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.