While generals always try fighting old wars, lazy screen writers just try re-imagining the outcome. Tired of dragons, the minds behind HBO's "Game of Thrones" have announced a new project called "Confederate."
The series comes from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and imagines an America where the South seceded from the Union successfully and slavery endures into modernity as an inexplicable Third American Civil War looms large.
The outrage, of course, is as predictable as that unoriginal premise.
Author Roxane Gay said she became exhausted after thinking "of how many people at HBO said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery." Blogger Ira Madison III said the series was "stupid as hell" because — wait for it — the show "sounds a hell of a lot like the present." And esteemed culture critic, @PilotBacon said it was "slavery fanfic."
In a word, all of this is outrageous. For starters, more ink has been spilt condemning "Confederate" than HBO has used to promote a series that was just announced yesterday. Other than what was detailed in the press release, we know nothing at all about the direction of the project. What's more, it's also incredibly shallow criticism.
Rather than breathless outrage, a more clever writer would critique the economic and historical stupidity of the show's premise. After all, an ironclad economic law is that slave labor is never as efficient as free labor, meaning that slavery would ultimately cripple the South and doom them to a pre-industrial, third-world subsistence existence.
But then again, Hollywood has never had the best grasp of history. What they have been able to achieve with some success, and critics like Gay and Madison haven't been able to grasp, is that there's a difference between imaginative description and moral prescription.
For example, look at Amazon's "Man in the High Castle."
That dystopian series portrays a world where the Third Reich has dominated the globe. Viewers watch to shudder at Nazis goose-stepping in America and cheer those monsters getting blown apart. To insist that the show somehow prescribes neo-Nazism, rather than describing an alternative reality, is laughable.
The thinking audiences that distinguished the difference with "Man in the High Castle" will be capable of doing the same with "Confederate."
None of this should be taken as an endorsement though. Again, no one knows anything concrete. If anything, the show will probably be one drawn-out, worn-out liberal trope about how the ghost of Jefferson Davis still hovers over contemporary society a century-and-half after the Civil War.
To find out, we'll have to, you know, watch the show first.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.