These Alternate History Series Are For People Who Wonder ‘What If?’
History has always been up to interpretation, but what if it could be up to the imagination? Alternate history series and movies have been on the rise in recent years as this politically charged climate has given us a clearer lens on history. We can see the cultural and political impact of every action and event, and it dares us to ask the question: “what if?”
What if the Nazis won? What if black people were the colonizers instead of the colonized? What if Russia beat America to the moon?
Fantasy is the realm of unlimited imagination, and some would argue that alternate history has somehow carved its space in the genre. Alternate history shows are challenging pieces of fiction that somehow improve our context of the present--through fiction. You’ll see what we mean if you watch the shows below:
1| Noughts + Crosses
The most relevant, and underrated, series of the year, Noughts + Crosses is set in an alternate reality where black people (the Crosses) rule over white people (the Noughts),
If you recall, the country of Wakanda in the Marvel universe was an empowering symbol for its viewers. It represented the potential for black people and the African nations had Europe not colonized the world. But Noughts + Crosses takes this idea to a new level by making Africans the colonizers and Europeans the colonized, and showing white people in a position without power.
By switching reality, it tackles all the gritty, tragic aspects of colonization, race, and oppression in a world where an African Empire exists alongside the Malian Empire and Ottoman Empire.
2| The Man in the High Castle
The 2015 to 2019 series asked the biggest question in history: What if the Nazis and the Japanese Empire won World War II? It’s an alternate future that both horrifies and intrigues, which is precisely the effect of the series.
In The Man in the High Castle, the U.S. is basically cold-war Germany split in two with the Nazis occupying the east and the Japanese in the west. The events of the series are set in motion when newsreels are discovered of our world where the Axis power lost the war.
A story rooted in diversity, Hollywood rewrites the history of Hollywood into one that welcomed people of all races, cultures, and genders. This is a far cry from the reality of the golden age of Hollywood, which was known for its racist and homophobic depiction of society.
While some of the characters are in fact real people, Hollywood decided to rewrite the predestined history of its colored characters as if they actually existed in a world where the color of your skin and your gender identity didn’t stop you from entering the room.
4| For All Mankind
In this alternate history show, it was not the U.S.A. that landed on the moon first. The Soviet Union beat them to it. It doesn’t seem quite as dramatic as shows that deal with world wars and colonization, but the moon landing was more than just a photo op in space: It was a pivotal point in history that defined space exploration, and it also played its own cultural role in the Cold War.
In For All Mankind, the show reimagines NASA in the 1970s, pushing for women to go into space much faster than they actually did, and exploring the possibility of a moon colony decades ahead of time.
5| The Plot Against America
Set in a world that sounds like a nightmare and yet reflects reality, The Plot Against America follows an alternate past in which the great nation that defined democracy turned its back on its principles and became a xenophobic fascist state led by a populist leader.
That leader is Charles Lindberg, a person who actually existed and was suspected of being a Nazi sympathizer. Instead of helping stop the war, America under Lindberg's leadership opens its doors for anti-Semitic sentiments to creep into the country.