A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about HBO’s intention to air an ‘alt-history’ drama called Confederate, which takes place in an alternate timeline where the South won the Civil War and slavery still exists. This post inevitably inspired a friendly debate about why a show like this is should or shouldn’t be aired in this day and age. Some people expressed similar amounts of outrage, while others questioned if this type of show is any different to other apocalyptic shows like The Handmaid’s Tale.
It’s very different, and I’ll tell you why. Women have been oppressed for centuries – that we know. However, western society has overwhelmingly changed its view of women. Aside from the stigma of Eve and the apple, women by and large have been considered to be humans and worthy of all the rights humanity affords for quite some time.
African-Americans haven’t. It wasn’t that long ago that people believed that black people were a completely different species to white people. Anti-miscegenation laws were introduced in the USA as early as 1691, and these laws weren’t completely abolished in many states until 1967. Despite this ruling, the difference between races is something that continues to be ingrained into society today. There is still a huge stigma against anyone with a skin tone darker than mildly tanned – from everyday things like the lack of makeup and nude shoe options to suit darker skin, to things that affect current and future generations such as inequitable access to affordable housing, quality education and job opportunities.
When you think about heaven and the concept of good, you inevitably think about the colour white. When you think about hell and all things bad or evil, you probably envision the colour black. Children are taught from an early age that dark skin is bad and ugly and light skin is good and beautiful. Don’t believe me? Watch this heartbreaking video:
Go have a look at children’s movie heroines and villains and you’ll see that, by and large, if the villain doesn’t have darker skin then they have dark hair, eyes and/or clothing. Adolescent girls learn pretty quickly that bright coloured eye makeup is light and fun while dark, smokey eyes are risqué and dangerous. Products that claim to lighten and brighten your skin tone are touted to those with darker skin, all to apparently make them appear more friendly and welcoming. There are even lightening products for vaginas because apparently no part of our bodies can be dark.
I could provide so many more societal and even personal examples, but I think you get my point. The inequality of race in western society is still very much alive and kicking. Unfortunately with the current political climate in the USA and elsewhere, there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. The problem with airing a show like Confederate in this day and age is that it only plays into this inequality.
The vast majority of people watching The Handmaid’s Tale would be outraged at the inhumane treatment of women in the program. The sad fact of the matter is that there are simply too many people in this world who wouldn’t be all that outraged about the alternative reality portrayed in Confederate because at the core of their belief system, darker-skinned people aren’t equal to them. It’s 2017, and African-Americans still live in constant fear for their lives. As my friend said, we still cannot have a real conversation about race in America because it’s still so divisive. The alternative reality in Confederate is just too close to society’s current reality. And it turns my stomach faster than any other force known to man.
Here’s a thought: Let’s ditch TV shows that feed inequality of class, wealth, race, religion, sexuality, etc. and create something that actually promotes kindness and compassion and hope. Where are the stories about overcoming all the odds to make a better life, or helping someone through a difficult time? Violence, inequality and apocalypse porn don’t inspire me to make a better world – stories like this do:
People laugh when I profess my love for Star Trek and dismiss it as my ‘nerd flag’, but you know what? Star Trek is all about society getting its collective shit together and making a better, more equal society for all.
Sounds pretty fucking good to me.