Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris discuss the proposed HBO drama Confederate and more on ‘Still Processing:’
“What do the producers of “Game of Thrones,” Kathryn Bigelow and the painter Dana Schutz have in common? Each was recently at the center of a roiling controversy about what it means for white artists to make work about black people’s suffering. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss., the creators of “Game of Thrones,” recently announced their next project: a series for HBO called “Confederate,” which imagines life in the United States if slavery had never been abolished. The news triggered a firestorm on Twitter, with some people calling for the show’s cancellation. “Detroit,” a new film about racial oppression and police brutality during the 1960s, made by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, has also caused controversy. When asked by Vanity Fair if she was the ideal person to tell this story, Bigelow said: “No. However, I’m able to tell this story.” Earlier this year, “Open Casket,” an impressionist rendering of the viciously beaten body of Emmet Till by the painter Dana Schutz, enraged some visitors to the Whitney Museum of American Art, where it was featured as part of the annual Biennial. And now protesters are calling for the I.C.A. in Boston to cancel a retrospective of Schutz’s work. Questions of who can tell stories about blackness, and specifically, black history and black pain, are being asked all over the place this summer, and we wanted to ask them, too.
“What right do these creators, who all happen to be white, have to tell black stories? And are these even black stories, or are they American stories? And what of artistic freedom and imagination? Are there instances when this work can be seen as a form of activism, or at the very least, a social good? Are there any criteria by which white creators can successfully make work about blackness? We may not have the answers, but we’re working our way toward some sense of clarity.”