HBO Defends Upcoming Slave Drama 'Confederate' After Backlash

New series created by 'Game of Thrones' writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss railed for exploiting slavery

Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff Credit: Art Streiber

Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are developing a new HBO series called Confederate. And on Sunday night – when many Thrones fans are as engrossed in the show as they are in the show's Twitter reactions – a new protest gained massive traction.

Confederate takes place in an alternate history in which the American South won the Civil War and slavery is legal in half of the country. The series specifically revolves around the series of events that lead to the "Third American Civil War" and includes depictions of modern slavery.

In response to the series announcement, April Reign, the woman behind the viral "#OscarsSoWhite" protest back in 2015, encouraged people to protest the series online by using the hashtag "#NoConfederate." On Sunday, the hashtag was trending on Twitter.


"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 Reporterreferring to Benioff and Weiss. Reign's sentiments were echoed in author Roxane Gay's New York Times op-ed that denounced the series as "slavery fan fiction." 

"My exhaustion with the idea of Confederate is multiplied by the realization that this show is the brainchild of two white men who oversee a show that has few people of color to speak of and where sexual violence is often gratuitous and treated as no big deal," Gay wrote. "I shudder to imagine the enslaved black body in their creative hands."

HBO released a statement addressing the outrage that defended the series. "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."

Confederate producer Malcolm Spellman, who is black, said the show will bring forth important insights about race in America. "It's deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history," he said to Vulture. "We deal with it directly and have for our entire lives. We deal with it in Hollywood, we deal with it in the real world when we're dealing with friends and family members. And I think Nichelle and I both felt a sense of urgency in trying to find a way to support a discussion that is percolating but isn't happening enough."