Going Down to Treme

by Latoya Peterson

Last night, the first episode of Treme premiered on HBO.

I’ve already weighed in over at the Atlantic with my thoughts. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Watching the first two episodes of Treme, the meandering focus of the pilot quietly overshadows the revolutionary nature of the show. David Simon, David Mills, and Eric Overmeyer created a television drama showing working class and racial narratives that dare to reveal the perspectives of those involved. Known for breaking racial casting norms on television, The Wire introduced a cast of color to the overwhlemingly white ranks of a mainstream cable. The SMO squad recreated this dynamic again within Treme, placing the lives of affluent professors and investigators alongside musicians and bartenders, all making their way through the post-storm landscape.

As a viewer, Treme has the same feel as the critically acclaimed 90s comedy Roc, or August Wilson’s stage play Jitney–these works reveal the reality of African American lives, but are conducted with a measure of dignity, something that is hard to come by. One of Treme’s lead characters is named Ladonna, a Pam Grier type who is allowed to be both hard and vulnerable, shown as neighborhood enforcer, devoted daughter and sister, and loving mother, all during the same episode. These types of shows are about affirmation in a vacuum of constructed portrayals, of individually truthful narratives where people only expect to see pathology.

However, as a side bar to Racialicious readers, I watched the show with a group of other culture writers and bloggers – and their reactions were interesting to me in many ways. I’m still developing my thoughts on this, but I am wondering why there is an assumed cultural reference point for critique (most folks based theirs around the Wire, while I reached back to Roc and Jitney). I’m also suppressing the urge to randomly accost white people I see consuming media created by POC and ask them what they are getting out of it and why…not in a confrontational way, but wondering what conclusions they are drawing from the material.

But I digress.

Readers, did you tune into Treme? What were your thoughts?