How do you feel about slave narrative TV shows and movies? While debates surrounding whether slave narrative type programs in general are overplayed or still necessary, two shows currently in development are making waves in the media, as they are both alternate history situations surrounding different ways the post-Civil War era could have played out.
First up is Confederate, an HBO series made by creators D. B. Weiss and David Benioff of Game of Thrones imagining if the South had won the Civil War—in other words, a slave narrative. This show seems to be getting the bulk of the backlash, criticized as being an unnecessary imagining of what slavery as a modern institution looks like. Further, for many people living in what is increasingly revealed to be a not-so-post-racial Southern United States, the show seems to hit too close to home, with many arguing that although slavery is by no means legal as it is in the show’s premise, race relations are far from fine in the modern-day South.
What makes the timing of this show’s announcement so interesting is that another post-Civil War show is in production with Amazon, Black America. Black America imagines if several states are given to Black people as reparations for slavery. The show is currently receiving mostly positive reviews, unlike its rival. The difference? On top of a premise that is not at all close to reality, Black America is being made by Black creators Aaron McGruder and Will Packer, most known as the creator of The Boondocks and the producer of Straight Outta Compton, respectively. This fact is not lost by many critics of Confederate. While it’s hard to tell how Confederate’s story will play out, it seems easier to get onboard with a post-Reconstruction show made by Black creators as it almost guarantees a lack of exploitative storylines and intentions.
Seeing the two shows’ vastly different receptions from the media may say something about the state of not-so-post-racial America. Are Black people just tired of watching slave narrative type programs, especially those made by White people? For years, critics have claimed that one of the only ways to get a Black actor to win at major award shows is to have them play a slave or other stereotypical character (like a maid) facing the repercussions of the racially tense South.
I, for one, believe that slave narratives are important, but they must be handled with care to ensure that they are telling a unique story that is worth reliving arguably the most horrific part of America’s history. Otherwise they can easily become exploitative, drawing on incredibly sensitive subject material just to have shock value or win awards.
I plan on watching both shows when they come out (both are still in development and not expected until at least 2018) to see how the two shows differ. Recent years have further revealed that America is far from being post-racial, and media productions are going to play a large part in the shaping of race relations in the years to come, as more PoC-created shows enter mainstream production.
Will you be watching? Are you tired of slave narratives, or do you think they should still be continued? Does it matter if they’re made by White creators or PoCs? Let me know.