#Oscarssowhite creator wants to stop HBO's Confederate: 'We are not going away'
Group led by April Reign asking people to voice concern over upcoming series about modern-day slavery
The instigator of the #oscarssowhite campaign is hoping to use her social media savvy for another cause: stopping HBO's Confederate before it even has a script.
April Reign, an American activist and former lawyer whose popular Oscars hashtag in 2015 and 2016 renewed debate about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, is calling on the Twitterverse to express its concern over the upcoming series using #noconfederate.
Modern-day slavery legal in series
Confederate has sparked outrage since its premise was announced last week. The series, which does not have any scripts, character names or plot details yet, will take place in an alternate reality in which the American Civil War had a different outcome and slavery remains legal. It's set in the present day.
"The commodification of black pain for the enjoyment of others must stop," Reign told CBC News. "The prison industrial complex is bursting with black and brown people, disproportionate to the crimes committed. So for some, Confederate is not alternate history, but a painful and recent reminder of how much further we still need to go toward equality."
Co-writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who are behind the wildly popular HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones, will take the lead for the new show, along with The Good Wife's Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Empire's Malcolm Spellman, who will work as writers and executive producers.
'Judge the actual material,' says HBO
According to several media outlets, HBO addressed the controversy at a presentation during the Television Critics' Association in Los Angeles this week, saying the show's initial announcement in a press release was a "misguided" decision that didn't consider the sensitivity of the issue nor offer enough context.
"My hope is people will judge the actual material instead of what it could be or should be or might be," HBO programming president Casey Bloys said Wednesday.
Confederate doesn't have a release date yet, and isn't scheduled to start production until Game of Thrones ends its final season in 2018 or 2019.
Benioff and Weiss told the entertainment outlet Vulture they hoped the science-fiction series would advance discussions about current race relations "in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could."
Criticism prevents confidence
Despite Game of Thrones' success and record-breaking 38 Emmy wins, Reign said she doesn't have confidence in the writing team involved with Confederate, given previous criticism against Thrones "not only for its gratuitous depiction of rape, but also the lack of diversity."
The fantasy series faced backlash during its fifth season for a particularly brutal sexual assault scene against Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner. It has also faced ongoing condemnation for its primarily white cast.
Reign, along with a group of activists, is calling on people to tweet during Sunday's Game of Thrones episode and says the purpose of the social media push is to prevent HBO from spending any more money or time on the show.
This Sunday at 9pm ET, during <a href="https://twitter.com/GameOfThrones">@GameOfThrones</a>, we ask you to stand with us. We want to send a message to <a href="https://twitter.com/HBO">@hbo</a> using hashtag <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NoConfederate?src=hash">#NoConfederate</a>.—@ReignOfApril
"It is better for them to cancel this idea now, while still in its infancy, than to expend potentially millions of dollars per episode and face an even bigger backlash during its premiere," she told CBC. "We are not going away."
After Reign's Oscars So White hashtag took off, the film academy invited a significant number of new and diverse members in 2016 to help boost its percentage of female and minority voters.