Conflicted: The Big Chief Beatdown
There has been a good bit of talk about the scene in episode 2 which shows Albert Lambreaux laying a beat down on the punk kid who stole his tools. I have not read most of it because I’ve not finished the episode yet (I’ve been having to take Treme in small doses), these views might change slightly once I have.
Like many who were back during those times I must admit to a frisson of self-righteous anger and satisfaction at watching that scene. Sad- yes, horrible- yes, true- also yes. I’ll just be a man and admit it. You see, in those days three months after the deluge, everyone had been through enough. More than enough. Lowlives like that kid were viewed as some of the worst of the worst, preying on people whose spirits were strained to breaking by the events of the prior three months. I’ll admit I cheered, especially since the person administering this rough justice was a Mardi Gras Indian. Simplistic symbolism there to be sure, but no less effective for being so.
Still, this cathartic scene is worrisome. While to many who see Treme through the filter of personal experience it is satisfying to see one of the human impediments to rebuilding get his ass handed to him the broader picture is less enjoyable. As with most things in life, the more details you add the blurrier the morality becomes. I think this excerpt from Cliff’s Crib says it well:
When I watch a television show based on my city and I see a man who is supposed to be the symbol of the surviving culture beat the hell out of a kid for stealing his tools even though he had no way of knowing if that kid really stole them and the kid had no idea who he was to purposely disrespect him, I take that personal because I don’t just live here. These are my roots and showing that image to the world reflects poorly on me and all the men I was raised around in New Orleans who would have never done that. It made black men from New Orleans look savage and that’s personal.
You see? A bit more nuance always complicates things, doesn’t it? It’s easy to get pumped up and cheer like a sports fan when the kid gets his comeuppance. Very easy. Disturbingly easy, and that should make you distrust it right off the bat. It’s the same knee jerk reaction, devoid of logic and fueled by emotion, that creates lasting misconceptions.
So what do YOU think dear readers? What emotions did the beatdown scene inspire in you and have they changed now that you have had almost a week to digest them?