Ta-Nehisi Coates on HBO's "Confederate"


I cannot believe that thing got greenlit.


I can. This is, of course, the same network that let David Milch do John From Cincinnati after Deadwood.


No, but Confederate flag-wavers need a hard look at what the Confederacy actually was. A show like this could attract those viewers, then proceed to subvert the myth of the lost cause.

But I haven’t seen a trailer and have no idea if that’s the direction its going to take.


Yeah, they don’t even have a finished pilot script yet, so who knows.

Personally, I’d like to see what they do with it. But whether it gets made or not does not materially affect the quality of my life, so I’d rather it didn’t get made if there’s any chance it might make matters worse for others in any way.


Unlike The Man in the High Castle, this project is not being adapted from a classic novel that has already been vetted by decades of literary criticism …


I’d guess that after the success of GoT that the Benioff and Weiss can do what they’d like (I love GoT, even though it’s got some issues). I’m sure they felt that having black writers on board would give them a measure of protection against criticism.

I’m more interested in the other alt-history show by Aaron McGruder and Will Packer that’s in the works for Amazon:


It sounds like the plot and the premise could be similar to this:

which got good reviews. So this could be interesting.


It seems like there would be at least two possible failure modes,

  • sanitizing everything so it’s not too horrible, thus making slavery look respectable

  • or showing real horror, creating a sort of pornography for racists

From what we’ve seen on Game of Thrones, I wouldn’t put it past them to do both at once.


Or maybe yet another reason we don’t need to have a whole drama devoted to an alt- history of the confederacy?


I love that the article links to another article from the Atlantic written in 1866. That’s a deep memory.

And it too is an interesting read.


GoT show-runners?

This time it’ll be black women getting raped!

Alt-history: Lincoln’s bodyguards do their damned job, the failed assassination attempt wakes the North to the danger of continued Confederate subversion, and in response Congress rams through radical reconstruction good and hard.

The slavers are dispossessed and their lands are redistributed as reparations; federal troops ensure the safety and franchise of emancipated Americans for as long as necessary. A new, better civilisation arises in the South.

I wanna move to that timeline.


Here is an interesting aspect of the post Civil War politics, specifically a change to the Republican party.

And that would be different from actual history…how?


Speaking of Lincoln:

April 14 sucks.

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I dunno, I’m not one to think we “need to have” any particular flavor of entertainment. Surely by now nobody needs another hospital show, or police procedural, or grimdark edgy fantasy; by now hasn’t everything been said and done that could possibly be new and fresh in those subgenres? And yet we still occasionally get one of those things done right, and every now and then somebody thinks up a new angle, or finds something new and worthwhile to say.

The consensus seems to be that nothing good can come of this show. I don’t agree with that consensus. I can imagine a few ways in which this show might actually manage to do some cultural good. But that’s in my own imagination, and not only is there a vanishingly small chance that Benioff and Weiss imagine the same things I do, but I also hasten to remind us all that I’m as white a cracker as mom ever baked, and the things I sign off as A-OK for widespread cultural consumption and edification are by no means guaranteed to be at all worth the paper they’re printed on to anyone who didn’t grow up in my redneck trailer park. Remember: hotdogs get ketchup in my house. And so do burritos.

Everyone’s mileage is definitely going to vary. I just can’t bring myself to dismiss this whole concept out of hand as A Bad Idea. Even if it’s likely they fuck it up royally… that’s not the concept’s fault.


don’t sell science fiction short. There are quite a few science fiction writers of color, and many have chosen to comment on racism.


This project reminds me of this film

Did you read the Coates piece? What do you think of his criticisms, in general?

I think others here have made the point that this is already sort of a warmed over idea anyway (in addition to it edging into Lost Cause territory). There are far less works that deal with the counter of where what we finally got in the wake of the classical civil rights movement had come at the end of the civil war instead (as @Wanderfound noted as an idea). Or I think Coates mentions an alternative history where the Haitian revolution led to a large scale, successful rebellion in the American south or where John Brown sparked a successful revolution. Or how about a world would look if the population of Europe had been more deeply decimated by the bubonic plague. Why not a world that become dominated by China and Japan instead of England, Spain, and France? Or a world where the push into Europe by Islamic armies continued, moving north into what’s now France, and England, and we never got the Carolingian Empire? Or what if the Comanches had carved out an empire that lasted into the present day?

I guess, for me (and probably many other people) the more Eurocentric view is getting a little old and why not explore other aspects of alternate history that entirely upends the social order we’re used to. As Coates notes, much of what they’ll be exploring is still present for many non-white people in America. It will only be alternate by degrees for many people, I think.

And I guess, yeah, it’s just entertainment, but popular culture is our native culture, right? As modern Americans, we grew up with films, music, comics, and mass market paperbacks as our cultural heritage, which helps to shape our world views, our understanding of ourselves, and the world around us. I’d suspect that most people get more of their understanding of modern history from pop culture than they do from reading historians or taking a history class (as much as that pains me, as a historian). I think having alternate histories that actually do challenge our social norms would be worth far more for our understanding of the past and how it shapes today.

But YMMV of course. I will be interested to see how this turns out, especially since Aaron McGruder is now also working on an alternate history show that does some of the things I’d like to see.