Culture

HBO Cancels 'Confederate' Series Before a Single Script Is Written; Slavery Defeated

D. B. Weiss and David Benioff at HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 3 Seattle Premiere at Cinerama (Suzi Pratt - Flickr: CC BY-SA 2.0)

Libs talk a lot about the evils of social media, the main one being that people keep using it to express opinions that make libs angry. But social media can be a helpful tool for social progress as well. It can “cancel” people or things that might literally hurt or kill us by making us think about stuff we don’t want to think about. It can prevent Young Adult novels from being published if they’re insufficiently #woke. It can keep comedians from being hired by late-night “comedy” shows if they’ve ever said anything that somebody, somewhere, didn’t like. And now social media has even kept a premium-cable show from being made, before it could use magical mind-control rays to turn all the white people into even bigger racists than they already are.

Back in the summer of 2017, America was in the grips of a media-fueled panic about Confederate flags and statues, which after 150 years were suddenly the source of all evil because Hillary lost. And in the middle of all that hysteria, the hapless writing duo of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced they were making a new show for HBO called Confederate. (If it seems odd that HBO was still in business with the two of them, remember that in 2017 they hadn’t ruined Game of Thrones yet.)

Here’s how Benioff & Weiss described Confederate:

“The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

It was an alternate history story, just like hundreds of science fiction stories and novels over the last century: “What if [historical event] had turned out another way? How would the world be different now? What if all the things we take for granted in our everyday lives aren’t the natural order of things, but mere whims of history?” The most recent example of such a story is Amazon Studios’ The Man in the High Castle, based on the Philip K. Dick novel in which the Axis Powers won World War II, and by the early ’60s the Nazis and the Japanese share control of North America.

What if the bad guys won? What would’ve happened after that?

As I was naive enough to ask at the time:

A lot of people fought and died to end slavery in America. The outcome of the Civil War was not a foregone conclusion. It could’ve been very different. What’s wrong with exploring that idea? What’s wrong with art?

Thank goodness we had social media to remind us that even asking such questions is racist:

There was a lot more of that type of thing, but those hot takes have since been deleted once everybody calmed down. But at the time there was quite an uproar. Benioff & Weiss were even forced to give an interview where they clarified that they know slavery is bad. Lots of people were very, very angry that a couple of white guys were making a show about white people owning slaves. They actually thought HBO was going to depict the Confederacy as the good guys.

So the following news will be a relief to those poor souls. Michael Ausiello, TV Line:

With Game of Thrones EPs David Benioff and D.B. Weiss now tethered to Netflix via a mega-bucks overall deal, HBO president Casey Bloys officially confirms to TVLine that the pair’s long-gestating, controversial slavery drama Confederate will not be moving forward.

Whew! That was close. I’m glad this problematic show was killed, before a single script was even written, because it probably would’ve brought back slavery or something.

I don’t see anybody freaking out about The Man in the High Castle, which ended its run a few months ago. The entire series is on Amazon Prime. You can watch it right now. It exists. And guess what? Nothing bad happened in real life! Or at least nothing worse than usual happened, if you’re one of the people who think 62 million Americans are actual Nazis because they voted for Trump.

Maybe Confederate would’ve been a bad show. Considering how GoT turned out, I’m approaching any new Benioff & Weiss show with a healthy dose of skepticism. But if it had been made, it wouldn’t have hurt anything but your feelings.