'Sounds stupid as hell:' HBO's Confederate, by Game of Thrones showrunners, earns early scorn
Alternate-history take on American race relations won't start production until after Game of Thrones ends
HBO has attracted harsh criticism for its newly announced series helmed by the creators behind Game of Thrones.
The cable network announced Wednesday that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are set to co-write Confederate, an original series with an alternate-history take on slavery in the United States.
Confederate 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 network said in a Medium blog post.
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Production on Confederate isn't scheduled to begin until after the completion of Game of Thrones. The eighth and final season is expected to air in 2018 or 2019.
Besides saying the show takes place in the lead-up to the "Third American Civil War" — sparking the obvious question of what happened in this timeline's Second Civil War — few other details were revealed.
Many critics and commentators online, to put it mildly, were less than optimistic.
"This show sounds stupid as hell," panned The Daily Beast's Ira Madison III.
"I mean damn, we finally had an Oscars ceremony where a black film won Best Picture (Moonlight) without having slaves or servants in it. But I guess HBO's eyes are still fixated on 12 Years a Slave," he continued.
"Whatever year it is, there will be no avoiding parallels to the racial tensions exploding in Trump's America right now. But are these the right people to tell that story?" wrote Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson.
They joined a chorus of others on social media who voiced their displeasure at the announcement.
Black people in the USA right now don't have to spin an alt-history "what if" to consider the impact of institutional racism on their lives.—@fozmeadows
Hey <a href="https://twitter.com/HBO">@HBO</a>, Confederate would be much more dynamic if the alternate timeline explored an America that doesn't exploit black pain for a change.—@tonebrann
an exciting new and sure to be thoughtfully and sensitively crafted HBO show, CONFEDERATE, from the white dudes who brought you this image: <a href="https://t.co/6VuyR1JF40">pic.twitter.com/6VuyR1JF40</a>—@kaytaylorrea
Some questioned how Beinoff and Weiss will handle a story centred on race relations and slavery in the U.S., given they have been criticized for their approaches both to diversity and emotional trauma in Game of Thrones.
Fans in particular condemned a season five scene where Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) rapes Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) off-screen. Many viewers at the time threatened to walk away from the show entirely, noting that the scene did not originate in George R.R. Martin's novels on which the series was based.
And the show has also come under fire for its largely white cast of principal characters.
"There are no black people on Game of Thrones," Star Wars actor John Boyega said in a recent interview with GQ. "You don't see one black person in Lord of the Rings."
There are a few black supporting characters in Game of Thrones, though none with the same leading roles as Boyega has on Star Wars and the upcoming Pacific Rim sequel.