HBO announced a new show from the creators of Game of Thrones (one of the best shows ever made) D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. It is a reimagining of the world in which the southern states successfully seceded from the union and kept slavery alive. It is said to take place just before a third civil war.
I shouldn’t have to write any of this because some ideas are so bad they ought to die before pen hits paper but … the world of slavery is not entertaining at all and giving two white men with a history of depicting people of color badly millions of dollars to imagine a world in which it still exists isn’t just offensive, it’s dangerous.
Bad move, HBO.
Never mind the sharp uptick in hate group membership since the 2016 electoral disaster, or the white supremacists occupying the highest levels of government as a result for now. Let’s talk a little about something I doubt the men and women at HBO who signed off on this have considered: the complete lunacy of the concept.
By the time the Civil War started African Americans and European Americans in some parts of the south were equally represented in terms of population. That means that in places like Georgia there were almost as many slaves and non-whites as whites. Those populations were increasing with such speed that white fear of uprisings motivated new levels of brutality.
A war fought by white males would only decimate that particular cohort of the overall population even further, leaving men and women of color in the statistical majority, let alone two more wars. Subjugating (let’s be generous and say) 45% of the population would require full time incarceration, advanced technology and huge amounts of capital and resources. It’s an impossible position for anyone to maintain for any length of time.
Furthermore, after the real Civil War African Americans moved out of the south in droves. Without the migration of recently freed slaves the northern states, which were only slightly better for African Americans in that they opposed slavery chiefly on economic terms, would not be the centers of liberalism they are today. A wise man once said that “racism does not stand up well to contact.” Without direct contact with millions of people of color it is a ridiculous fantasy to assume that northern whites would fight two more civil wars simply on moral grounds and on behalf of their enslaved brethren. (Particularly after millions died in the first two wars.)
Consider the message a show that depicts the horrific violence and torture southern states would need to subjugate half their populations would send to the gathering forces of hate in this country today. They have two choices: be honest and show the terrible realities of slavery for what they were and exploit that pain and trauma, or create a fantasy in which the bondage, suffering and murder of millions is obfuscated for the sake of making this show palatable.
Any honest retelling of the history of this country can and must include the truth about the actors and institutions involved in that history. You can’t plausibly create a north peopled by benevolent whites who are willing to lay down their lives (three times) and their sons’ lives for enslaved blacks. (See: race riots, history of) We already know that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have a propensity to depict white saviors in their content. Game of Thrones has come under hot dragon fire for years on this subject. I shudder to think what they’ll do with a world in which black people are still subject to the greatest crime in history.
The idea is unnecessary, offensive and dangerous on its face. But when you dig deeper and look for threads to pull it together, it only falls apart. Southern states were unable to keep pace with the advancements of the 19th century, relying on a grower economy throughout. Those very same technological advancements would forbid the south from continuing slavery because it couldn’t transition from farms to the educated workforce needed for modern living. It could never become a technological rival to the north and maintain an agrarian economy in which more than half the population was kept illiterate. You can’t keep an educated person in bondage. (See: Douglass, Frederick)
I’ll stop there. I’ve wasted too much of my mind on this shit already.
People are actually being killed on our streets. Racial tensions are actually worsening. There is actual slavery in this world today! Announcing this idea without any of that context, or without any more information was irresponsible and stupid of HBO’s executives and D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. With the hundreds of talented writers out there, there is no excuse for this. Let’s not forget that Weiss and Benioff did not write GoT.
They’re fanboys–very talented fanboys to be sure–not creators of the source material. Up until now the shade thrown at Weiss and Benioff for their tendency to depict people of color as savages (see all Dothraki who are darker skinned than Jason Mora) or slaves could be explained away by the source material. But the fact that once left to their own devices this is their first choice will only make that shade darker.
Like what I did there?