Dr. Jason Johnson discusses the similarities of real politics with the Game of Thrones series on HBO. Other panel members are Tiffany D. Cross (The Beat DC) and host, Joy Reid.
Dr. Jason Johnson discusses the similarities of real politics with the Game of Thrones series on HBO. Other panel members are Tiffany D. Cross (The Beat DC) and host, Joy Reid.
Confederate, the new show by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, sounds like hot trash. Smelly, putrid, straight-from-the-piss-drenched-dumpsters-of-1980s-Times Square trash.
While the concept isn’t finalized, Confederate will more or less be an alternative history in which the South won the Civil War (the first or the second; there are varying reports), slavery has continued to the present day, and the North and South are about to go at it again to finally decide who can treat black people worse.
There have already been plenty of think pieces about what a horrible idea this show is, and they’re mostly right. Right after our partner Damon Young at Very Smart Brothas pointed out that white guys get funded for everything no matter how egregious or offensive the idea, HBO’s programming president, Casey Bloys, claimed that a show born out of the rape and oppression of an entire race of people “ … is a risk worth taking.”
Is it really a risk, though? White writers and producers have been producing subtly or overtly anti-black programming under the guise of comedy or being “edgy” since vacuum tubes and test patterns after midnight. Now, if you want to talk about new and risky, how about some alternative histories that don’t focus on World War II or the Civil War?
Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:
What if I told you that instead of fighting in the Indian Wars of the 1860s, buffalo soldiers revolted? It’s like the Hunt for Red October and Band of Brothersset in the 19th century with a group of badass black heroes. Over five seasons, the buffalo soldiers switch sides to team up with the Comanche, Cheyenne and Cherokee nations, fighting off America in a bloody guerrilla war, ending westward expansion and eventually establishing a new nation of freed blacks and tribes that runs from what we know as Alabama all the way up to South Dakota.
There’s already a star perfect for the role of the buffalo soldier commanders: Aldis Hodge. He’s basically been fighting white supremacy through time as Akimbode on AMC’s Revolutionary War show Turn and then, as Noah, freeing the slaves on WGN’s (sadly canceled) Underground. It’s about time he got his own squad.
From 1961 to 1973, the United States and European nations conspired to kill or overthrow six African independence leaders and instituted the neocolonialism that enslaves Africa to this day. What if those assassinations never worked? What if all those exploding cigars and poisoned toothbrushes never took out these revolutionary leaders, and Africa remained strong and independent into the 1970s? Think of the six leaders teaming up to purge European colonialism, then turning on one another in battles to establish political and economic dominance over Africa. I’m thinking Delroy Lindo as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and David Oyelowo as Patrice Lumumba of Congo. This would totally work as a two-hour bloc after Power on Starz in Black.
The black death (bubonic plague) killed anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population in the mid-14th century and ushered in the so-called Dark Ages. But imagine if it killed more? Maybe 70 or 80 percent and Europe never recovered, but was instead invaded and colonized by African Moors (this partially happened; that’s how you get Shakespeare’s Othello).
Jump ahead 500 years to the present day, where we follow the lives of wealthy African businessmen and businesswomen who dominate the world; white freedom fighters who are trying to rid themselves of petty European dictators placed there by African superpowers; and a left-wing revolution led by “American born” Africans and Indians tired of being exploited by first world African nations and an aggressive China. Oh, and white people are a negligible minority mostly confined to second-class citizenship, menial jobs and some obscure religion called Christianity. This is like mixing Black Panther’s Wakanda with Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, with a lot more sex and violence.
See how easy that was? Three shows that don’t require the massive oppression of millions of people of color to make a plot. Look, I get why Weiss and Benioff want to make Confederate. White faux liberals desperately want to create a world in which racial virtue is easy and requires no sacrifice or real challenge. In a world where slavery still exists, there are no sticky arguments about All vs. Black Lives Matter to make white folks feel guilty. Milquetoast racial progressivism is magnified to Super Saiyan levels because conditions for people of color are so horrendous that simply saying, “Hey, I think black people should be allowed to read” qualifies you for a Nobel Peace Prize.
I’m sure that none of these shows I just created will get made, even though they could be produced, directed and distributed for half the cost of the Game of Thrones costume budget. Benioff and Weiss, along with their black accomplices, aren’t interested in making cutting-edge television; they want to keep making shows focused on white guys, in which black people are nonexistent or black women are robot whores or assistants, and black men are slaves, thieves or literally castrated so as to not challenge their white rulers.
The point is, this isn’t a risk; nor is it good television. There are other ideas out there that no one has ever seen; alternative history doesn’t always have to be an “alt-right” fantasy.
Thi article originally appeared online at The Root.
Sunday night was a tough decision for me. Two major television events, overlapping each other; each with huge consequences that would drive social media conversation for days. Would I go to a bar with friends and yell at the TV for two-and-a-half hours watching the NBA Finals Game 7 between the Cleveland LeBrons and the Golden Skinned Warriors? Or would I watch from home so I could change channels to HBO and catch Game of Thrones Episode 9, the Bastard Bowl (official episode title “Battle of the Bastards”)? The battle between the noble Jon Snow and the sociopath Ramsey Bolton was six seasons in the making and the NBA Finals was seven games (or 13 years, or 52 years, depending on how you count) in the making.
Both nights of television were going to be historic. Game of Thrones’ “Battle of the Bastards” was being billed as the biggest, bloodiest battle in the history of the show. The show makers filmed 86 hours of footage for the battle alone. If Ramsey Bolton won, all the good guys left on the show would be killed and the rest of the remaining cast would probably get massacred by the White Walkers next season. If Jon Snow and Sansa Stark won, the good guys would actually score a victory on a show that treats heroism like a rash that has to be stamped out at all costs. On the NBA side, if LeBron James lost he’d be the underachieving guy who couldn’t bring a championship to Cleveland. If he won, he’d scoot up the big kids’ table with Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Forever. The NBA Finals won out, and I came home and watched Game of Thrones later. And while both had their charms, Game of Thrones was definitely more satisfying than Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and here are five reasons why.
1. The Bad Guys Got What They Deserved
After watching Ramsey Bolton (truly one of the most disgusting and awful villains on television sinceSchillinger on Oz) rape, commit patricide and feed his own family to dogs over the last five episodes, he finally got his comeuppance. He got taken out in the worst possible way; beat down publicly, embarrassed, and put to a bloody death by his ex-wife Sansa Stark. Watching Ramsey Bolton die felt cathartic, like, finally there was some justice in the world. By comparison, were there really any bad guys in the NBA Finals? I mean, I was as tired of Draymond Green’s and Ayesha Curry’s antics as the next person, but they weren’t bad people. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t know that Steve Kerr had Mark Jackson flay anyone alive, or that Klay Thompson killed any Cavaliers player’s family with a bow and arrow.
2. The Women Were the Smartest People in the Room
Speaking of Ayesha Curry, her role in the NBA playoffs escalated quickly didn’t it? Steph Curry’s better half has been the subject of way too much sexist and vulgar criticism throughout the NBA playoffs for *gasp* having the audacity of expressing an opinion about the game of basketball while being a woman. Mrs. Curry may have gone too far in accusing the NBA of being rigged, but hard as it may be for some to believe as a fan, as a spouse of an NBA player, Ayesha Curry actually does have some valid insights to share about the game of basketball. Insights that, of course, will be totally forgotten in a flood of Crying Jordan memes after the NBA Finals. Flip to “Battle of the Bastards” onGame of Thrones, and the women were on top. Basically every single woman on the show was right, and most of the men were wrong. More importantly, every man on the show who tried to mansplain to the womenfolk how they were too delicate and naive to master statecraft or warfare ended up being proved wrong and getting bailed out by those very same women. I’ll take that over Curry-crying Jordan soufflé any day.
3. The Owners Were Finally Put in Their Place
You know LeBron James can’t stand Cleveland Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert, right? It’s all sweaty hugs and team pictures now, but LeBron knows that for all of his hard work, Gilbert gets a ring too. Gilbert, who helped cause the housing crisis, the NBA lockout and called out LeBron James’ manhood in a Comic Sans rant after “The Decision,” is still the team owner and still LeBron James’ boss. No freedom there. During Sunday night’s “Battle of the Bastards” Game of Thronesepisode, the entire leadership of the “Masters,” the former owners of the Meereen slaves, was taken out for attempting to re-enslave the entire city. No more owners abusing the bodies of the masses and taking all the credit. The best part? Grey Worm, the leader of the army, and a black man, was personally responsible for giving all of his former masters nice Colombian neckties. That’s how you spell freedom.
4. Next Season Still Matters
Games of Thrones succeeded Sunday night in doing something that is very hard to do for a television show after six seasons: Make you eagerly anticipate the season finale and the next season. What is going down with Sansa and Littlefinger? Will Jon Snow figure out what price he has to pay for a new life? Is there a member of the Stark family with a longer lifespan than a Star Trek Redshirt? This episode left you satisfied and looking forward to more. Game 7 of the NBA Finals? It’s over now. The Cleveland Cavaliers have brought the first championship to the city of Cleveland in 52 years. Only about 4 percent of the city’s entire population was both alive and living in Cleveland the last time it won a championship of any kind. All are saying they can die happy now, and Cavaliers fans are saying they don’t need to win anything else to be satisfied. Winning a championship after this long a drought doesn’t make you excited about next season; your itch has been scratched. If anything, next season, even if the Cavaliers win again, it will never feel as good as Sunday night.
5. Game of Thrones Won’t Make You Cry
On Friday HBO will release a mix-tape featuring 10 Hip-Hop and Latin Music artists to promote the Season 4 premiere of their hit show “Game of Thrones”. Album, which will be called “Catch the Thrones” will be available for free online will feature Daddy Yankee, Big Boi, Common, Wale, Bodega Bamz and others dropping lyrics that supposed to be “inspired” by the show so far. Here are some sample lyrics:
I’m tellin’ whoever messin’ with me / I can bring you that Khaleesi heat
Use my King, knack for words, as an actual sword / I can decapitate a rapper
I sit and think when I’m in my zone/ This life is like a Game of Thrones
Now here’s where we could delve into a lot of snarky comments about how this is a really transparent and almost insulting attempt to bring the “urban community” to the show. Or we could comment on the fact that it’s probably mostly hipster white guys who would ever bother with this album to begin with. But all of those things have been said, done and pointed out to death. What I’m more interested in is which shows get the treatment next? If HBO thinks that throwing a few rappers will get even more black and Latinos folks to watch Game of Thrones (as opposed to perhaps casting more Black and Latino characters?) maybe other networks can use this concept to increase the diversity of their audiences as well.
Duck Dynasty: After the Phil Robertson controversy A&E decides to enlist Jay-Z and the full Wu-Tang Clan to work with Phil on some lyrics to re-habilitate his image and give the show a more contemporary edge. The promotional album would be called Duck Dynasty Seazon
Girls: Tired of complaints that the hit HBO show focuses on a very narrow, very white, very upper class and entirely unlikeable group of 20-somethings HBO goes back to the rap well, to give GIRLS a new look. WithChildish Gambino writing the hooks (since he’s been one of only two black men to have speaking roles in GIRLS 2 seasons) and getting help from A$AP Rocky and Eminem they release The Fucking Problem with GIRLS (featuring a naked Lena Dunham on the cover)
Shameless: Finaly realizing that most minorities in America are turned off by a show about pill popping, criminal white trash that only introduces people of color as accessories to white leads Showtime decides to go all in on a rap themed season with Shameless. Remixing with Wiz Khalifa and Rick Ross the network should release a mixtape called Shameless Hustle
I have a feeling that if as many people download this new album from “Catch the Thrones” as HBO is banking on, these other ideas won’t be that far off.
This article originally appeared online at TheSource.com.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away called the 1980s television was simple. You had three networks (eventually four when Fox showed up), and they had basic seasons that started in the fall and ended in the spring. By April, early May at the latest just about every classic show had wrapped up, and America prepared itself for a summer of re-runs, baseball and going to the movies (even hit ’80s shows like Dallas usually went off the air by the second week in April). But thanks to cable in the ’90s, premium cable in the 2000s and Netflix, Hulu and the like, today April is no longer the beginning of the end of television in America. In fact, Sunday, March 31st marks the beginning of the great television transition from episodic to serial t.v. where cable networks roll out new shows and shift demographic focus. Forget March Madness, tonight marks the beginning of the best television season of the year.
There is a huge difference between episodic and serial television shows and this transition in programming really started in the early 2000s when networks realized that just abandoning the summer months to movies and family time was wasting a huge market. If ABC, CBS and NBC weren’t going to do anything substantive over the summer why not grab an audience with risky unexpected shows that may not be able to compete with “Desperate Housewives” or “ER” on a Thursday night in January but could certainly beat out “The Biggest Loser,” “Last Comic Standing” and “Nashville Star” on any night in June? However, it’s not just that cable and premium networks have begun to release shows just when the networks are winding down but there are particular types of shows that start in the spring; these shows are more episodic in nature and that is the biggest change in recent years.
Consider what has occurred in the last 2 weeks (Late March to Early April) on Cable and premium nighttime television:
|Season Finales / Series Finales||
Series Premieres / Season Premieres
|Girls (HBO) March 17th||Game of Thrones (HBO) March 31st|
|House of Lies (Showtime) April 7th||VEEP (HBO) April 14th|
|Spartacus (Starz) April 5th||Mad Men (AMC) April 7th|
|The Walking Dead (AMC) March 31st||Dr. Who (BBCA) March 30th|
|Justified (FX) April 2nd||
Rogue (DirecTV) April 4th
|The Americans (FX) May 1st||Nurse Jackie (Showtime) April 14th|
On the surface, this just looks like a tremendous amount of turnover on major networks in a short period of time but the chart above actually reveals even more about the state of modern television viewers and networks. All of the shows ending are episodic television, meaning that by and large you can jump into those shows whenever you’d like and know the basic plot because episodes are self -contained. Girls is about a bunch of privileged 20-somethings in New York, Justified is a cop drama based in Kentucky and the Walking Dead is about people surviving a world overrun by zombies. These shows, be they good or bad, don’t require a great deal of investment in order to get hooked, no complicated intricate plots to figure out, no need to watch the previous 4 seasons just to understand who is sleeping with who or why. The season premieres however, are much more serial and involved. There is no way you can figure out Game of Thrones by starting with the Season 3 premiere tonight (I can barely follow the show and I’ve watched it since the beginning). Nurse Jackie on Showtime and especially Mad Men on AMC have deep intricate plots and character arcs over previous seasons that make the shows what I like to call “investment” television. You have to invest a few weeks of your life watching the previous seasons of Mad Men or you won’t be able to truly enjoy the show, same with Nurse Jackie and most of the other programs on this list. And despite the fact that these shows are all on different networks the serial nature of the premieres is not an accident.
The spring and summer months are still a time for sports, movies and vacations, and consequently to get active viewers to invest in programs during this time of year there has to be some major payoff or at least loss for not tuning in. If you are a Dr. Who fan, this is the 50th anniversary of the show, since being resurrected 7 years ago the British Sci-Fi series has amazed American fans with long intricate, subtle plots that last several seasons before payoff. If you don’t tune in and keep up with the new season you’ll be lost, and who knows when it will show up on Netflix.
So enjoy tonight’s bevy of television change. Whether you are getting in costume for the explosive season 3 premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO, gripping your couch for the season finale of The Walking Dead on AMC (or in my case toggling between both shows and the Miami Heat/San Antonio Spurs game) know that the networks are doing their best to keep you engaged. In this world of infinite options television is kicking into high gear to keep you engaged for the next few months, the hope is that all the investment will actually be worth your time.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor, political analyst and public speaker. Fresh, unflappable, objective, he is known for his ability to break down stories with wit and candor. Johnson is the author the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell, a tenured professor in the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and Politics Editor at TheRoot.com. Dr. Johnson has an extensive public speaking and media background ranging from … [Read More...] about About Jason Johnson