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HBO’s Confederate

August 7, 2017

The forthcoming HBO show is more likely to deflect rather than expose truths about America’s racial history and present, for the reason Ta-nehisi Coates well explains:

[T]he creators have said that their hope is to use science fiction to “show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could.” And that really is the problem. African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that “history is still with us.” It’s right outside our door. It’s in our politics. It’s on our networks. And Confederate is not immune. The show’s very operating premise, the fact that it roots itself in a long white tradition of imagining away emancipation, leaves one wondering how “lost” the Lost Cause really was.

If the show wants to really explore that material, what it needs to do is show not how different that imagined US is or how far its politics are from our own or how different its people are, but how close all those are to today’s reality. Unless it makes modern day right-wingers and libertarian economists and sometimes even white liberals yelp like the dog hit with the rock, it will be a failure.

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