On Sunday night’s Game of Thrones, a major character died, a minor character will almost certainly die soon, and a slightly-less-minor character was sentenced to a fate worse than death. But on Twitter, as Variety reports, the conversation was dominated by a show that hasn’t even been born yet: Confederate, the Civil War alt-history project from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The show, set in a world where the Confederacy survived the Civil War with slavery intact, has been a lightning rod for criticism since it was announced. The backlash was so strong and immediate that the producers—besides Benioff and Weiss, Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman are on board—gave a lengthy interview to explain why they thought it was a good idea. (Weiss name-checked Shelby Foote, which went over about as well as you’d expect.)
Unconvinced that the guys who handled Daenerys Targaryen’s trip to the lands of the Dothraki were the best people to put in charge of a modern-day slavery story, activist April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite campaign—and got academy rules changed as a result—launched a new hashtag protest urging HBO to cancel the project: #NoConfederate.
Reign hoped to stop Confederate before it was written or cast, so that HBO’s sunk costs wouldn’t be too high to back out. She was joined by Bree Newsome, the activist who climbed the flagpole outside the South Carolina Statehouse in 2015 to take down the Confederate flag. And they were joined by countless others: #NoConfederate was the No. 1 trending hashtag in the U.S. during Game of Thrones’ airtime and No. 2 in the world. HBO responded in a statement:
We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around Confederate. We have faith that Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.
There won’t be anything to see for years: Production on Confederate is scheduled to start once Game of Thrones finishes its eighth and final season, which won’t be until late 2018 or early 2019. So if everything goes according to HBO’s plan, Confederate might not air until 2020. By then, things should have calmed down, because it’s not like there’s any reason white supremacy would be a touchier subject than usual in 2020, right?