When the Saints Go Marching In

Matt Yglesias has a post up in our Treme dialogue, and goes hard on the show’s sentimentality. But it’s also a great essay on Simon’s relationship to realism, and teases out some dynamics I think are really important:

This manifests itself in a first episode that, as Alyssa noted, is deeply sentimental. This bothered me. A lot. The acting remained compelling and the camerawork by director Agnieszka Holland was lovely, and the dialogue by Simon and Eric Overmeyer was sharp. But oh oh oh oh oh did the sentimentality grate. I felt like I needed a trip to the television dentist or something. It reeked not so much of Simon being unwilling to challenge his audience, but of Simon being unwilling to alienate his subjects; as if he felt that New Orleans, having been through so much, didn’t need to really be examined as a city populated by flawed human beings put under the lens of an exacting social critic.

The contrast that came to mind was with Werner Herzog’s half-genius, half-insane Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans a post-Katrina feature film that came out late last year to little fanfare. Suffice it to say that for all its flaws, Herzog is determined in his films to remain Herzog — whether his subjects are grizzly men are antarctic scientists or fictional New Orleans detectives his dark vision of humanity remains. The idea of Simon facing tragedy and then deciding to flinch was, to me, depressing.

It doesn’t end there, though, so keep reading.