70 thoughts on “Why We’ll Always Snark the Confederacy

  1. Thank you…I can’t even watch American period drama due to the above. And I KNOW the British have a hideous imperialistic past to atone for yet I am not British so maybe that makes a difference somehow, as I do enjoy British productions. But the American past is not something I can “lose” myself in on film…if it is not slavery being overlooked or downplayed it is Native Americans, so it feels like there is no way to enjoy any fantasy…

    Plus, North and South was good only for snark…Kirsty Alley lol

  2. Yuuuuuuup! It is both a delight and an obligation to snark the Confederacy and those who would seek to reinstitute any part of it.

  3. I am British and we have plenty of horrendous Jingoistic and frankly appalling media glorifying an Empire built on human traffic and misery that we have all benefitted from in the country. I will say a huge well done and thank you for this article. It was well said said written ❤ We need more of this over this side of the pond too.

  4. Hear hear! Well done, and well said.

    My mother tried to raise us with the “Lost Cause” myth, and even went so far to brag about her side of the family owning enslaved people! According to her, it’s a sign of old-money, and was OK because our ancestors “treated them well”. She cut off my family several years ago, but now whines that she wants to see her granddaughter (my daughter) and by the way her “grandma” name is “Dixie”. Gag. Nope. We’re happy keeping kiddo safely away, and her racism can die with her.

    Mark Twain wrote about atoning for the pro-slavery ideals of his father. I hope in our family’s life, we will always choose the path of anti-racism and reparation. Thank you Frock Flicks for setting an anti-racist standard.

    1. I grew up with girls whose parents told them the south won the war. seriously (1970’s) the south won the war. I stumped them by asking, if the south won, how are there black teachers in the school? they had no answer for me.

    2. Yeah, my ma said the same thing: old money (kind of), treated “their people” well, etc. Mostly, she just couldn’t admit that her beloved great-grandparents had been part of a morally reprehensible system. I forgive her because she was a life-long Democrat, thought Eleanor Roosevelt walked on water, was fond of my gay friends, and voted for black candidates. (She would have loved Frock Flicks, too.)

    3. I’ve tried explaining it doesn’t matter how well treated someone is, it doesn’t undo the fact they’re enslaved. When that didn’t suffice I pointed out no matter the slaver’s temperament, the enslaved would still be SOL in case of death or bankruptcy.

    4. Thanks Jamie, M.E., and Saraquill for writing. I feel less alone. And I always like reading all of your comments on this here bloggy-thing. And I adore this here bloggy-thing for setting a necessary boundary.

      1. I keep thinking about my phrase, “I feel les alone”, and realising that it while it is totally appropriate to be ashamed of my ancestors, and to feel some…solace? that others have a similar history and feel similar shame.

        The discomfort comes from the disproportionate discomfort because of course our discomfort is teeny compared to the epic inhumanity endured by enslaved persons, and also the discomfort of not knowing what to DO. I don’t stand to get an inheritance, but I do have a couple pieces of furniture–do I sell them and donate proceeds as a form of reparations? What do other people like us DO?

        1. As someone who’s got a family tree full of jerks, enslavers, colonizers, and a whole lot of people just trying to get by (and a lady racecar driver!), here’s what I do:
          1) Don’t be like them. You don’t have to pretend they don’t exist, but you can say “I won’t be like them”.
          2) Listen and read and educate yourself on the past and the present (sometimes very hard, but worthwhile) and once you’ve got a grounding in the current shape of things, ask BIPOC people, how can I help?

          As for furniture, you could sell it and donate the proceeds to a charity. Or you could donate it to a museum (if it’s that kind of stuff). Or you can keep it and use it in a way that would annoy the heck out of your jerk ancestors. Use it to display books or art by BIPOC creators. Use it to make hyper-feminist art, or for a letter-writing campaign for a cause you love that they would have hated.

          Being intentional is the first step. hugs

        2. I’m a person from a European country with no colonial past, so I think I can be objective. First, please don’t let your ancestors wield so much power over you from their graves. They were they, and you are you. You alone decide about yourself and bear no responsibility for their actions. As for the furniture, these are only neutral objects. They have only the meaning, you decide to give them. If at the bottom of the heart you would like to keep them, because of their aesthetic quality for example, you could think of the people, who put their efforts into creating them, and not of your ancestors.

  5. Ditto. I always agreed with Inara and wondered what was SO bad about medicine and sanitation. I know, Reavers…

    To the main topic, hells yes I’m with you! My state technically stayed in the Union but we had a literal FT of Copperheads and we’re still dealing with the ramifications of some of their shite.

    Regarding “state’s rights,” I know that at least Texas explicitly included the right to continue slavery in their secession statement. Other states did as well but I’m not remembering which.
    They were very clear about the rights and culture they felt like defending.

  6. Good for you! You guys are so much more than old clothes! keep up your righteousness, your intelligence, and your snark!

  7. Well said! Just as Nazis deserve to be punched, the Confederacy is always a target for snark because it was all about slavery.

  8. In Firefly, the “bad’ish” guys are The Alliance, not The Union. And there are multiple episodes in which slavery and systems of peonage are explicitly condemned. The “noble lost cause” of the Brownshirts definitely gets snarked by Inara and others, but it’s the people who cling to systematic degradation of others, whether they are/were alliance or brownshirts, who are truly cast as the bad guys.

  9. Yes! The romanticization of the slaveholding Southern Confederacy used to be practically everywhere–sometimes with people just glossing over the fact of slavery, but of course there were always plenty of Nazis for whom the slavery was (and is) the main attraction. And anyone who claims to like this specific culture just for “the pretty dresses” is almost certainly lying about their real motives.

  10. Snark away. While movies like Gone with the wind and series like North and South began my love of historical costumes, I also know it is a not the real South, so to speak
    When I read GWTW as a 6th or 7th grader. I finished the book and thought ewwwww. Scarlett was a horrible, horrible women, the fantasy created was so off from reality that even at that age 11 or 12 the entire book left a bad taste in my literary mouth.
    North and South will always have a piece of my movie viewing and costume loving heart

    1. I think I was nine or ten when I first read GWTW (in Swedish). I sort of got that Scarlett wasn’t a nice person and that everyone around her was living in a fantasy world of their own making and that no matter what they said, their “cause” wasn’t a good one. I had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin before GWTW, so I was aware of slavery being A Bad Thing. (I know. I know, that novel has it’s own problems, but I was an eight-year-old in Sweden when I read it, cut me some slack.) I remember being fascinated by Scarlett as a character, but also being aware that she was immature, spoiled, naive and narcissistic. I also remember wondering how the otherwise “good” characters did not get that their society was clearly Unfair And Bad (again, a kid) and being annoyed by their obliviousness. That being said, my parents’ did discuss the book with me while I read it, so that must’ve had an effect on how I thought about it as well.

      TL;DR: I got that GWTW was a book about Bad People making their wealth from a Bad System as a kid in Europe, adults who don’t get that baffle me.

      1. The system didn’t work real well economically. Those ‘wealthy’ slave owners were almost always deeply in debt. They thought they needed a slave workforce to break even but the real problem was their mono-crop dependency. George Washington got that back in the 18th c. And switched from tobacco to wheat and other foodstuffs. And made plans to replace his slave workforce with tenant farmers that he was never able to put into action.

  11. in Firefly it’s not union, it’s alliance and the independents. there actually are noble causes that aren’t tied to slavery. but everyones take away about the show is different. :-) just watch out for men with blue hands.

  12. just to be sure, all types and kinds of slavery are vile and reprehensible. there is nothing romantic, noble or admirable about owning someone. no matter how pretty the dresses are and how long the heros mullet is. it’s damned vile.

  13. Anyone who claims the Civil War was about anything besides slavery doesn’t understand the history very well. State’s rights weren’t considered the cause by the confederates themselves (as explicitly stated in their articles of secession, they were doing it on the fact that they considered slavery the natural order and their economic right).
    Moreover, pro-slavery advocates made it such that it was impossible to effectively outlaw slavery in free states. The Dred Scott Decision and the Fugitive Slave Act are strong examples of this- if they actually cared about state’s rights, they wouldn’t overturn free states’ rights to outlaw slavery and prevent escaped slaves from being hunted down under their jurisdiction. (Harriet Jacobs has an excellent firsthand description of the utter terror that swept through free black communities after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, and her book “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” is worth a read in its entirety for its looks into community dynamics between enslaved, free and fugitive individuals and the wide spectrum of fraud and abuse that any black person, slave, free or freed, could be subject to)
    Also those Lost Cause stories don’t exist in a vacuum. The myth might have emerged shortly after the Civil War, but it really gained traction with Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind and the subsequent flux of the KKK’s (and similar terrorist organizations) power. They became stronger once there was a generation between the Civil War and the people making these books and movies, though I should point out that it was not unusual at all to find someone who’d been alive at the time who would’ve lived to see GWTW come out. If they hadn’t lived through the Civil War or slavery itself, they certainly would’ve known mass incarceration, the massive lynching campaigns of the 1870s-1900’s and the Great Migration (which was effectively a refugee diaspora, as evinced by the mass efforts by Ida B. Wells and various black-led community groups like women’s book clubs and church groups to raise money to sponsor families to get out of the Jim Crow South for their own safety.)
    So it’s not at all surprising that the NAACP and other organizations and community groups organized nationwide protests at the openings of “Birth of a Nation” and “Gone With the Wind” because they knew it was bullshit and dangerous at the time. Because of course they did, this was, like, their parents and grandparents and some people had lived through slavery and the Civil War themselves.

    1. The “rebranding” of the Civil War in the South tell a lot about the power of the Lost Cause narrative. Back in 2003 I ended up visiting the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library in Biloxi Mississippi. Oy. It was an experience for this Maryland gal (although the part that was about the architecture of the houses and how they were built to maximize coolness was interesting).
      In the area right before the gift shop there was a series of banners:
      “The War of Northern Aggression”
      “The War of Southern Succession”
      “The War Between the States”
      “The War for States Rights”

      As we left my dad turned to my mom, my (Texan) grandmother and I and said, very quietly, “I didn’t know the South won the Civil War”.

      Oh, and would you look at that, the buildings were all destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. At least the documents and artifacts were saved, so they can be studied.

      1. Oh, yeah…when I lived in the South 25-30 years ago, even otherwise liberal people would try to insist to me that the “War of Northern Aggression” was based on “states’ rights”; I always had to bite my tongue so as not to say “Yes, I see, but WTF did they want the right to do???” I understand not wanting to admit one’s ancestors did awful things, and I know there were plenty of poorer people who ended up fighting after being convinced by those with higher social status that they were fighting for “their land” or some other such line of BS, but damn it, folks–can we just admit that owning other human beings and treating them like property is WRONG?!? There were still bumper stickers on cars in Athens, GA in 1990 that said “Forget, Hell!” referring to the war…my self-imposed Southern exile was definitely interesting, and I met plenty of lovely people, but I’m SO glad to be back in a blue state (MA)–you have NO idea just how glad I am! (OK, I do miss some of the food, and definitely some of the people, but yeah…)

      2. That is the most haunting thing.
        Because in terms of PR, the South kind of won in that they continued to get romanticized and considered as a valid part of “heritage” (the Confederacy lasted for 4 years. I have shoes older than that.) And both sides-ing didn’t focus on how the North’s industrial and economic complex directly benefitted from slavery (cheap cotton from plantations post cotton gin were basically what jump-started the Industrial Revolution via textiles, and many Northern banks were tied up with the slave economy, including insuring human beings as chattel the way you insure your car). Or how poor whites who did the bulk of the fighting were conditioned to believe that slavery was to their benefit despite not owning any slaves themselves, because racial stratification in the U.S. more or less began when Bacon’s Rebellion saw slaves, free blacks and indentured servants band together to fight for better conditions.**
        Instead, they focused on the burning of Atlanta and how it was so sad that the rich white people were brung low without questioning why they were able to live such “simple, untroubled” lives in the first place. Like Trystan said, there is no Scarlett without Sethe and her chokecherry tree.
        I do think this Lost Cause-ism is getting well and truly buried and has been for a while in historical circles, but I live in Minnesota and have been taught it was about slavery since I was a kid. I worry that it’ll take more time to stamp this out completely, but calling that shit where you see it and educating each other (which takes so freaking long but it’s worth it) is probably the only way to snuff out any romanticism for the slave economy.

        **Bear in mind that slavery was still racialized at the time- if you were a slave you were of African descent and at that point had very likely made the horrible passage yourself. But indentures weren’t racialized as much- white, black and Native people all held indentures and Bacon’s Rebellion was made up of free, enslaved and indentured black people as well as indentured white people. On the other hand, the rebellion was also largely about taking more land from Native people, and while colonial policy at the time was to treat more powerful Native nations as foreign nations (mainly since there wasn’t enough firepower/manpower in the colonies yet to make outright aggression feasible) there was also some disturbingly normalized violence on personal and widespread scale. By which I mean I’ve read newspapers from this period detailing how guys would get drunk on the weekend, kill a Native person, get thrown in jail and then his buddies would spring him from jail and never face charges. All this to say is Bacon’s Rebellion is a turning point in American conceptions of race but it wasn’t ever a happy fun “brotherhood of man” time.

  14. Yasss!!!

    I’m sure there were people even at the time who told themselves that what they wanted was to protect their state to make themselves feel better (Robert E. Lee apparently even said that he didn’t believe in slavery but he couldn’t betray his home state) but that doesn’t mean we have to uncritically accept that. If a frock flick explored that dichotomy between what a Southerner said about the war and what the truth actually was, I would find that interesting. But wholeheartedly buying in to the whole “lost way of life” nonsense as an excuse to showcase some floofy dresses is silly.

    1. I comprehend the reasons of the my state right or wrong crowd but I emphatically disagree with them.

      1. Exactly! I think Grant even said after Lee’s surrender that it was sad to have to accept the surrender of someone who had devoted themselves so wholeheartedly to a cause, even if he personally believed the cause was evil (I’m paraphrasing lol can’t remember the exact quote).

        1. I believe Grant said he thought it the worst cause men had ever fought for. Or something like that. Some confederates agreed. John Singleton Mosby said quite frankly his had been the wrong side but it was the side of his state so he fought for it. As I said I can understand if not agree with the feeling that you had to defend your community no matter how misguided you thought them.

          1. Right. And I can understand that to a rich white Southerner after the Civil War it would be natural to feel nostalgic for life before the war, when they lived on big plantations, wore beautiful clothes, were waited on hand and foot… but that doesn’t mean that it was actually an ideal time that we should miss. Just because life was better for rich white people doesn’t mean that it was morally acceptable.

    2. Mrs Robert E Lee inherited the Arlington plantation–mansion, fields and slaves–from her father, grandson of Martha Washington’s son by her first husband. Most of those slaves were descendants of the Dower slaves, who Washington could not free in his will. The fact that so many of the Mount Vernon slaves had inter married slowed his plans to free his slaves. So he spent most of his energy on his last agonizing day to ensure that his slaves be freed on Martha’s death. Late? Still, more than any other slaveholding president did.

      Martha was convinced to free Washington’s slaves for her own safety. Her grandson’s will decreed that his slaves be freed. Robert E Lee, with control of his wife’s inheritance, waited as long as possible to free them. Yes, he did believe in slavery.

      Lee’s father, Light Horse Harry Lee, was a hero of the Revolution. He spoke at the Virginia convention to ratify the Constitution and explained how he, a loyal Virginian, considered himself an American first. Alas, he had a tragic life and little time with his youngest son Robert. Who showed promise we but went so wrong.

      When Union dead filled the cemeteries of Washington DC, it was decreed they be buried at Arlington. Now our National Cemetery.

  15. Nope. That’s just some “what-aboutism” right there. While Northern wage “slavery” was bad, it in no way compares to chattle slavery practices. Northern workers had rights, they could leave, their children were not born into slavery, their children were not the property of another, they could not be sold or traded away. Please stop this false equivalence. Same with indentured servitude, it has some similarities to chattle slavery, but vast differences. Mods, please address the above post. This is part and parcel of what Southern apologists write to diminish the exceptional horror that was slavery.

    1. You are right. Both systems sucked, but the chattel slavery of the south was another horror altogether.

      I do stand by a good mullet reference, though.

  16. I’m glad. The lost cause mythology is so ingrained in our culture that I grew up a little girl in the north singing dixie with no clue, buying into a lot of stuff, even though my family knew the war was about slavery, etc. We do all have problematic faves, but it’s better if we can admit both parts of that, not just the favorite part.

  17. Hell yeah! Anyone who doesn’t think that the American Civil War was about slavery needs to go back and read the actual Articles of Secession from the various southern states. The desire to hold onto slavery is quite explicit.

  18. There’s something about Confederacy apologists and “Can’t get over losing”, whether it was 160 years ago or a few weeks ago.

    1. I’d like to see or read an alternative history of the USA in which the South lost and GOT OVER IT within a generation.

    2. My husband and his family are from South Carolina and my family is from California via Ohio going several generations back. When I went to meet his family for the first time I was stunned by the “can’t get over it” mentality of the Civil War. I really felt as though I had stepped back in time and the Civil War was still being waged. Fortunately for me his immediate family was not living in this mindset but the rest of his family is. I happen to be the third great grand niece (or maybe 4th, I can’t remember which) of General William T. Sherman and my husband wanted to test his cousin’s reaction to this information by letting this information be known at a family BBQ. Well, you could hear a pin drop. Thankfully, we don’t live in South Carolina, we live on the West Coast of the US. His cousins and an aunt have never spoken to me since the bbq. Amazing, isn’t it.

      Thank you for this important discussion. Historical fashion encompases so many topics doesn’t it? Hopefully the South has turned the corner on the “lost cause” movement. Maybe they’ve taken a kicking and screaming step into the 21st century. I hope so.

      Thank you Frock Flicks for your wonderful website. This is one of the best things on the internet!!!

  19. I fell in love with GWTH as a kid because of the fashion, Scarlett is such a gloriously bitchy character, and Vivien Leigh inhabits her so well. But I find the defense of movies and books like this such a bizarre hill to die on. What does it say about you that your own identity is so wrapped on in a vision of the world based on violence, ignorance, and hatred?

    These are the same people who criticize the casting of fantastic black actors in Bridgerton, or the black Achilles in Netflix’s Troy: Fall of a City. People of all different ethnicities have always existed in Europe and the Mediterranean, get over it.

    My personal pet peeve is that growing up on the West Coast, my closest friends were all Korean, Chinese, half-Japanese, half-Filipino, you get the picture. But contemporary stories set in places like Washington state and California criminally undercast Asian actors. Why aren’t “reality defenders” worried about errors like that? Why don’t more stories set in the classical era feature homosexual relationships? Could it be… authenticity and accuracy aren’t really what concern these complaining critics at all?

    The world we see on film today still doesn’t reflect the world around us in any way, shape or form.

  20. In these ridiculous times it is so heartening to see a post as important as this. Bravo Trystan, very well put! In fact, bravo all three of you for this brilliant site

  21. I’ve never been able to make it all the way through either the book or movie version of GWTW, I usually bale after Ashley’s ‘Just wants to be beautiful and gracious’ speech.
    The truth is the antebellum south was a pretty miserable place to live regardless of color or status. Slaves obviously were miserable. Whites who couldn’t afford slaves were trash because they had to work for a living and the minority of slave owners lived in fear and suppressed guilt because they knew they were wronging a huge number of people who could turn on them. Read the diaries etc. of people writing before the war, and before the need to whitewash their Lost Cause and you see clearly that this was an awful system even for those at the top!

    1. Isn’t Ashley being full of shit deliberate? That was the impression I got when reading the book but not when I saw the movie.

      I know that there is a theory that GWTW the movie and to a certain extent the book is actually a send up of the whole “moonlight and magnolias” cliches. lf that was the case it did not work as simply reinforced them big time and did a lot of harm.

      1. I suspect the theory is a workaround anyway for people who don’t want to think about all that is discussed in the post.

  22. You guys are amazing! I always enjoy reading and sharing your posts. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum .

  23. “showing that someone in our audience is so attached to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy that she’d go to great lengths (such as creating multiple accounts to post and email!) to defend a shitty 1980s miniseries that privileges a fantasy white Southern POV over reality.”

    As a professional, paid content moderator on a prominent (and well-moderated) social media site (so not facebook!!!!), I just want to affirm that a) LOTS OF THESE PEOPLE EXIST AND THEY NEED BETTER HOBBIES and b) that is a great boundary to draw and you are right to draw it. Good work, and thank you for making a safer, more welcoming space for the 99% of us who want to discuss frock flicks without racists horning in to defend historical racism!

  24. Being interested in the antebellum south isn’t bad. Idealizing it and pretending it wasn’t built on institutionalized injustice is. Personally I am fascinated by the lives of slaves and their struggles to for agency and some control over their lives, struggles that were sometimes moderately successful.
    Mary Chestnut’s writings show that blacks and whites were terrified of each other, with good reason, but it was more a fear of white power or black rage in the abstract. Both sides tended to make exceptions for the black or white people they knew personally. Mary Chestnut claims to trust her slaves wouldn’t hurt her. And writes about a black slave who tells his mistress that the whites are killing slaves rather than let them go free. She protests that she wouldn’t kill him or let him be killed and he believes that’s true. But he also believes other white folks would.

  25. That text that introduces GWTW, filled with nostalgia for The Old South, did not come from the book but from the filmmaker. The Lost Cause had infected national ideas on the period. Scarlett never gave a fig for The Glorious Cause. Rhett expressed contempt for Secessionist fools, got rich running blockades, but finally rode off to fight after all was lost.

    The book and movie showed post war Atlanta as a boom town. Sherman visited just after the war and was welcomed by businessmen. His reputation as a bloodthirsty murderer was part of the Lost Cause Legend that took years to gain power.

    GWTW can be seen as a soap opera with high production values and shit history. Or ignored. Georgia has begun to rise again–a new Georgia.

    (Real facts about the Lost Cause, etc, may be found on YouTube. Look for Checkmate Lincolnites at Atun Shei films. References and high entertainment value.)

  26. Yes. Nazis are punched and the CSA is a punchline. Stercus to those who romanticize either.

  27. Thank you so much for posting this! I once saw a person’s post get deleted from a GWTW Facebook group for posting about her love/hate relationship with the book and film. She wanted to start a discussion about problematic favorites and the emotional complexities of loving a film or book even despite knowing how wrong it is and how terribly it represented people of color (she herself was a person of color, which I suspect may have also triggered some racists to report the post). I was appalled when the admin deleted the post because it was “political.” UM, WHAT? Realizing that GWTW is full of lies has nothing to do with politics.

    I’m very fascinated with GWTW as a case study of how talented writers, actors, filmmakers, etc. can manipulate audiences. I’m also fascinated by it from a psychological perspective as a manifestation of all the mental gymnastics lost cause enthusiasts go through to justify their racism. Ugh.

    I remember reading the book and yelling at it for how racist it was, but somehow I still couldn’t put it down. I think my desire to hate it and then failure to do so is what made me obsessed with it. I was constantly juggling feelings of rage with feelings of empathy towards characters I didn’t want to empathize with. And then there was the fact that this inner conflict was indicative of my white privilege and that my difficult relationship with GWTW was nothing compared to the horrors faced by people of color whose entire lives have been disrupted by lost cause narratives.

    Anyway, I’d still love to read a Frock Flicks review of GWTW and your current relationship with it. I remember you talking about it in your early podcasts and I’d love to read an in-depth post about the film and the costumes through your 2022 lens.

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