7:09pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
HBO Responds to Anti-Slavery Show #NoConfederate Campaign
Following a massive social media campaign urging HBO to abandon its upcoming slave drama Confederate, the premium cable network has responded to the outcry.
"We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around Confederate. We have faith that [writers] Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see," the premium cable network said in a statement Sunday.
The campaign, organized by April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry, urged viewers to tweet #NoConfederate during Sunday's episode of HBO's Game of Thrones in a bid to send a message to the cabler that their subscribers don't want to see a show that explores slavery in any sense. By the end of Game of Thrones' East Coast broadcast, #NoConfederate had reached No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 worldwide among Twitter's trending topics.
Confederate chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War and 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.
Picked up straight to series, Confederate hails from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as well as husband and wife writing duo Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman and will launch after the fantasy series wraps its run either next year or in 2019.
"What confidence should we have in two gentlemen who can't talk about race on their own show and have had seven seasons to introduce significant characters of color?" Reign told The Hollywood Reporter. The series was met with a very vocal outcry to its central premise. Benioff, Weiss and the Spellmans defended the forthcoming show in an interview shortly after the backlash.
"This is not a world in which the entire country is enslaved. Slavery is in one half of the country. And the North is the North," Malcolm Spellman said. "The imagery should be no whips and no plantations."
HBO programming president Casey Bloys defended the show when speaking with reporters last week and urged viewers to reserve judgment until after they've seen the show.
"Everyone understands there is a high degree of getting this right.… If you can get it right, there is real opportunity to advance the racial discussion in America," Bloys said. "If you can draw a line between what we're seeing in the country today with voter suppression, mass incarceration, lack of access to public education and healthcare and draw the line to our past and shared history, that's an important line to draw and a conversation worth having. [The producers] acknowledge this has a high degree of difficulty. It's a risk worth taking."
Below are a few of the #NoConfederate tweets from Sunday: