"When the Storm Came that Blew Away our Citizenship, Too?" Spike Lee, "Treme", and Televisual Narratives of Disaster and Recovery in New Orleans
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Spike Lee's two documentaries about Hurricane Katrina and the fictional series Tremeall HBO productions, offer incisive critiques of other televisual narratives of disaster and recovery constructed by broadcast news media, which they self-consciously position themselves in opposition to. In particular, Spike Lee's first film, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Actsechoes the anger voiced in crisis coverage of the storm and its aftermath, while countering representations that portrayed the disproportionately poor and black survivors as non-citizen others. Lee's second film, If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Riseand the first season of Treme both critique and participate in the dominant tropes of televisual narratives of recovery. Importantly, their representations of racism as a structural phenomenon that cannot be resolved solely on the level of the individual, gives lie to the insistent message of racial harmony conveyed in news coverage of the fifth-year anniversary. However, like these anniversary programs, Treme and If God is Willing find narrative resolution to the crises precipitated by Katrina in the Saints' 2010 Super Bowl victory, the celebration of Mardi Gras, and the election of President Barack Obama. To the extent that the racial disparities evidenced by Katrina undermined dominant ideologies of colorblindness and American exceptionalism, this narrative resolution helps to shore them back up.