Roxane Gay Perfectly Articulates Why HBO’s Slavery Fan Fiction is a Terrible Idea

roxane gay confederate
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Leave it to feminist scholar and author Roxane Gay to perfectly write what we’re thinking. In her latest article for The New York Times, Gay underscores precisely why we don’t need the new show Confederate, aka slavery fan fic.

In her masterfully written essay, “I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction,” Gay breaks down just how dumb the idea is for Confederate, a show which reimagines the civil war in which the South won and slavery lives on.

1. Slavery Still Exists, You Idiots

To be fair, we used the word “idiot,” not Roxane, but it’s basically the point. She writes,

“Each time I see a re-imagining of the Civil War that largely replicates what actually happened, I wonder why people are expending the energy to imagine that slavery continues to thrive when we are still dealing with the vestiges of slavery in very tangible ways. Those vestiges are visible in incarceration rates for black people, a wildly segregated country, disparities in pay and mortality rates and the ever-precarious nature of black life in a world where it can often seem as if police officers take those lives with impunity.”


2. This So-Called “Fiction” Isn’t So Fictional

One of Gay’s best points is that the premise of Confederate is not such a far-fetched idea. She explains,

“This show’s premise highlights the limits of the imagination in a world where oppression thrives. These creators can imagine a world where the Confederacy won the Civil War and black people are still enslaved, but they can’t or aren’t interested in imagining a world where, say, things went in a completely different direction after the Civil War and, say, white people are enslaved. Or a world where slavery never happened at all. What would happen in a show where American Indians won the conflicts in which they were embroiled as the British and French and other European nations colonized this country? What would happen if Mexicans won the Mexican-American War and Texas and California were still part of Mexico?

It is curious that time and again, when people create alternate histories, they are largely replicating a history we already know, and intimately. They are replicating histories where whiteness thrives and people of color remain oppressed.”

3. Confederate Could Be Dangerous in the Hands of the Wrong People

“Creativity without constraint comes with responsibility. We do not make art in a vacuum isolated from socio-political context. We live in a starkly divided country with a president who is shamefully ill equipped to bridge that divide. I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like Confederate and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.”

Trump gave a voice to white supremacists, and Roxane is right: they truly do not need any more motivation at this point. And as Roxane so aptly points out at the end of her essay, “with each day that Mr. Trump serves as president, we face the imminent danger of all manner of bad history repeating itself while we watch it on TV.”

So HBO, take note: we don’t need your slavery fan fiction from two white men who feel like stirring up controversy. Not now, not ever.

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.