The week of the Game of Thrones season 7 premiere, HBO announced a new project headed by the series' show runners, D.B Weiss and David Benioff. The premise of the new show was immediately met with intense backlash and public scrutiny. Why? Because the futuristic drama will be set in a dystopian, America chronicling the events leading up to the Third American Civil War. The title? Confederate. It will feature an alternate timeline of our nation's history in which the South successfully seceded from the Union during the 19th century Civil War. In their fictionalized world, a new modern slavery still exists as a modern and legalized institution. I'm sure you can imagine why this extremely troubling (and if you can't then go watch 13th and get back to me) to hear two white men propose a series about "What if slavery was still around?" in 2017.
Benioff and Weiss, along with the show's lead writers and partners in production (who are both Black) wife and husband duo Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire), have spoken to Vulture in an attempt to defend the series, and how they're "bonding under fire," as Weiss put it.
Benioff starts off with a lame joke, saying that he and Weiss thought of the idea together, but called in the Spellmans because they are "lazy" adding afterwards, "And they’re two great writers." Both men say they have always been "history nerds" and that the series will be a science-fiction take on the topic. "It’s a science-fiction show," says Weiss. "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. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it." Key word: potentially.
Malcolm promises that there would be "no whips and no plantations" and does not think it will be "wish-fulfillment for white supremacists" as Vulture proposes.
"This is scary, for all of us. It’s scary for different reasons. But it is a pretty terrifying prospect getting into it," Benioff says. "We knew it would be, and now it’s come true. It’s obviously creating a lot of controversy before anything’s happened just on the basis of a press release, and that will only continue as we get closer. But even aside from that outside part of it, there’s just the frightening part of — we’re all gonna put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right. And that’s scary, but it’s also exciting. It’s what gets the adrenaline pumping and what gets you excited to sit down at your computer and start typing up themes and running them off the other three. And there hasn’t been anything since we started on Thrones that got me so excited to get back to writing new characters. So I’m scared and also excited."
So, the adrenaline rush of controversy is pumping for at least one of the new show's creators, both of whom have enjoyed incredible creative freedom since the success of Game of Thrones. But what about the Spellmans? Why are they involved other than that they have known Weiss and Benioff for a decade?
"What people need to recognize is, and it makes me really want to get into the show: The shit is alive and real today," Malcolm says. 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."
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