Film: CSA: The Confederate States of America
"If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."
"I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the Confederate States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all... white people."
2004 independent film produced as a Mockumentary
and released by Hodcarrier Films, presented as a British documentary airing on Confederate television for the first time. It depicts an Alternate History
where the Confederacy not only won The American Civil War
but grew in power and conquered the North as well, and focuses on the socioeconomic ramifications of such a world. Aiding this telling are several false newsreels, film clips, and even some real historical paintings and pictures.
Since it's supposedly airing on television, there are also faux commercial breaks advertising things like Confederate versions of American TV shows and Afrophobic products that you'd think were made up. Sadly, most of them actually once existed
, as shown during the credits. The CSA documentary was produced by the British Broadcasting Service, likely the in-universe version
of the BBC.
This film provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The website has a timeline that gives some info that wasn't in the movie.
- Alternate History: A definite Level IV on the Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility. The creator openly admits that it fails as a work of alternate history, because his goal was to make a point about modern American race relations.
- Alternate History Wank:
- A rather bizarre case. Although the Confederacy's presented in a strong negative light, it still manages to become a dominant world power and conquers one of the largest empires in human history, capturing most of Central America and the entire continent of South America with far less effort and expenditure than would realistically be expected.
- Canada becomes to this universe what the USA is to the real one — culturally and economically dominant on the world stage, and rapidly outstripping the Confederacy militarily as well.
- The Soviet Union is presumed to be practically running smoothly in this universe, especially considering that there would be no Marshall Plan to stop the Soviets from asserting control over western Europe.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Disturbingly, a lot of the fake commercials advertise racist products that once were real after the Civil War. In the North.
- The American Civil War: Where the film's history diverges from our own.
- Artistic License – Economics: The only way the alternate history could happen. Slavery is unsustainable as a means of procuring labor at the industrial level, once you have even basic automation it is cheaper to just pay workers than to feed them, provide shelter, and hire guards to keep them from running away. How do you think that the North won the real war?
- As the Good Book Says: Quotes from The Bible are used by the Confederates to support their methods of slavery and racism.
- Blackface: Given the racial attitudes, white actors in blackface remain a common sight in the CSA (although black actors still exist to some degree). Also, Lincoln apparently donned blackface when on the run.
- Canada, Eh?: Inverted. Since many of those responsible for what we think of as American culture (from Mark Twain to Elvis Presley) are forced into Canada due to Confederate morality laws, it essentially becomes the America of this world—the heart of global popular culture.
- Content Warnings: Because CSA (the in-universe documentary) is so controversial from the Confederate perspective, Channel 6 puts up this Viewer Discretion Advised disclaimer:
The following program is of foreign origin. The content does not reflect the views of this station and may be unsuitable for children and servants. Viewer Discretion is advised.
- Crapsack World: The CSA, if you're of any nationality apart from those considered white, and even then you can be accused of "passing". Just ask John Ambrose Fauntroy V. But if you're European-American, life in the CSA would most likely have been pretty swell ... assuming you were a full-blooded conservative heterosexual traditionalist male, that is.
- Culture Police: The repression of black music and those inspired by such, due to Confederate culture laws, end up making American culture stupid and boring, while Canada benefits as mentioned above.
- Driven to Suicide: John Ambrose Fauntroy V, after he's accused of having a trace of black ancestry. He didn't. Then again, earlier in the film, the Newsbreak segment happened to mention common errors in DNA tests conducted by the Department of Racial Identity which could lead citizens to question who they really are. Also, the film never makes it clear whether negative means "negative white" or "negative black".
- Eagleland Osmosis: Averted as without African influences, American culture never evolves beyond "extensions of government propaganda". Imagine an America with no jazz, blues, soul, or rock 'n' roll. Heinous.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The CSA turns a cold shoulder to Nazi Germany after finding out they kill the Jews outright, rather than enslaving them. Jefferson Davis does spread a terrible system of oppression throughout the South, but he will not tolerate antisemitism, considering it was the Jewish Judah P. Benjamin in this timeline that was able to form an alliance with England and France.
- The Empire: By the documentary's present day, the CSA appears to have successfully conquered the majority of Central and South America, in addition to possessing all territory the United States holds in real life. The CSA also conquered Japan, and according to extra materials, also controls much of Southeast Asia and, soon, all of the Middle East. By square mileage, this would make the CSA the largest (or second-largest) empire in human history.
- Expy: The "documentary" is produced by the BBS (British Broadcasting Service) an obvious take on this world's BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation).
- Faux Affably Evil: Many of the modern-day Confederate-Americans come off this way. They seem perfectly pleasant...or at least as pleasant as someone who subscribes to white supremacy can possibly be.
- For Want of a Nail: Judah P. Benjamin's earnest diplomacy convinced Britain to support the Confederacy, France following their lead. Combined with Confederate victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, this won them not just their independence but political supremacy over the states of the North.
- Government Agency of Fiction: The House Committee of Racial Identity, a thinly-veiled parody of the once very real House Un-American Activities Committee.
- Happiness in Slavery: How slaves are depicted in CSA productions. In (the film's) reality, not so much.
- Historical-Domain Character:
- Abraham Lincoln is remembered as the man who lost the war of Northern Aggression.
- Adolf Hitler was an ally of the CSA, but couldn't reach an agreement over slavery.
- Albert Einstein still flees Nazi Germany, still lends his research to building atomic bombs. His gift from the government is a plantation in the Southwest, complete with a handful of slaves.
- John F. Kennedy: Still becomes president (as a Republican), and still gets shot (for supporting the ending of slavery).
- Richard Nixon: Seen briefly in a debate against Kennedy. As the Democratic candidate against Republican Kennedy.
- Historical In-Joke:
- "My great-grandfather did not have sexual relations with that woman!"
- "Are you now, or have you ever been, a homosexual?"
- A Confederate leader demanding reparations for slavery...in the form of Canada paying the Confederacy for all of the labor that had been lost due to slaves escaping to Canada.
- There are also deliberate references to actual United States history, albeit with the Confederacy's actions being far more villainous. For instance, the Confederacy engages in a war of conquest against South America. While this detail was based on an actual ambition of the Confederacy, the idea of that war being a uniter of America following the division of the Civil War is equally true of the actual Spanish-American War.
- The idea of Lincoln escaping in blackface and being caught seems to be just a joke, but it's a reference/reversal of a Northern urban legend in actual history that claimed Jefferson Davis had tried to escape dressed as a woman.
- The film shows a Retraux imagined film, A Northern Wind, representing the move towards presenting the Union as a Worthy Opponent / Hero Antagonist rather than evil. This mirrors how the Confederacy was presented in America by the 1930s, and the fictional film is essentially the alternate universe equivalent to Gone with the Wind.
- Project "Aryan Angel", where the CSA rescues hundreds of Nazi scientists in return for their services. Yes, this happened in real life, as "Operation Paperclip".
- The CSA conquers Japan using the Atomic Bomb.
- In the part of the documentary regarding the Native Americans' failed resistance, it's mentioned their children are put into schools focused on assimilation, to "take the native out of the native." A parallel to very real government schools that natives were forced to attend in both the United States and Canada.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Among other things, the Confederacy is so gung-ho about slavery that their first act after annexing the former Union is to enslave all free blacks. The money quote is at the very end:
Sherman Hoyle: "Slavery, like nothing else, is what defines us, shapes us as a people, as a nation."
- Sherman Hoyle's quote is a send-up of a similarly phrased quote by historian Shelby Foote in Ken Burns' The Civil War:
Shelby Foote: "Any understanding of this nation has to be based—and I mean really based—on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that, firmly. It defined us [...] The Civil War defined us as what we are, and it opened us to what we became—both good and bad things."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The same kind of racism that the Fauntroy family has harnessed and applauded for centuries ultimately kills John Ambrose Fauntroy V's chances at the Presidency when he can't overcome allegations of black ancestry.
- Identical Grandson: The Fauntroy family.
- In Spite of a Nail: Done deliberately to make satirical parallels with actual history. The opening quote by George Bernard Shaw (subtly) lampshades this.
- On the DVD Commentary, the creators note this trope with the Indian Wars.
- The Internet Is for Porn: Apparently, porn is still the top-selling item on the Internet, even with eBay being used as a 21st-Century slave auction block.
- La Résistance: The John Brown Underground, a covert abolitionist movement that is mentioned repeatedly. By the film's present time they are operating out of Canada.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The documentary, especially in its coverage of the 19th Century, is a subtle parody of Ken Burns' The Civil War. Two of the prominent talking heads in CSA are, likewise, parodies of two historians interviewed for Ken Burns' documentary: Sherman Hoyle is a parody of Shelby Foote, and Patricia Johnson is a parody of Barbara Fields.
- May Contain Evil: Contrari, a drug that supposedly "cures" drapetomanianote . In reality, it just dopes the slaves enough to be compliant.
- Mood Whiplash: The film seesaws between jokey segments and more serious bits dealing with race.
- No Woman's Land: Although the main focus is on racism and slavery, it's briefly touched on that women never got the vote and are still treated like second-class citizens.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The end of the film reveals that a number of the products displayed during the fake commercials actually existed, and that slave imagery in marketing still continues to this day.
- Not So Different: One scene in the film is a news clip about a football game. The Washington Indians note are playing the New York Niggers. Highlights the racist undertones of modern society.
- Oppressive States of America: In the Confederacy (which now includes even the Northern states and most of the Americas after their conquests) the entire black population is enslaved, gender equality is non-existent, sexual orientation is not a free choice, and there is not much political freedom.
- Planet of Hats: American culture as depicted in this film seems obsessed with slavery, to a frankly absurd degree.
- Politically Correct History: Played with. After the Civil War, there's an attempt to make the abolition movement, and the North, look misguided in popular culture.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The CSA's enslaved its black and Chinese population, is highly sexist, and the Jews have either fled the country or been forced into what are essentially ghettos.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The CSA rejects Hitler's final solution because it "wastes human livestock".
- Propaganda Machine: John Ambrose Fauntroy V's "Family Values" program.
- Public Execution: The Confederate News cheerfully announces the live execution of a slave who had betrayed his master.
- Retraux: Many segments are altered to look like old footage dating to the earliest days of film.
- Red Scare:
- Subverted with an abolitionist movement in the 1950s. It emerges from Canada and creates its own version of the "Weather Underground". It ends with the construction of a wall dividing the CSA and Canada.
- Averted with actual communists, which is ironic considering how the USSR used America's unequal treatment of blacks and women for anti-American propaganda purposes in the pre- and post-WW2 eras.
- Regional Riff: The Jew's harp theme heard in the "Runaway" commercial, as well as the African drum in the credits explaining the basis of the movie.
- Show Within a Show: Runaways and Leave It To Beulah, among others. Beulah was a real show, though, and you're watching actual clips from it. It's just that the credits fail to mention it at all in its rundown of what was legit.
- Speculative Documentary
- The Theme Park Version: In the name of its message, the movie discards some pretty attractive opportunities for a serious look at the subject of a successful CSA.
- Truth in Television:
- Regardless of how it's presented, the movie's real purpose is to highlight a serious and legitimate real-world issue—namely, racism, both de facto and institutionalized. For example, virtually all of the "fake" advertisements used in the commercial breaks are for real products. Granted, most of the products were discontinued or renamed to remove racist imagery within the last hundred years, but it mentions that the restaurant chain Sambo's was in operation as late as the 1980s and Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima are still in use as advertising icons.
- The CSA's obsession with slavery can seem like a Planet of Hats situation, but by the 1840s the "confederacy" really was getting consumed by slavery as a lynchpin and focus of society; just as with the above examples, it's more an extrapolation than anything else. (The real question is whether or not it would have gone quite that far nationally since even in the 1840s some southerners were beginning to express dismay at the direction their society was taking.)
- Aside from America's imperial interests in the late 19th century, there were a lot of Southerners that wanted to annex Latin American countries and turn them into slave states. One of them, William Walker, conquered Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled, for about a year. He continued to harass the region until he was executed in Honduras.
- The Unreveal: We never find out what “negative” means in the context of a ‘Passing’ DNA test. As a consequence we never find out if the test conducted on the corpse of Fauntroy Ⅴ confirms he had a black ancestor or not.
- Wham Line: "Me and Fauntroy... we kin."
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- The couple dozen anti-slavery, anti-secession counties in northwestern Virginia that broke away from that state to remain in the Union (eventually becoming West Virginia). Yet here, the Union's conquered. Presumably those legislators who supported the breakaway that could be caught were arrested, tried, and punished, and the two Virginias were reunited (not that different from Reconstruction as it actually happened).
- The Soviet Union, Communist China, and the entirety of the real Cold War.
- World War II: The Confederacy's an Axis-friendly country that perceives the regime of Nazi Germany as a "biologically correct" campaign. Confederate Secretary John Ambrose Fauntroy III fails to persuade Hitler to consider enslavement of the Jews as a more productive alternative to the Nazi program of mass extermination, but nevertheless guarantees him that the Confederacy won't interfere with Germany on the battlefield. However, the Confederacy perceives the existence of Japan, an Asian power, as an inherent challenge to their racialist policies. So the Confederation of American States launches a surprise attack on Yokohama, Tokyo Bay, followed up by a full-scale invasion of Japan in a reversal of Japan's historical entrance into World War II.