First, let me get this out of the way. I have never seen an episode of “Game of Thrones” and I can’t tell you much about what it is even about. OK.
Yesterday HBO announced that the show’s writers will soon begin production of a new series that explores the events leading up to the Civil War, but with an outcome that includes “Confederate” independence. A show about the Confederacy winning its independence…now why hasn’t anyone thought of that one before?
Here is description of the basic outline of the show:
‘Confederate’ chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. 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.
First, slavery was already a “modern institution” by 1860. The cast of characters looks predictable. My first question is why do you have to imagine a counterfactual scenario to write these characters? Why not just set the story in the 1850s along the Border South?
Regardless of the specifics of the outcome that the writers envision, the period after independence must involve some form of reconstruction. Americans, however, have so little understanding of Reconstruction as it actually played out that it seems perverse to enter the world of fantasy.
I am sure African Americans will embrace the opportunity to tune in each week to see how the story of slavery unfolds. Why not set the story in a Concentration Camp around a counterfactual Nazi victory? The Jewish community will love it.
All kidding aside, this has been done in recent years and to great effect, in both the faux documentary, C.S.A. and in Ben Winters’s recent book, Underground Airlines. I highly recommend both. They work, in part, because one of their goals was to force the viewer/reader to consider how little changed, along racial lines, even with a Union victory and the end of slavery.
Of course, it is still too early to be so judgmental, but this is my immediate reaction. Really, what could go wrong?