A Not So Alternative American History

The 2004 mockumentary C.S.A.: Confederate States of America depicts an America in which the Confederacy had won the American Civil War. Presented as if it were a British documentary, the film details significant political, cultural, and military events of the CSA from the Civil War up until the earl 2000s. The movie satirizes issues and events that have happened and are still present in the United States to this day; the result is a revealing viewpoint on the discrimination that still exists today. As the author of “What If?” explains, just because the end of the Civil War resulted in the end of slavery as an institution in the United States, it by no means resulted in the end of racism. I believe this to be the main goal of the director of this movie.

One part of the mockumentary I found especially interesting was the Reconstruction segment. One contributor claims that in order to mend the divide between the victorious South and the defeated North, “the aims and causes of the war suddenly changed. Slavery was no longer mentioned as the cause of the war.” She continues, maintaining that “this was the key to reconciliation.” I found this so fascinating because it is in no way fictional. An accurate history of the United States reveals that the causes of the war suddenly changed after the war in order to strengthen the newly reformed United States. Davis writes in Inhuman Bondage that “while African Americans and a few white writers struggled to preserve the revolutionary or ‘emancipationist’ meaning of the Civil War, the compelling desire for reconciliation and healing… led to a national consensus that made ‘everyone right, and no one truly wrong, in the remembered Civil War.’” Additionally, when the same contributor observes that “the courage and sacrifice of whites on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line were romantically examined,” she is not too far off from what actually happened. The Civil War became more of a sectional war than an emancipationist war in the decades following the conflict. Therefore, the services of both Union and Confederate soldiers were both celebrated. As the contributor accurately mentions in reference to this romantic version of the war, “they struggled to survive, they protected their homes and families…”

Overall, I thought film did a fine job in examining the racism that still exists in contemporary society. I thought the fake commercials that divided the mockumentary did an especially good job of this as some of the products being advertised actually existed. It ultimately reveals an alternative history that in some ways is completely inaccurate and offensive, but in some ways is not too far off from what actually happened. It is extremely interesting to reflect on what would have happened if the Confederacy would have won the Civil War and C.S.A.: Confederate States of America hits the nail on the head.

 

Changes to the Original

The movie C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America portrays America with the same basic historical timeline as the one we know today but with many historical changes.  As Max points out, this film was meant to be a more humorous take on the Confederacy, but it also shows the racism existing in the South during and after the war.  The movie takes the stereotypical racist South to the extreme, having all of the subsequent decisions of the United States as exclusive and racist.

The most surprising changes in well-known historical events were the Great Depression and World War II.  When the stock market crashed in 1929, according to the Confederate States of America, in order to get out of the depression the Confederate States revived the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  The Trans-Atlantic slave trade legally ended in the early nineteenth century in the United States, and it is surprising that in this fictitious racist country, the Confederate States decide to reopen this trade.  The opening of the slave trade is followed by the start of Hitler’s reign in Germany and the beginning of World War II.  In this alternate history, the Confederate States of America do not intervene in the war with Germany but instead begin a war with Japan.  The Confederate States generally agree with Germany’s plan, but believe that the Japanese are weak due to their small structure.  On December 7, 1941, the day we know for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Confederate States attack Japan.  Both of these events are surprising changes based on the racism of the Confederate States.

The Confederate States of America portrays a different America than what we know but with the same historical events.  Although we will never know if America would have been like what is shown if the Confederacy won, this movie shows the extreme of what could have been.  I don’t completely agree with this extreme view because I think that even if the Confederacy had won, slavery would have been eradicated eventually based on the economy or a slave uprising.  But the movie provides a historical take on what could have been if the Union failed to win the war.

The CSA: A Review

While watching The Confederate States of America, my expectations and predictions differed from the movie. Although all of it was speculation, the writers of the movie seemed to focus more on the dominance of race and seemed to forget about the other factors that would happen in a major transition of leadership and ideologies. As Max said in his post, “The Accuracies in ‘The Confederate States of America,'” the movie played up the south to be a “wholly racist region of the country,” which we know is in fact not true.

Mostly, I did not expect to see that there were still slaves in modern times, because after new technologies were introduced, slave labor became obsolete and not economically beneficial. One thing I found interesting was the “mass exodus” discussed: how many Enlightenment thinkers and woman’s rights activists moved to Canada to “escape” the new country’s ideologies. One can’t help but think that there would be an eventual transition of ideas and beliefs associated with the changing times and technologies, not that the same core ideas would last to the 21st century.

Another point I found interesting was the discussion of what happened to Lincoln after General Grant surrendered to General Lee and ended the war. Lincoln allegedly sought help from Harriet Tubman in an attempt to cross the border into Canada, but the two were caught and Tubman hanged. Lincoln spent his final days exiled and had an interview prior to his death, where he stated that he “wished he had really cared about freeing the slaves,” which is somewhat historically correct. One can’t help but think that even if Lincoln had not freed the slaves, wouldn’t some president or rogue state do so soon after him?

There are several questions that I still have in regards to the movie. The “commercials” shown in the Confederate State’s of America documentary were not only absurd, but also silly. Although, I can’t decide whether they are silly because they are actually absurd, or silly because I don’t think I could ever imagine living in a world like that. Another question that bothers me with the movie is what happened to the northerners during the time that the southern states were putting their leaders into power? We saw that there were some major figures that moved north into Canada, but what about the rest? Were there not any revolts? And what happened to the rest of the blacks in North America? Were there not any revolts from them?

The Confederate States of America’s most hilarious accusation were their alleged aggressions against Canada. It seemed that everything that happened in the movie was just a reversal of how they are today. But personally, I think that even if they south had “won” the civil war, things would have eventually turned out similar to what they are today. There is too much advancement in technology and around the world to believe otherwise.