‘Confederate’: Turd Polishing at its Finest

How I imagine the green-light conversation at HBO headquarters

Thaddeus Howze
8 min readJul 21, 2017

I wasn’t in the room where it happened but I imagine it looked something like this…

If you have been under a mountain of paperwork, or hiding in a bunker awaiting a Trump-inspired apocalypse, you may have missed what may be the shiniest of turds ever to be presented before a commission of television executives and given the green light.

This shiniest of turds is called Confederate.

Oh, make no mistake, I present this idea as the shiniest of turds because there should be no way this idea should have garnered anything other than an “Excuse me, did you just take a shit on my fine mahogany desk in my corner office at HBO headquarters in New York City?”

Instead of throwing these two bums out on their ear, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss instead responded with the bold as brass response of:

“Quite right, I did. Isn’t it the shiniest most well-formed turd of privilege you have ever laid your eyes upon?”

With the HBO executive handing the two showrunners some toilet paper made of $100 bills, they proceed to wipe their asses and began polishing their latest project.

“What we think American needs right now is a show about the Confederacy having won the first Civil War.”

“Go on.”

“We think America is ripe for a show where in the modern era, the North and the South have been at odds since the 1875 struggling over the idea of the rights of slaves and the idea of racism and freedom being relative. That White America and its ideals commonly touted in the South as their heritage are instead of a pipe dream, they are now reality.”

“You want to make the losers of the Confederacy winners. Not only winners but you want to make their platform one where instead of having Blacks and minorities in general rather than working cotton fields, they will be working in modern era industries as unpaid labor, whippings replaced with ghettos, police-state management, chipped, tagged and tracked like animals.”

“Yes, you’re getting it. But let’s go one step further. If we make the Confederates win, we can challenge the entire idea of America policy around the world. What would change if other nations decided slavery was an acceptable state of affairs. They might have emptied Africa of its indigenous peoples, enslaving Black and Brown people around the world. Mexico might be part of the South, importing new slaves to work the fields, skipping the immigration process, we just send Immigration and Enforcement teams to gather workers as needed. The South bolsters its resources by forcing the Mexican government into its pocket.”

“Okay, I can see why you thought this turd could make us money. But how do we get people outside this office to think of it as a good thing?”

“Well, that’s the best part. Whites in America right now, would pay to watch new ways of enslaving people of color. They would. They are emboldened every day to harass, undermine or even directly assault as many people of color as the law will allow. The law is directly complicit in this very behavior, once a day, every day, killing a person of color or three in the United States. We won’t have to convince them of anything. They will line up to watch this.”

“That’s true. There were barely any Black people in Game of Thrones and people kept watching it, like this fantasy world was the natural order of things.”

“That’s because it is. We’re White. We made America great. Everyone else here and around the world follows our lead. The same way we used African labor to oppress the world, China now uses African labor to make everything they create and will be exporting their pollution to Africa as soon as they are able. We are the tastemakers and trendsetters of the world. This show has the capacity to make HBO more money than anything before it because we are sitting on a racist earthquake waiting to happen.”

“What about the complaints? People are going to talk about you like crazy people who want to incite a riot of racism.”

“So what. We hired two Black writers to carry the torch for people of color. They will say the right things to make everyone think this is an inclusive project. Those writers have written for Empire and the Good Wife so they know how to string a good story along which includes the kind of storytelling everyone wants to see and ignores any of the stereotyping common to those genres. They are great writers and if it goes wrong, we can scapegoat them and keep it moving. So what do you think? Is this the shiniest turd you have seen in decades?”

“Not only the shiniest, but likely to be one of the most economically viable turds since Game of Thrones. Thanks, by the way, my new mansion is very nice.”

“You’re welcome. We’ll wait for your call.”

“No need to wait. Welcome home. Looking forward to the New Confederacy of America.”

Why this show is a failure (sight unseen) in my eyes:

Why this idea fails is simple:

This show is about maintaining White Hegemony, just a different facet of it, to be certain, but not one where Black agency, is being presented.

This is giving agency to a group of disenfranchised Whites who feel put upon by the nature of the economic controls placed on what they considered their manifest destiny. The Civil War undermined what they felt was their god-given right to enslave other Human beings exploiting them for their economic opportunities.

Whenever I see other works talking about Blacks and the challenge of alternative history stories, these stories promote Black Agency, the capacity for Blacks to have chosen to do something different than being slaves, and different from being ‘freed’ by the North.

Confederacy isn’t about slaves with agency, the power to decide their fate and promote the idea they could have made a difference in their own lives, this is a show where fractious Whites who are currently feeling their oats under the Trump presidency, terrorize minorities and feeling empowered to do so.

I can’t imagine a worse show to present to the a fractured and terrified populace, a world where the alt-right, racists, bigots and corporate power come together to dominate the landscape of this future America, a future some people want to see happening RIGHT NOW.

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss along with Malcolm and Nichelle Tramble Spellman have been greenlit to co-produce their television series on HBO, Confederate, which imagines slavery as a modern-day institution.

In an interview with Vulture (whose link I will be providing) DB Weiss reveals what he thinks the HBO proposed series Confederate will be at its core:

D.B. Weiss: Yeah, on top of what David said about history and how we’ve both been heavily invested in it since kids — it goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history. It’s our original sin as a nation. And history doesn’t disappear. That sin is still with us in many ways. Confederate, in all of our minds, will be an alternative-history show. It’s a science-fiction show. One of the strengths of science fiction is that it can show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could, whether it were a historical drama or a contemporary drama. It’s an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it.

And an essay whose perspective is near and dear to my heart because no matter how stupid an idea may be, there will always be someone White with money to fund it. No matter how reprehensible, no matter how irresponsible, no matter how useless, no matter how egregious, someone will fund these ideas, again and again, failure after failure because they can.

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning essayist, author and journalist for various online publications, anthologies and websites which fancy themselves having discriminating tastes in speculative fiction, non-fiction journalism and critical thinking.

He is a known collaborator as the Answer-Man with Krypton Radio and the Good Men Project. He edits Future SF Magazine, right here on Medium and blows the doors off the Nerdist’s comic commentary when he writes on Quora.com. He also coordinates and works with the Afrosurreal Writing Workshop in the city of Oakland. In his spare time, he collaborates with Black Comic Creators in an effort to promote their work and the impending Black Age of Comics.

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