When the wide web heard the announcement that the showrunners for Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, would be producing an alternate-history show where the South won their independence during the American Civil War, many people were highly upset.
Arguments seemed to center around HBO’s audacity in allowing two white men to pen a show envisioning modern-day slavery. Some even called for a boycott of the show, despite the fact that it isn’t going to come out for a long, long time.
But, of course, not everything is so simple as all that, and the producers were interviewed by Vulture to help address some of these concerns.
Right out the gate, it’s important to note that Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire) will also be a part of the show. The black married couple and writing duo are expected to do more than just write—they’ll be full partners on the project. So it’s not just a couple of white guys working on the thing, and the Spellmans express their belief that the project is both deeply personal and highly important to audiences today. Malcolm told Vulture:
For me and Nichelle, it’s deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history. 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. As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion.
And while some have decried the intention of the show as being “slave fanfiction,” the producers intend to show how this alternate history timeline actually reflects the world we currently live in. Malcolm in particular is actually sort of offended by the online reaction:
What people need to recognize is, and it makes me really want to get into the show: The shit is alive and real today. I think people have got to stop pretending that slavery was something that happened and went away. The shit is affecting people in the present day. And it’s easy for folks to hide from it, because sometimes you’re not able to map it out, especially with how insidious racism has become. But everyone knows that with Trump coming into power, a bunch of shit that had always been there got resurfaced. So the idea that this would be pornography goes back to people imagining whips and plantations. What they need to be imagining is how fucked up things are today, and a story that allows us to now dramatize it in a more tangible matter.
Obviously, if the show is handled poorly, it could devolve into an exploitative and offensive mess in a heartbeat. But for all the negative backlash we’re seeing online, there’s nothing to suggest we should write it off just yet. As Benioff put it to Vulture, “You know, we might fuck it up. But we haven’t yet.”