Haters Gonna Hate

I haven’t said much about television in awhile, but don’t worry: it’s not all slashers and campers over here. I’ve also been keeping up with one or two shows. The current shows I follow, for various reasons, include: Doctor Who (I like the new Doctor, stories are average to forgettable), True Blood (this is mainly the fault of the wife-to-be, but there are some genuine laughs in between all the wincing), Justified (wasn’t too impressed at first, but it built to a great season finale), Boondocks (awesome), and Treme.

Now, Treme is interesting because, among other things, it’s “controversial.” I knew very little about this show before I started watching. I have never seen The Wire or any of David Simon‘s other shows. All I knew was that Kim Dickens was in the cast, and she was great as Joanie Stubbs on Deadwood.

The show itself is not perfect, and while I find its gradual pacing to be somewhat refreshing (and appropriate for a show about southern life), I have yet to reach the point where I say to myself, “fuck yeah, this is a great series.” But it’s interesting, and I look forward to watching it on Sunday nights.

So when I began reading about the show on sites like IMDB, I was somewhat shocked by some of the things people were saying. Basically, there is a segment of the populace that decided they were going to hate this show simply because it’s about people in New Orleans dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. Before it even aired, there were comments to the effect of “why is HBO wasting their time on a show about New Orleans?”

The main issues raised by these Treme haters seem to be:

1. “We’re sick of hearing about New Orleans. How dare HBO assume that we want to watch a show that tries to provoke a response of empathy for the people affected by Katrina.”
2. “How dare these people complain about the government screwing them over. They should stop complaining and do something to rebuild their city.”

I find this attitude baffling. To me, the show is an educational window into daily life in New Orleans. But it’s still a show. I assume that the things the characters say are from their own personal viewpoints. And these are fictional characters. True, some are based on real people, notably John Goodman‘s character Creighton Burnette (based on writer Ashley Morris). Creighton is angry, outspoken, and comes across boorish at times. But I’ve never been to New Orleans – how do I know if his anger is justified or not, or to what degree? I haven’t researched the history of the city or the levees enough to be able to point the finger at anyone. But I am certainly not offended by the idea of a fictional character who is convinced that the floods could have been prevented, or that a bureaucratic fuck up allowed the disaster to reach epic proportions.

John Goodman as Creighton threatens to sit on the next person who talks smack about NOLA.

So why the hate for New Orleans? Are people going online and bitching about 9/11 survivors too? Something tells me its more of a reaction to the idea that the Bush administration mishandled their response to the disaster. If you’re simply reacting to the things the characters on Treme do and say, the hate is misguided.

Creighton’s rage is definitely blatant, and he is echoing verbatim many of the things Ashley Morris said in his own blog. But each character is dealing with the aftermath in their own ways. Ladonna is simply trying to find her brother and put a roof over her bar. Albert is as politically charged as Creighton, if not more, but he is actively trying to create housing for displaced Katrina survivors. That can hardly be described as simply complaining, or refusing to do anything to rebuild. And the rest of the characters are mainly struggling musicians, searching for their next gig.

I don’t love Treme. There are ups and downs. The writing can be inconsistent, and does come off as preachy at times. But I am fascinated by the characters and the scenery. That’s enough to keep me coming back. I don’t have a problem with someone objecting to the show itself. But don’t blame an entire city for having a TV show based on it. And if you don’t live in New Orleans, shut the hell up. No one knows what you experience from day to day, or how those things affect you. Likewise, you can’t assume you know everything about someone from another city.

Or, try watching with an open mind, and feeling some empathy for these characters. It’s OK to think Davis is obnoxious and Sonny needs to go away. That’s part of the fun of watching a show: having an opinion, and deciding for yourself who the real “heroes” are. But if you honestly can’t admire the idea of a person like Big Chief Albert (Clarke Peters), fighting to keep his customs alive and give his tribe a place to come home to, then it seems to me like you’re missing out on part of what makes humanity (potentially) great. Our ability to empathize, and to look beyond our personal needs to help others, is the best thing we have going. If we can’t bear to watch a TV show that asks us to empathize, then we have already become isolated by our petty differences. And if we can’t band together at least in spirit to help fellow Americans affected by a tragedy, regardless of who is or isn’t to blame, that’s a problem.

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2 Responses to “Haters Gonna Hate”

  1. Shawn Francis Says:

    Love the new Doctor Who, but no one, and I mean, NO ONE, can replace Tom Baker. Period. That’s just the way it is. Nicely addicted to TRUE BLOOD, too. And, another summer series I can’t get enough of, SyFy’s EUREKA. DEXTER is another TV addiction. How do you feel about that one?

    • roarvis Says:

      I watched a few episodes of Dexter. Didn’t really grab me, but I find the “sympathetic serial killer” idea to be kind of offensive. Maybe if I watched more I’d like it.

      Doctor Who will always be about the “classic” era for me. But the new shows are fun.

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