Enjoying Our Time in the Spotlight

There’s no better time to be a New Orleanian. In the midst of the usual perks –– the perfect New Orleans spring weather, the beginning of crawfish season and the start to a phenomenal festival season –– our great city is starting to experience more national attention than ever before.

With the new HBO series Treme premiering on April 11, The Wire creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer are getting ready to give all of America a portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans: the people, the city and especially the music.

My first time watching a preview of the show was in the office with the editorial staff here at Renaissance Publishing, and each of us was moved as we huddled around Morgan’s laptop. I was misty-eyed, Morgan let out an excited squeal at appearances by Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, Sarah gave a triumphant “Yeah!”

Following that initial viewing, I proceeded to make the link my Facebook status, show the preview to all my family and friends and even plan a viewing party complete with jambalaya and Abita beer.

The greatest indicator that this show will win me –– and likely many others –– over is its accuracy. One scene shows John Goodman lamenting over the temporary closing of Brocato’s and settling for a sweet potato Hubig’s pie instead.

The show’s self-proclaimed focus is the music –– second-lining, jazz ensembles, even going so far as to re-create post-Katrina makeshift recording conditions for the soundtrack.

The other focus is the people, the heart and spirit of the city, the driving force behind rebuilding, the unparalleled sense of community and family and home.

I read a comment sequence for the YouTube video for the trailer; reviews were mostly positive (“I can’t wait!” “David Simon is a genius!”) but with a few critics, namely people who didn’t think the subject matter was “significant” enough to merit an entire series. My response? People, there’s an HBO show about vampires.

One particular buzzkill commenter claimed that disasters such as Haiti deserve more national attention than Katrina and asked that people stop “milking their tragedies.”

First of all, no one is trying to take away attention or support from Haiti. In fact, we are probably a little more empathetic than the average American, given our very recent experience with disaster recovery and relief. Secondly, there may very well be a show about Haiti in five years, and I will be most likely watching it.

Much to my relief, a flood of responses hit the lone naysayer, touting New Orleans’ many one-of-a-kind qualities and the show’s imminent success. The main comeback that got me was, “You just don’t understand New Orleans.” There is a scene in the show’s preview where an interviewer asks John Goodman why anyone would bother rebuilding. He cites outdated music and food that is too rich and fatty and doubts New Orleans status as ever being a great city. Goodman’s response: “Hate the music, hate the food, hate the city –– what the f*** are you doing here?”

It is my experience that “outsiders” generally view New Orleans with a combination of confusion, awe and either envy or condescension. But there aren’t many who actually get to know the city and maintain that last opinion. I have a friend, a born-and-raised New Yorker, who, despite New Yorkers’ legendary hometown pride, can’t get enough of New Orleans. His friends have bachelor parties here; they come down for Jazz Fest;  he even claims it as a second hometown, lamenting that he’d move here if he could get a job. And stealing loyalty from the Big Apple for the Big Easy isn’t, well, easy.

In the wake of the surge of national attention after the Black & Gold Super Bowl, people all over the country are giving New Orleans a second look, and as long as Treme can be accurate and entertaining, they’ll be taking even more looks at what makes this city tick. They might be confused, they might be intrigued, but they will certainly be moved.

Jordan DeFrank is an intern at Renaissance Publishing.

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