Short Take: Roxane Gay Doesn’t Want To Watch

When J.K. Rowling announced a new Harry Potter-esque book, Anil Dash took to the twitters to complain: there was no character in Harry Potter who looked like his son. I replied, “so write a Harry Potter story and create a character who looks like your son.” Dash didn’t appreciate my suggestion. Other people who create things should do so to suit his desires.

Roxane Gay, who remains under suspicion of dog killing because the absence of evidence is more than enough proof in her world, took to the op-ed pages of the Times (in an otherwise appreciated respite for why Trump is literally Hitler) because there is a television show she does not want to watch.

HBO last week announced it was willing to expend this energy with a series from the “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. In the show, “Confederate,” the South does, indeed, secede from the Union, the Mason-Dixon line is a demilitarized zone and slavery is the law of the land below it. Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, black television writers and producers, are also attached to the project. They have an incredible body of work behind them and will no doubt bring their considerable expertise to this show.

When I first read about “Confederate,” however, I felt exhausted, simply because I have long been exhausted by slavery narratives. That’s a personal preference, not a metric by which art should or should not be created.

I feel the same way about Family Feud, not that anybody cares. Why then does Gay feel the need to write about it? Why does the Times feel it deserves its real estate?

My exhaustion with the idea of “Confederate” is multiplied by the realization that this show is the brainchild of two white men who oversee a show that has few people of color to speak of and where sexual violence is often gratuitous and treated as no big deal. I shudder to imagine the enslaved black body in their creative hands. And when I think about the number of people who gave this project the green light, the number of people who thought this was a great idea, my weariness grows exponentially.

No, this is not a commercial for Geritol. “Exhaustion” is a social justice go-to word for how many times the woke have explained to the racist and sexist world how horrible it is, and yet, Gay has to explain it yet again. So exhausting.

Amazon produces a TV show called “Man in the High Castle” about a dystopia where the Germans won World War II. Nobody protested it. Gay had no complaints. It showed the horrors that would have ensued had we not won the war. No one called it neo-Nazi fan fiction. No one wrung their hands about how it could empower neo-Nazis.

Is it conceivable that this new HBO television show might empower white supremacists who want to return to the days of slavery? Well, sure. Anything is possible. But is it far more likely that it’s purpose, like movies such as 12 Years A Slave, will have the opposite impact, remind us of this travesty in our history? Regardless, both HBO and the writers/producers get to make whatever choices they want.

So Gay doesn’t want to watch it? Who cares. But the reason this op-ed was written, and the reason why the New York Times published it, is that Gay doesn’t want you to watch it. Gay wants to tell you why this is evil, and if you like it, you’re evil too. No woke person would approve of such a terrible thing. This is fan fiction for white supremacists, and you’ve been warned by Roxane Gay that if you enjoy it, support it, then you’re one of them.

It’s not that Gay wants to censor other people’s art, but that she wants to tell you what she thinks of their art, and what she thinks of anyone who doesn’t hate their art as much as she does.

It’s exhausting being Roxane Gay.

9 thoughts on “Short Take: Roxane Gay Doesn’t Want To Watch

  1. Rendall

    “Amazon produces a TV show called “Man in the High Castle” about a dystopia where the German’s won World War II. Nobody protested it.”

    Au contraire, mon frère. These people can find a problem with literally everything.

    From Vox: “The Man in the High Castle Season 2 is the Worst TV Show of the Year” subtitled “After losing its showrunner, Amazon’s alt-history Nazi drama has become deeply irresponsible television.” While the actual issue is hard to discern through the word salad, his problem with it seems to be that the US wasn’t critiqued hard enough vis-à-vis Nazism, and that some Nazis were not as bad as others.

    From The Atlantic: “The Man in the High Castle: When a Nazi-Run World Isn’t So Dystopian”, whose problem with it was that the world is darker in the TV show than the novel, and that the protagonists are not racist. And, like the Vox article, disappointment with the message that there is a stark distinction between bad Nazis and the rest of us.

  2. Alex Bunin

    The writers of Game of Thrones are going to create a revision of American slavery and the Civil War? What could possibly go wrong? My review is practically already written.

  3. Gloria Wolk

    Roxanne Gay needs to read “Slavery by Another Name” (Doug Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize winning, heavily researched book). One lesson from the book: slavery did not end in the US. Compare fiction to reality and the winner is . . ..

    1. el profesor presente

      You can see her likely response to this suggestion in the photo above, but that’s the sort of suggestion one might get when they sound oddly similar to an irritated white conservative who is tired of hearing about slavery.

  4. B. McLeod

    She “shudders to imagine the enslaved black body in their creative hands”? I think someone’s getting a bit overexcited there. This reminds me of that book that theorized all religions essentially divide all matters and occurrences between the “sacred” and the “Roxane.”

  5. Nigel Declan

    Remember the good old days, when people took the time to experience things before critiquing them, creating at least the illusion that their opinion was based on what something was as opposed to how they had already decided to feel about it ex ante?

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