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'Treme' Season 3, Ep. 5: Race, Death & David Simon

Television
by Terry Curtis Fox
October 22, 2012 2:00 AM
1 Comment
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For better or worse, episodic television is about expectations. Zombies are going to make an appearance in "Walking Dead" as surely as every episode of "Law and Order" will be split into two halves. Each series teaches us how to watch it, how to take it on its own terms.

As series creators have become recognizable figures, we’ve come to have expectations of them as well. Aaron Sorkin is going to dazzle and assault us with verbiage, plant a notion and then spin dross into gold in front of our eyes. Joss Whedon is going to play pop-culture games.

David Simon is going to kill people.

[Spoilers ahead, for "The Wire," if you haven’t seen it, as well as "Treme."]

Anyone who would kill off D’Angelo, Stringer Bell, and Omar will sacrifice any of his characters, especially if their death will have maximum emotional effect.

The demise of John Goodman’s Creighton Bernette may have been predictable (the character was based on an actual figure), but his death was gut-wrenching all the same. So was the street-crime killing of Harley Watt; that Watt was played by Simon’s friend, singer Steve Earle, didn’t seem to faze him a bit.

Harley’s death is particularly apropos this season.

In the fifth episode -- teleplay by Lolis Eric Elie & Jen Ralston; story by Eric Overmeyer – Sophia, Toni Bernette’s daughter, is pulled over by the brutality-prone cop Billy Wilson.

There’s no question that this is not an accident: Toni is after Wilson, and this traffic stop is a warning.

It’s also a reminder that in a police state (and Simon, Overmeyer, and Pelecanos are quite clear during the course of this season that New Orleans has become a police state), it isn’t only minorities at risk.

Being white and middle-class is no guarantee of protection. Yes, minorities are the first victims (and, you’ll remember, the first time we saw Wilson out of control was outside LaDonna’s bar, beating a black man). But just as street-crime reaches into the world of the show’s white musicians, so, this season, the abusive behavior comes straight into the most middle-class home on the show.

Abuse of power is not a black problem – it’s a city’s problem. Sophia’s traffic stop (and it’s not going to be the last one) is the result of her mother’s crusade – it’s the middle-class equivalent of Driving While Black.

In any other show, the audience would watch and get angry. But because this is a David Simon show – because he’s taught us that any character can die – the stop puts a pit in our stomach.

Are Simon, Overmeyer, and Pelecanos really going to go this far? Hasn’t Toni suffered enough?

No, I’m not going to answer that question. It hovers from this moment forward until its resolution near the end of the season.

But that, of course, is the point.

The writers know how charming they’ve made Sophia -- they’ve fooled us into thinking the worst thing that can happen to her is hooking up with an age-inappropriate guy – and they know what we’re thinking: that could be my kid at risk.

And suddenly, police brutality is no longer a minority issue.
 

Television
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More: Treme, HBO, TV, Television

1 Comment

  • Barbara Everett Heintz | October 23, 2012 8:48 AMReply

    Please someone contact me, for once more we have an Appalachian Coal Mining Story. Is this supposed to ease the pain of those who were agrarian, fully self sustaining, asked nothing of the government but who took all we had mid 20th century. Our poverty had similarities to 3rd world anywhere, but the USA took the rest, payed people not to plant, and the southern diaspora was on. Cities and towns of Appalachia died with spirits who had carved lives of just making it all along from Sand Mountain until you hit coal mining country. We produced what we ate, much of what town folk relatives ate, and we gave schools our melon crop so we could eat lunches. Please, look on Amazon, Kindle, Create Space, "Pinkhoneysucklle," fact, fiction -- Serious deeds done to women and children, and new city slums were next in store for this huge swath of farmland and our, Organic Lifestyle Lives. I wrote my book, and it is terrifying, devastating, and ends a 60 year cover up. It is mixed with coming of age, and early marriage -- And the filthy words which described us as we went to the city ourselves. We wept to leave home, but we did, hoping for better. Instead, we got, "Redneck," "Cracker," "Hillbilly," and fresh virgin women like me then who knew nothing about childbirth, home life, and who began to pull away from country preaching. I left because the religion seemed to draw younger people in to undervaluing what any of us could do. Sex and a baby; that was marriage. I gave you the disgrace and all inside me in, "Pinkhoneysuckle," and to laugh out loud again and again while you are seeing people live in man made hells and the brutality which claimed our homes. It is not just my story, but I used me as an Anchor. Please film experts, read one book of hard truth about the diaspora of Appalachian families who had to lose the most decent part of their lives to be screwed over again in the north when they suddenly realized they lived next to a rail line, within a flood plain when spring would come, and who survived the depression of heart with the cheapest wine they could chug down. Welfare brought on another shame -- Taking instead of working. Even now sections of rust belt cities host the ones with back home names. I beg you all to look at Amazon; Just read the free material, and open your mind to understanding among the biggest diasters and sins took place along our Appalachian mountains and valleys, and we are not healed, for we are haunted with the lives which would become filled with death threats from Daddy if he drank too much. Women and children; Oh, please help them now. "Pinkhoneysuckle," tells you the time has come for allowing the truth to give our new generations the truth of why they were, and are still bunched together; And for those who came home, there was a new demon once farmers had learned --Drugs, the killing of snitches, and learning to keep your mouth shut.. "Pinkhoneysuckle," is going to leave you shaken from moments when love appeared -- The other moments when the devil was just around the corner, and it is going to ask you how to heal all the whites and blacks who were poor together, pulled cotton sacks on their backs, in my case, from five until I was about 16. Please know that you have the opportunity to tell a story that is greatly historical, studies the religions I grew up with, and to help you understand that our preachers had no training except being out and preaching to their mules. I won book awards in San Francisco, plus a book award -- fist place in Hollywood for a book most apt to be used in other media such as movies. Will you help me tell the truth and to see Appalachia which has been hidden. It would be a film which is easily converted to documentary, or to a movie with all emotions thrown in even from when the most innocent winds up giving over her self. Nothing is left out, and proper people are not going to think of how some of their neighbors lived so well. Oh Lord; Mr. Spielberg, Ms. Hunt, and anyone who loved Grapes of Wrath needs this true story. It is new material, inexpensive to produce, written to where it will shake you up and then drop you so very low, because that is how we lived. Please help this get to the box office. We are dying off just like our war dead, so; Please help me as I help you. Having a Harvard Graduate son just now moved to Malibu and starting the new Amazon office there makes me secure that I have taken actions which I need to as such no one can use our story. No one could write it like me either, for the old voices were with me, and the angels helped, but the babes and mothers are still not free, for in most of us from back there; We were raised to be property, and no one filmed all of us poor little white kids. No one listened well as Dr. King said, "Oh, my poor little Children," and he would not just make it for the black childrean. We all were stuck in social norms of the 19th century in the 20th century. It is a frightening place -- Even today. I would love to send you my but so would Amazon. Please let me know what you need, and we can help our places to come back. A litle help is all we could ask for. God Bless.
    Please know that I began this at 60 and I have blog seekers from across the glob.

    Thank you; I am, Barbara Everett Heintz

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