Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dream a little dream of Treme.

OK, kids. Just finished the third season of Treme. Some thoughts bubbled up in my brain. If you've got nothing better to do, I'll share 'em with you. First big thought ...
The philosophy of Treme is at war with its dramatic logic.
By which I mean the philosophy of Treme's co-creator, David Simon. Yeah, I'm making assumptions here. Sue me.
Simon, of course, was the brains behind The Wire. I think I know how he thinks.
Specifically ...
We know in part and we prophecy in part. If you like that, you'll love ... We see through a glass darkly. So the Bible says and it still is news.
Our awareness is wrapped up in skin. The eyes and ears of the specific human beast we are. We do not see as God sees. We do not get the whole picture. We are each locked up in our own point of view.
Ah, but to see the whole picture ...
This is what Simon delivered on The Wire and Treme. Not Godlike omniscience, of course. But a simulacrum thereof. An approximation of the big picture, courtesy the human imagination. The closest we'll ever get, kids.
Here, Simon returns to what Tom Wolfe defined as the essence of the novel -- namely journalism. A grasp of things as they are, happening now. The Wire and Treme are novels on the tube. But novels they are.
The Wire gave us slices of life in school, the drug underground, the newspaper, the unions and so forth in Baltimore. Treme lets us play voyeur on musicians, politicians, cops, activists, restaurateurs and roues in New Orleans -- in the period right after Katrina. 
Thinking like a journalist, Simon is obsessed with the particulars of things. What goes on in a restaurant. The machinations of the Second Line. The bad karma of cops.
So, he develops parallel storylines. Ten or so characters in search of redemption or a paycheck. All very rooted in research and reality, specific use of language, micro-cultures, subcultures and neighborhoods. All drenched in history and authenticity. As if Simon lives in fear some New Orleansean will call him for some inaccuracy.
In a drama invented from wholecloth, the storylines of these characters would converge on some shattering revelation. The season would end with a cliffhanger. Someone would die, something would be discovered, a maguffin would emerge. Things would change
But that's not what really happens in New Orleans, is it?
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
All righty then.
Simon ends Treme's season with a montage to this effect. It's perfectly consistent with his philosophy. Perfectly in line with his journalistic assessment of New Orleans. Nothing ever changes. Righty-right. Philosophically pure.

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