sh-t that had always been there got resurfaced.”