Confederate, the new show by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, sounds like hot trash. Smelly, putrid, straight-from-the-piss-drenched-dumpsters-of-1980s-Times Square trash.
While the concept isn’t finalized, Confederate will more or less be an alternative history in which the South won the Civil War (the first or the second; there are varying reports), slavery has continued to the present day, and the North and South are about to go at it again to finally decide who can treat black people worse.
There have already been plenty of think pieces about what a horrible idea this show is, and they’re mostly right. Right after our partner Damon Young at Very Smart Brothas pointed out that white guys get funded for everything no matter how egregious or offensive the idea, HBO’s programming president, Casey Bloys, claimed that a show born out of the rape and oppression of an entire race of people “ ... is a risk worth taking.”
Is it really a risk, though? White writers and producers have been producing subtly or overtly anti-black programming under the guise of comedy or being “edgy” since vacuum tubes and test patterns after midnight. Now, if you want to talk about new and risky, how about some alternative histories that don’t focus on World War II or the Civil War?
Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:
What if I told you that instead of fighting in the Indian Wars of the 1860s, buffalo soldiers revolted? It’s like the Hunt for Red October and Band of Brothers set in the 19th century with a group of badass black heroes. Over five seasons, the buffalo soldiers switch sides to team up with the Comanche, Cheyenne and Cherokee nations, fighting off America in a bloody guerrilla war, ending westward expansion and eventually establishing a new nation of freed blacks and tribes that runs from what we know as Alabama all the way up to South Dakota.
There’s already a star perfect for the role of the buffalo soldier commanders: Aldis Hodge. He’s basically been fighting white supremacy through time as Akimbode on AMC’s Revolutionary War show Turn and then, as Noah, freeing the slaves on WGN’s (sadly canceled) Underground. It’s about time he got his own squad.
From 1961 to 1973, the United States and European nations conspired to kill or overthrow six African independence leaders and instituted the neocolonialism that enslaves Africa to this day. What if those assassinations never worked? What if all those exploding cigars and poisoned toothbrushes never took out these revolutionary leaders, and Africa remained strong and independent into the 1970s? Think of the six leaders teaming up to purge European colonialism, then turning on one another in battles to establish political and economic dominance over Africa. I’m thinking Delroy Lindo as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and David Oyelowo as Patrice Lumumba of Congo. This would totally work as a two-hour bloc after Power on Starz in Black.
The black death (bubonic plague) killed anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population in the mid-14th century and ushered in the so-called Dark Ages. But imagine if it killed more? Maybe 70 or 80 percent and Europe never recovered, but was instead invaded and colonized by African Moors (this partially happened; that’s how you get Shakespeare’s Othello).
Jump ahead 500 years to the present day, where we follow the lives of wealthy African businessmen and businesswomen who dominate the world; white freedom fighters who are trying to rid themselves of petty European dictators placed there by African superpowers; and a left-wing revolution led by “American born” Africans and Indians tired of being exploited by first world African nations and an aggressive China. Oh, and white people are a negligible minority mostly confined to second-class citizenship, menial jobs and some obscure religion called Christianity. This is like mixing Black Panther’s Wakanda with Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, with a lot more sex and violence.
See how easy that was? Three shows that don’t require the massive oppression of millions of people of color to make a plot. Look, I get why Weiss and Benioff want to make Confederate. White faux liberals desperately want to create a world in which racial virtue is easy and requires no sacrifice or real challenge. In a world where slavery still exists, there are no sticky arguments about All vs. Black Lives Matter to make white folks feel guilty. Milquetoast racial progressivism is magnified to Super Saiyan levels because conditions for people of color are so horrendous that simply saying, “Hey, I think black people should be allowed to read” qualifies you for a Nobel Peace Prize.
I’m sure that none of these shows I just created will get made, even though they could be produced, directed and distributed for half the cost of the Game of Thrones costume budget. Benioff and Weiss, along with their black accomplices, aren’t interested in making cutting-edge television; they want to keep making shows focused on white guys, in which black people are nonexistent or black women are robot whores or assistants, and black men are slaves, thieves or literally castrated so as to not challenge their white rulers.
The point is, this isn’t a risk; nor is it good television. There are other ideas out there that no one has ever seen; alternative history doesn’t always have to be an “alt-right” fantasy.