In Brief

Confederate: Game of Thrones writers criticised for new show

David Benioff and DB Weiss spark controversy with alternative history where slavery still exists in the US

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss are turning their attention to new projects, but their planned HBO series, Confederate, has already set off alarm bells.

Although details about the production are still sketchy, the project has been criticised over its premise. Confederate is set in a future version of the US where slavery still exists.

Variety reported this week that the show had got the green light.

Confederate envisions the lead-up to a third American Civil War, with the breakaway southern states maintaining a system of slavery.

It follows characters on "both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarised Zone", including freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists and the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate.

However, it has been criticised for attempting to depict modern-day slavery.

Journalist Pilot Viruet mocked "white showrunners" wanting to write "slavery fanfiction".

Meanwhile, actor David Harewood predicted a boycott among his colleagues.

However, Vulture says, much of the criticism has overlooked the fact that while Benioff and Weiss will be Confederate's official showrunners, they will partner two black writers/executive producers, husband and wife Malcolm Spellman (Empire) and Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife).

Weiss told the site the project deals with "an ugly and a painful history", but argued that was why they should tackle the issue and "not a reason to run from it".

Spellman said he knew straight away Confederate would be controversial, warning Benioff and Weiss: "You’re dealing with weapons-grade material here."

"Conceptually" Confederate deals with ideas similar to a crop of alternative history shows such as The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale, where "the villains of history won", Kwame Opam on The Verge says.

However, the critic adds that at a time when Hollywood has been "flooded with slave stories" - and when Benioff and Weiss have "faced criticism for their depiction of people of colour in Game of Thrones" - HBO is "almost certainly courting controversy".

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