By the time this week’s HBO Game of Thrones episode ended Sunday night, the hashtag #NoConfederate was trending No. 1 in the United States and No. 2 worldwide on Twitter.
April Reign, creator of the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign – which protested the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees for two years in a row – was one of a small group of African American women who announced the #NoConfederate campaign Friday.
The reason: to show HBO that a large proportion of its audience wants it to scrap the its plans to create a show called Confederate by Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff that imagines a South that won the Civil War and formed a separate country, “giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”
Molefi K. Asante, a professor and chair of Temple University’s department of Africology and African American studies, said the idea was a misguided attempt to appeal to a certain demographic.
“It’s not morally correct, it’s not ethically correct, and it’s not historically correct,” Asante said Monday. “It’s an attempt to negate the historical reality and it’s an attempt to appeal to the masses of people who voted for [Donald] Trump.”
“We should protest it,” he added. “I will protest it.”
He didn’t balk at calling such a protest censorship: “This is an abuse of artistic license. Some things should be censored.”
Nyasha Junior, an assistant professor in Temple’s department of religion who often tweets about social-justice issues, sent out her own #noconfederate tweet before sitting down to watch Game of Thrones.
“It’s disappointing that HBO would spend this kind of time and energy on a show created by two white men to indulge in this fantasy of modern-day enslavement,” Junior said.
“I think what we’re seeing in a number of different ways is a retrenchment,” she said. “This is a backlash to the Obama presidency.”
The campaign is not a boycott of HBO, Junior said, but “a way for a group of people to come together and to tell a global media empire that ‘I’d like to see something else that’s more creative and interesting that involves people of color.'”
The Confederate show, which HBO announced last week, drew immediate backlash on Twitter, especially black Twitter.
Reign made her announcement of the #NoConfederate hashtag protest two days before Game of Thrones aired Sunday night.
Bree Newsome, the woman who climbed a flag pole in Columbia, S.C., in June 2015 to take down a Confederate flag flying at the statehouse following the June 17 massacre of nine black people at a Charleston church, was among those live tweeting during Sunday’s Game of Thrones.
HBO responded to the campaign with a statement Sunday night:
“We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around Confederate. … The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”
HBO noted that in addition to Weiss and Benioff, Confederate writers would include the husband-and-wife team of Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, who are black. But to the Twitter universe, having black writers as part of Confederate didn’t make the idea any easier to take.
Some tweets, from white viewers, questioned whether it was fair to condemn Confederate when there are shows like Dear White People.
“What confidence should we have in two gentlemen who can’t talk about race on their own show and have had seven seasons to introduce significant characters of color?” Reign told the Hollywood Reporter Thursday.
Among her tweets Sunday night was this one about Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who had posed online holding a Confederate flag.
Ellen Gray, the television critic for the Inquirer and Daily News said in her recent column about the controversy about the show:
In a more egalitarian Hollywood, we might be seeing pitches for all kinds of alternate universes. Who would get to make the show, for instance, about a United States that wasn’t built on the unpaid labor of enslaved people? What might that country look like? Would Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman have been able to get an idea of their own creation on HBO without the guys from “Game of Thrones?”
This story was corrected to reflect that April Reign is no longer with Broadwayblack.com.