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"Confederate," HBO's controversial alternate history series, which will include dramatizations of modern-day slavery and has come under fire since its announcement earlier this month, will be the target of a social media protest during Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones."
April Reign, the activist behind #OscarsSoWhite is one of the organizers of the protest which is asking people to tweet to @hbo using the hashtag #NoConfederate during the 9 p.m. East Coast and West Coast broadcasts of "Game of Thrones." The series is being developed by "Game of Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who are white. The pair invited husband and wife writer-producers Malcolm Spellman ("Empire") and Nichelle Tramble Spellman ("The Good Wife"), who are black, to join the creative team for the show.
"We want to show HBO the power of social media of those who are against this show, and demonstrate that there is a unified voice against 'Confederate," Reign said in a phone interview. "Our objective is for HBO to cancel this idea and spend no more money on it."
Reign said she and others are tired of the pain of African Americans "being commodified for others' enjoyment." Author Roxane Gay echoed this exhaustion in a recent opinion piece for the New York Times headlined "I Don't Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction."
Reign stressed that the protest was not a boycott of HBO, which airs the critically-acclaimed comedy "Insecure," co-created by and starring African American actress and writer Issa Rae, a half hour after "Game of Thrones."
Said Reign, "We feel that HBO's money, time and energy can be better placed on a different idea."
The sci-fi-tinged series revolves around events that lead to the "Third American Civil War" and examines an alternate reality in which the South seceded from the Union and thus, slavery is still legal in part of the country.
Last week Benioff, Weiss and the Spellmans responded to the criticisms in an article in Vulture, explaining the genesis of the idea and saying they expected initial reactions to be negative.
"It’s an ugly and a painful history," said Weiss, who called slavery America's "original sin."
"But we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it."
In discussing how they came aboard Malcolm Spellman said that he and his wife felt a sense of urgency in furthering a discussion about race in America. "As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion."
Tramble Spellman said she understands people's concerns about such volatile subject matter, but noted that she wished they'd reserved judgment on "whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do" until they had seen the show, which is still in development.
Earlier this week, Casey Bloys, spresident of HBO programming, echoed that sentiment during the premium network's session at the summer edition of the Television Critics Assn. gathering at the Beverly Hilton.
"My hope is people will judge the actual material instead of what it could be or should be or might be."
But Reign said Bloys' defense of "Confederate" fell short: "''Wait and see' is what we were told about the Trump administration."
She also repeated criticisms of "Game of Thrones," saying that Benioff and Weiss had been negligent in including blacks and other people of color in key roles both in front of and behind the camera on that show.
"We're still living in a time where there are protests about Confederate monuments coming down," Reign said. "How much history are we talking about? These are living concerns today."