‘Game of Thrones’ Bosses Respond to ‘Confederate’ Slavery Drama Backlash
The announcement that Game of Thrones bosses David Benioff and Dan Weiss would develop a new modern slavery drama went over about as well as you’d expect. Now, the two try to manage the Confederate backlash with partners Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, adding “the concern is real.”
The series itself won’t get going until after Game of Thrones’ final season, but the loaded premise of slavery existing in an alternate reality that follows two civil wars understandably drew significant outrage. Speaking with Vulture, Benioff, Weiss and the Spellmans clarified a few points of the announcement, including that the four were equal partners in bringing the project to life, along with story details like the separation of northern and southern states (as opposed to the Confederacy “winning” the war), or the absence of familiar slave imagery like “whips and plantations.”
Weiss and Benioff acknowledged their interest in the subject arose from a fascination with history and science fiction, though Malcolm Spellman told them up-front “You’re dealing with weapons-grade material here.” Both Malcolm and Nichelle asserted that the sting of slavery was still felt in their families and daily lives to a point that Confederate would push the conversation, though Nichelle admitted the rush to judgement was understandable:
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. 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. So I would have loved an opportunity for the conversation to start once the show was on the air.
Nichelle also noted that despite concerns of Confederate serving as wish-fulfillment for white supremacists, the series wouldn’t exploit issues that aren’t already prevalent today:
I think that [using the word] “winning” creates the wrong image. [In the world of Confederate], it was a stand-still. 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 s— is alive and real today. I think people have got to stop pretending that slavery was something that happened and went away. The s— 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 s— 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 f—ed up things are today, and a story that allows us to now dramatize it in a more tangible matter.
It will be time yet before Confederate rolls forward into production, let alone writes a first script, and Benioff added “You know, we might f— it up. But we haven’t yet.” The whole interview is worth a read, but was HBO misguided in green-lighting such a delicate premise?