HBO's Website Interprets David Simon's Treme

Curator's Note

David Simon’s auteur credentials and HBO’s claims to culturally relevant television depend on his ability to speak with conviction about difficult problems. Simon took a number of steps to assure audiences and the people of New Orleans that Treme would accurately reflect the culture of the region. These efforts were documented in press coverage about the show, including stories about Treme’s focus on local musicians Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Kermit Ruffin and local writers Lolis Eric Elie of the Times-Picayune and Tom Piazza author of Why New Orleans Matters. The hiring of local talent not only brings credibility to the production but also injects money into the New Orleans economy creating goodwill for the production among its citizens and politicians. For HBO, hiring local talent makes the production available for Louisiana’s generous tax credit system. Claims of authenticity and political righteousness are particularly obvious on the HBO website. In the promotional video Walking with Wendell, actor Wendell Pierce, is a perfect guide for those looking to experience the “real” New Orleans. His background and association prove to viewers the necessity of rebuilding New Orleans. Pierce is Simon’s surrogate speaking for the wonders of New Orleans. He grew up in the Pontchartrain Park neighborhood and became the president of the Community Development Corporation responsible for building affordable housing following the devastation. He was featured on the CNN investigative report America: New Orleans Rising with Soledad O’Brien where he described the importance of working on Treme, "I've shed many tears working on this show. Nothing could be as cathartic as this. It's art imitating life and life imitating art in a way that I thought was never possible." His ringing endorsements of the political importance of the series are all the more significant by his own personal relationship with rebuilding his hometown. Simon sells authenticity to HBO’s politically-minded and well-healed demographic. These videos are a political shorthand that teaches people the cultural knowledge they need to "properly" be outraged about the aftermath of Katrina and other political issues.

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