'Treme': Defying Hurricane Katrina's Disaster Narrative

'Treme': Defying Hurricane Katrina's Disaster Narrative

As an outsider to New Orleans, it was a privilege to step into the world of these New Orleans residents after Katrina

39
views

"Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, outsiders will have two versions of the Katrina experience. One version will be the images they recall from news coverage of the aftermath. The other will be the intimate portrayal of the determination of New Orleans residents to rebuild and recover their lives." - the blurb of "HBO's Treme and Post-Katrina Catharsis: The Mediated Rebirth of New Orleans"

I remember late in 2005, turning the channel to CNN and seeing image after image of Hurricane Katrina's devastation on New Orleans. I remember seeing the levees break, the houses flood, the crowding of the Superdome, and I remember the first thing 8-year-old me thought at the time was "thank God I'm not there. Thank God it's not me." All I knew was the disaster and the devastation, and when news channels like CNN stopped covering New Orleans after the storm, that's all I knew

"The Wire," "Treme's" predecessor, was the best show of all time because it taught me empathy and compassion. "Treme" is a great show, too, because it defied that disaster narrative and showed me the grit of some New Orleans residents. "Treme" is still the slowest show I have ever watched. To stick with it through the end could sometimes feel like watching a Ken Burns history documentary, but that is the nature of the show: it required a whole lot of patience.

Newsday's Verne Gay's review of the show titled it "'Treme' final season premiere review: Still good, still not for everyone," and that headline rings true as an umbrella for the show. No one I have talked to has heard of the show, not one person has referenced it in conversation - in fact, I only started watching it because David Simon, the creator of "The Wire," was its writer.

Nevertheless, I finished "Treme" with mixed feelings. I think I will need to watch it again, when I'm older and more fully able to appreciate the show, and maybe after I actually visit New Orleans. According to Akiva Gottlieb of The Nation, "David Simon [in "The Wire"]...has unforgettably cataloged all the reasons to quit; now he wants to know why the struggle could be worthwhile." While it is a great review that is worth reading, to keep "Treme" in the shadow of its predecessor to stop from reducing the show. It's difficult when the likes of Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters, prominent main characters in "The Wire," were also main characters in "Treme," but for its own sake, "Treme" should be interpreted as its own show with its own unique structure.

One thing that struck out to me about "Treme," that will most likely always strike out to me, is the resilience of its characters. We follow the same group of people throughout four seasons, people from all walks of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Initially, I thought Simon was going to depict LaDonna Williams, the owner of a local bar, or Antoine Batiste, a local trombonist, as victims of the disaster, and use the show as a just that: a disaster narrative, with an indictment on the institutions that failed the victims of Katrina (much like "The Wire").

But it wasn't. These characters had a tremendous amount of grit, will, and a refusal to give up despite the circumstances of Katrina's aftermath. Look no further than Albert Lambreaux, leader of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe named Guardians of the Flame, whose motto, "won't bow, don't know how," defines his character throughout the series. In one instance, "Big Chief" Lambreaux flat out denies chemotherapy for lymphoma to suit up for the next Mardi Gras. The types of people on the show range from DJs, developers, civil rights attorneys, police lieutenants, and violinists, but all of the mare united by this grit. Above all, all of them are united by their loyalty to New Orleans, not despite its dysfunction after Katrina, but perhaps because of it. Their names are Davis McAlary, Nelson Hidalgo, Toni Bernette, Terry Colson, and Annie Talarico, respectively.

Near the end of the series, Terry, the police lieutenant is visiting his estranged ex-wife and sons, and has a conversation at the dinner table where he asks why do people have to be defined by their profession. He isn't Terry the cop: he is just a guy named Terry. And each character is not defined by their profession or their circumstances after the storm. They are defined by their names, personas, and how they reacted in the face of adversity, and each character had unique ways of doing that.

In fact, one character even resembles perceptions of David Simon himself: Davis McAlary. Pardon the language, but McAlary, for a good portion of the series, is an annoying piece of shit: a rich, privileged white man who attempts to publicize and use New Orleans's suffering to promote his own career as a musician and DJ. But despite his vanity, McAlary is redeeming in the way he treats the people around him and the people he works with respect - and he is no longer DJ Davis, but instead just Davis, a person I feel is a friend.

And what struck out to me was how much I liked not only Davis, LaDonna, and Terry by the end, but how much I liked every character and how they carried on. For me, it was a privilege to share the journeys of Antoine and Sonny as they changed their lives over the course of several years. It was a privilege to step into Janette's various kitchens and see the life of a woman striving to build her own restaurant. It was a privilege to step into Toni's attempt to bring justice to the NOPD. It was a privilege to step into the world of Delmond as he tried to balance the terminal cancer of his father and his career as a prominent trumpeter.

As an outsider to New Orleans, it was a privilege to step into the world of these New Orleans residents after Katrina, and experience this first hand:

"Treme offers outsiders an inside look into why New Orleanians refused to abandon a place that many questioned should not be rebuilt after the levees failed."

Cover Image Credit:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Treme_(5125861363).jpg

Popular Right Now

Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
301919
views

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

764
views

"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

Giphy

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

Related Content

Facebook Comments