White Liberal Fantasy

Much has been written (and tweeted, and memed, and broadcast, and etc.) about the HBO proposal to create a series, “Confederate”, on the what-if idea that the South had not lost the Civil War but had (at least) defended their territory, allowing them to continue black chattel slavery into today, the 21st century. I’m unclear on whether this would be a single season thing or some kind of on-going series, like Game of Thrones.

Two significant arguments in opposition to this series are (and forgive me for the loss of nuance in this summation), first, that it is inherently offensive to Black Americans to see this domination fantasy portrayed on the screen, even if unsympathetic to the Confederate side, and, second, that we have enough racist practice and defense of white supremacy in our daily lives that we don’t need to indulge in some made-for-TV version.

The objection to the opposition seems to be two-fold as well. First, we shouldn’t “censor” artistic expression, which is such a horseshit argument I can’t believe anyone has the nerve to put it forward. They are already going ahead with the show and the prospective viewers are saying “We ask you not to.” There is no censorship, only a moral appeal.

Second, and more perniciously, defenders argue that it could be “well done” and “thought provoking”, and we’re assured the slave holding forces will not be portrayed kindly.

That’s the problem.

Confederate is a white liberal attempt to distance ourselves from the racist taint of the majority of our white compatriots, who are only too happy with a politely white supremacist nation. It is a fantasy of white heroism, resisting evil and fighting on the right side. It is the white entertainment dudes’ attempt to exculpate themselves from their continuous participation in the manufacture of white ideology in our current times. They want to be the superheroes of their own story, imagining themselves to have of course fought on the side of the Blue Union, and uneasily look past the upsurge of unfiltered racism and lust to impose Jim Crow – if not chattel slavery – once more upon the nation.

It is a self-referential fantasy. It has to be. The very premise of the story is that whites rule brutally and coercively over non-whites. That the Black co-worker next to you today is going to be chained (or chipped), under 24/7 surveillance to enforce her sub-human status. Yes, there will be a modern day Frederick Douglass, a sassy (and master-of-martial-arts) Harriet Tubman stand in, but the story will revolve around the souls of whites and the pure-hearted ones who break the chains for the enslaved. Probably with some kind of computer virus.

The thought that needs provoking is the idea that what we live in right now is sufficiently inhumane and indefensible to deserve an honest telling and a sober reckoning. That our Confederate past is neither dead nor past. That we are not the heroes, but the self-deluding, unindicted co-conspirators of the ongoing, barely interrupted campaign to keep millions of our fellow citizens in conditions of subservience and fear.

Go make a series about that.



6 thoughts on “White Liberal Fantasy”

  1. The confederate “loss” was temporary, except for “leaving the union” bit. The former southern ruling class (though not always the same individuals) got back in power plus all the Jim Crow laws when the union troops got called back up north to deal with railroad strikes, etc. That’s why there are confederate monuments.

    Not that I’m going to be watching either series (I don’t watch TV any more) but there’s also going to be an alternative CW series from Amazon (“Black America”), which is freed slaves got Louisiana, Mississippi & Alabama as reparations — it sounds more interesting than “Confederate”.

  2. When I first heard about it, my reaction was something to the tune of: “No. God, no. Why would you do this? Why would anyone do this.”

    On the other hand, the show you propose would never reach the kind of audience a controversial HBO show like this will, though. Hypothetically, anything that provokes discourse about race relations could be said to be useful. Shine a light in dark corners, etcetera.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if people spent as much time discussing race relations as they do Game of Thrones?

    Of course, I know nothing about the intended plot of the series besides the Confederate thing, so sure, odds are good they’ll miss the entire point and the story will follow some noble white people who manage to save those poor suffering blacks. Maybe with some kind of James Bondian gadgets.

  3. Hi Jon,

    There is a zero percent chance that what I would like to see would ever be produced, let alone that people would watch it. We ‘Murkins don’t like our reality TV to be quite that realistic.

    Given the direction Trumpist forces are trying to take the nation, especially with Heather Heyer’s murder, I think any show that portrays white supremacy as a piece of entertainment is obscene, and should get anyone involved in the project shunned by decent people for the rest of their professional lives.

    I see nothing “educational” or “thought provoking” by giving the slightest credence to a victorious Confederate side. That hope/fantasy is what powers the worst of our country.

    I’m also cranky enough that I would love for people to STFU about GoT, which is a thoroughly mediocre piece of tripe. Bad politics, bad fantasy, bad story telling.

    But that’s me.

    Hope all’s well with you,

  4. I’ve never gotten into GoT myself, but I feel a weird cultural imperative to be aware of what happens in a given season in case someone forces me to engage them about it around the hypothetical watercooler.

    Like I’m prepping for a pop quiz and have to be ready with my material at any time.

  5. Bwhahahahahaha! Exactly. I read the first few books, got bored after #3, have seen bits of the show, think some of the imagery is cool, and don’t feel deprived for not knowing more.

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