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Treme Is Not OK

March 23, 2010

Novelist Poppy Z. Brite, who keeps a blog on LiveJournal, has written an anti-Treme screed worthy of her idol Hunter S. Thompson attacking Treme, David Simon, and the film industry as a result of their intrusion into her Central City neighborhood.

Hey, look, I’m not the only wingnut who thinks the “Treme” crews are rude, intrusive assholes. They’ve been in our neighborhood twice, and while they weren’t as disruptive as described in this story — if they had been, I’d be in jail right now for several cases of manslaughter at least — I found them extremely obnoxious, like the fashion photographers in Ray Bradbury’s “Sun and Shadow” who invade a poor Mexican town to glom onto the “picturesque” poverty. Central City is one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans, but as far as I could tell, none of my neighbors was offered any compensation for inconvenience or use of their picturesquely unpainted and rotting housefronts. (I didn’t want compensation; I just put up a big sign saying DO NOT FILM THIS HOUSE.)

… I do not care about how great David Simon is supposed to be. I have not seen “The Wire,” nor am I interested in seeing it. I know some of you like the show and that’s cool. I respect many of the locals hired as consultants by “Treme” (mostly folks who were doing pretty well already, as far as I can tell) and I’m glad if the work has helped them, but I don’t feel that Simon and company have done New Orleans any favors by bringing this show here. Let us keep our (fictional) selves in the public eye as we choose to. Don’t come sniffing around from Hollywood and take it upon yourself to exploit our pain tell our story.

Harsh, but this is the writer who stands shoulder to shoulder with Ashley Morris in her outspoken defense of New Orleans, who coined “We Are Not OK”. Still, I had to ask her in a comment: Should we also say Fuck Spike Lee and Fuck When the Levees Broke? Fuck Josh Nuefeld? Fuck Dan Baum? (OK, fuck Dan Baum and his stupid pink bowler. Or rather, someone else can fuck him. Thanks).

I do not believe Simon is here to profit from our pain. Nothing in his public discussion of his work, or in his prior writing or film work, would lead a reasonable person to believe that is his motivation. He is here to tell a story with important social implications. And he hopes to get paid for it. When I tried to order by inter-library loan one of Brite’s books from the Fargo library in the fall of 2005, they ended up buying a copy instead. I was pretty friendly with the folks at the desk and asked them about it. They said they just wanted to help a writer from New Orleans. I was pleased for Brite that she sold another copy and for everyone else in Fargo who might someday read it. Everybody wants to get paid.

Without looking into Simon’s publicly stated motivation or his work, Brite might as well say: Fuck Zola, Fuck Dickens, Fuck Steinbeck. All they did was try to profit from people’s pain. Right?

— wet bank guy

  1. March 23, 2010 10:50 pm

    I love her books, but every few months PZB will post something that is so off-the-wall retarded that I can’t read her blog any more.

  2. David Crais permalink
    March 23, 2010 11:10 pm

    Don’t blame David Simon. Blame those individuals who are part of the crew that are rude. Many of these folks are probably locals anyway. I would also address blame at Jennifer Day with the City of New Orleans Film & Video Office. She is VERY LAX in putting controls on film or TV productions. She directs Robert Menoza’s office to block parking at dozens of parking spaces (with tickets issues and some even being towed) when she should control the film trucks blocking the street.

    She has been quoted in magazines saying she is just using her position as Film and Video OFfice director as a launchpad to a job in California. She is the one not committed to New Orleans. Sometimes Carpet Baggers come from those who are already in New Orleans.

  3. March 23, 2010 11:31 pm

    I haven’t read her books, but agree with the rest of Ray’s comment.

  4. March 23, 2010 11:39 pm

    Welcome aboard, Mr. Wet. I disagree with her take on David Simon’s motives BUT she’s right about some of the people who work for him. I witnessed a lot of assholery myself.

  5. Kevin permalink
    March 24, 2010 1:08 am

    I don’t think David Simon owes New Orleans any “favors” any more than David Mamet does — that is to say, anything he does down here that benefits the city is lagniappe.

    But a novelist has a great advantage over a TV- or moviemaker (and perhaps only one advantage), and that’s answering to him- or herself. A novelist can recreate the months after Katrina with imagination and talent. Someone like Simon needs a backdrop. I’d rather he take pains to get the backdrop right rather than shoot it in Toronto or Vancouver or a backlot.

    I empathize with Poppy – when I was younger, I lived in a shitbox ’60s apartment building on a street of gorgeous old Art Deco Los Angeles buildings. There were movies filmed there almost weekly, and it was a pain in the ass.

    But I would rather have someone trying to get it right than a movie crew shooting a piece of crap, and “The Wire” was not a piece of crap, so I’ll have patience…but then again, no one is colonizing my neighborhood, so I’ll shut up, because Poppy is directly affected and I am not, this time.

    One last thing: Poppy’s restaurant novels are some of the best works of fiction written about New Orleans in the last 10 years. I know she made her name and her bones on the vampire tales, but she truly came into her own with the G-man and Rickey books and it’s a goddamn shame it seems there won’t be any more, for various reasons. But if those were filmed on my street by a conscientious producer/director/writer, I’d suck it up and deal; if that’s what was needed to give them verisimilitude and life for years to come, so be it.

  6. March 24, 2010 1:17 am

    There’s still a fine line that must be walked here, folks. Putting things back to the way they looked a few months after 8/29/05 ain’t going to be nice on the psyches of anyone who was here or who is still dealing with the crap that’s still happening…and, atop it all, some people with big-ass trailers and cameras want to simulate some debris in the streets? NOT COOL, to say the least.

    Simon is the creator of this circus, sure, but he certainly can’t control every aspect, and he probably isn’t in much of a position to do so. Get some tighter restrictions going through City Hall concerning filming, and things will probably be better….

    …but I’m not holding my breath on that one unless other ways of bolstering our economy other than tourism and Hollywood South hoo-ha are established here.

  7. March 24, 2010 7:48 am

    Like I said on my blog, I’d pay for dinner and ammo to watch PZB shoot up Katrina fridges. I think it would be hilarious, and should have been my choice for Famous Orleanians to have Dinner With when Gambit asked a few weeks ago.

    By the same token, you can’t shoot a street scene from November 2005 without a refrigerators, and debris piles, and maybe even something like the underwater car (painted with fish and other appropriate decorations) that sat up my street well into 2006. (Thought I had it up on a blog somewhere but I guess I don’t).

    It’s going to stress some people out. Watching Treme is going to stress some people out, and I think perhaps more than watching the usual week-of video of people wading, the convention center.

    From long ago on Wet Bank Guide:

    This is more than a warped sense of the normal in a town where normal is not a consensual affair: there is progress in the removal of the old piles, and there is also progress in every new or growing one I see. I saw a newly deposited refrigerator a few weeks ago. My first reaction was, man, I don’t want to even imagine what the inside of that is like.

    Then, as I drove the remaining blocks home, I remembered: every new refrigerator, every growing debris pile, is itself a sign of the return to normalcy. It is a sign that someone else has come home, that the insurance check and the SBA money have come, and they are starting on another house. I new see progress in each new or growing pile, and not just disaster and dysfunction.

  8. March 24, 2010 2:11 pm

    One thing she got wrong is that David Simon is NOT a Hollywood guy. He’s the boss so I disagree with the commenter who doesn’t hold him responsible for rudeness by some of his underlings. Some of them are, in fact, rude and others are not. Life goes on.

  9. March 27, 2010 10:14 pm

    Assholery, I would just like to point out, is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Assholery doesn’t have to be trucked in. Now, you may say we have more than enough and we don’t need any more, especially that unseemly outsider brand of assholery, but when you consider the quality of the production, the hard work (sometimes 16 hr days) these film crews put in, the transitory nature of the inconvenience, I think we should just admit that the loudest complainers are simply the sort who are gleeful at having the opportunity to complain and we should say thank you very much, now kindly please “go fuck yourself sideways with a chainsaw,” because we want to watch the show. Hunter S. Thompson never whined like Brite, that’s for sure. I live in Central City as well and given all the secondlines and Indian parades and the inebriated masses coming and going from Carnival parades around here, it seems odd that the occasional filming of an HBO series would garner such a heated reaction.


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