The retort to Ta-Nehisi Coates
While Ta-Nehisi coates makes a compelling case about why HBO upcoming show Confederate should be cancelled, there are many assumptions and supposition that he makes which are in my view, illogical. Lets start with the immediate assumption that the show will have viewers see modern day ‘white southerners’ as somehow sympathetic and not act evil which they did and would if they were to have destroyed the view of Lincoln’s wish for a semblance of a union. This immediately gives the suggestion that the network and the showrunners cannot be trusted in showing how bad the southerners were because the underlying notion is that because the show runners are both white, they cannot possibly show the white southerners of the confederate in the same view as a black person sees them.
Another assumption that is made is that HBO must have received a basic one liner pitch with no explanations. Anyone with any knowledge would know that HBO would not greenlight a show given their past standards in programming until they get a full idea of what the show will fully entail especially the pilot and the first season. There is an assumption that the show will be later ‘fixed’ in its execution. Mr. Coates does not know what is to be fixed because as I wrote before the assumption begins with an immediate negative supposition.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is correct that there have been a handful of movies from hollywood which show southerners in a positive or sympathetic light but given the fact that hollywood does not have a monopoly on what ideological ideas were or are shown on screen, it is a well known fact that Hollywood movies and TV shows push a more progressive view than the rest of the nation’s view on society. This is an aspect of hollywood he ignores in his piece because it does not and cannot fit his narrative that HBO and hollywood cannot be trusted in this endeavor. That this show somehow cannot be a teachable moment. More on that later.
It can be rather easily inferred that this show would show that Lincoln’s ambitions are wholly defeated, that he does not get to begin to dictate his view of uniting the union, rather this union is demolished with the white southerners decimating the notion of the union and taking complete control of the nation. But this is a guess on my part which is why the artist has to show the art before the art is judged especially when there is a sense of confirmation that this will not celebrate confederacy in any sense, rather the opposite.
Another viewpoint that is incorrect is that The Man in the High Castle cannot be compared to this show because Nazism was fully defeated, Nazis were hung while many of the confederate folks were set free, some came back into power and some gained control of the south again without the literal form of slavery in their grasp. This much is true that Nazism as a system was swiftly wiped out but the idea itself was not defeated and in the modern age plenty of western politicians are coming to power with the same form of nationalism and ideas which defined Nazism. Racism took a different route where it was never totally wiped out, systemic racism was extremely high, somewhat subsided with the civil rights movements, many a progress was made yet the system itself has a form of racial prejudice on its civilians. In the end, neither idea is defeated and both are prevalent and gaining ground again. This same sense is about the show A Handmaid’s tale which explores form of misogyny and sexism which has also never been fully controlled in society yet we celebrate that show with no outrage of the same level when women being raped are shown. It is seen by many as a teachable moment of what could happen in a society with an uncontrolled level of sexism and misogyny.
The assumption, again, is made that the showrunners lack the knowledge about the history during the civil war and afterwards and worst off there is a nuanced accusation that the showrunners lack knowledge or are ignorant on the fact that black people to this day suffer from some form of literal and a daily form of systemic racism. It would be incorrect to assume that the showrunners and their producers of this show would view the civil war as a black and white victory and defeat without any knowledge of the compromises and actions which resulted in some form of union between south and north and resulted in the non-punishment of many confederate leaders, something which many black AND white people find unacceptable to this date. Mind you it was in those days New York Times e.g. and many other white people who did call for charges of TREASON for the southern leaders who were part of the confederate army and movement.
An incorrect assessment is again made that the showrunners for this show who are also showrunners for the HBO Game of Thrones show are not to be trusted because they portray a lot of sexual violence in their Game of Thrones show. Even though I am not a fan of the Song of Fire and Ice books and the game of thrones show, anyone doing a bit a research would know that the sexual violence depicted in the show is what is taken from the source material books themselves. In many cases, the books show even more grotesque form of it than is shown in the TV show in fact in an analysis done, the show has 4 times less rape shown than the books did up to the same point between the book and the show.
As I see it, the show could show what the true bottom of society looks like, a fiction where Ta-Nehisi Coates wouldn’t have access to write his words, where society is not free to discuss and debate, retort and understand. As I see it, the show could be used to show the same people who to this day fly the confederate flag in their homes or have it on their cars and ask them the question ‘Is this what you celebrate its history for?’ , ‘Is this what you endorse?’ and if not then see the images of what the intent of the white southerns from the confederates was. Is this the society you want while you wave that flag and praise the history? As I see it, again, this would be a teachable moment to those in power holding on to the last grasp of the having confederate flags in places of political power and ask them the same question, is this the alternative history you envision to have as your own? One hopes we move away from this culture of outrage and use each step and moment to showcase those still stuck in the past to move forward and progress. The visual medium can be a great mess when we had the birth of a nation showcase racism, why not use this medium to drive in the point that we can use this as a moment to educate others.