HBO has produced some of the most popular and talked-about shows on television, and the news that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were working on a new show should have delighted fans who were dreading the end of Thrones, but the new project is one that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Called Confederate, the series is set to tell an alternate history of the United States in which the Civil War ended with the southern states successfully seceding from the U.S., and slavery remained legal. There was understandably a backlash to the series when it was announced back in July. Now, HBO CEO Richard Plepler has revealed where he believes they went wrong with Confederate:
We screwed up in an important way. Where we screwed up was we tried to announce a complicated subject in a press release of three paragraphs. What we should have done is we should have had the creative team sit down with a room full of thoughtful reporters, engage in a Q&A. And when we finish 'Thrones,' and when they begin to put pen to paper, and when they form and put meat on the bones of this idea, we will do exactly that. I would say a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots, and that's kind of what happened here.
Well, I don't think anybody will argue with HBO head honcho Richard Plepler in his comments at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summer (via Variety) that HBO screwed up with the Confederate announcement in July. The news caused an uproar on social media, with many people taking to Twitter with the #NoConfederate tag, which even trended at times during episodes of Game of Thrones, which is actually a pretty huge deal. Game of Thrones dominated social media over the summer; #NoConfederate trending during episodes is proof that a lot of people felt quite strongly that Confederate has no place on primetime.
Confederate was described as a series that would follow characters in an era of legal slavery, and viewers would see the events through the eyes of slave-holders as well as journalists, abolitionists, slave hunters, freedom fighters, and politicians. It's not a premise that comes across well in a quick press release that didn't give away anything in the way of context or motivation. At the very least, the announcement came across as premature and tone-deaf, and Richard Plepler at least seems to know that HBO messed up in how they presented the premise to the public.
Only time will tell if Richard Plepler's comments will reconcile any of those who have been angry about the prospect of Confederate on HBO. Co-executive producer Nichelle Spellman addressed the backlash in July by promising that she and the other producers intended to tackle the premise in a "very thoughtful" and "very serious" way, and she expressed her wish that fans had saved their protests until they got to see the series. We'll have to wait and see if it's possible for Confederate to win the support of audiences. HBO does seem to still be moving forward on the show despite the ongoing backlash, so we can bet that the controversy will likely continue.