I just, very belatedly, watched the first episode of True Detective. Thoughts? First, glad to see Matthew McConaughey’s star rise even further – I’ve long thought he’s an amazing actor and he’s been criminally underrated in the past.
Second: clever, stylish, creepy. In the main, I loved it. But one thing bothered me: the fetishisation of the South and specifically of Louisiana, probably because the main culprit (Matthew McConaughey’s character) is supposed to be a Texan.
Sample quotes: “People here don’t know the rest of the world exists”; a town is “like a memory of a town”, to which were added some hints of folk magic and an abundance of dreamy shots of the bayou.
None of these things necessarily represent inaccurate or even undesirable elements of a portrayal of Louisiana, but somehow when mixed up together (like a cocktail, pot of gumbo, voodoo potion or murky swamp, probably) there’s an overly strong whiff of an idea of Louisiana as exotic and outlandish, the land of elaborate fancies and tempting vices.
We do this kind of thing in London too. For instance, if you tack the word “voodoo” or just “New Orleans-style” onto anything it’s instantly cool and edgy round here at the moment.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s this simple. What starts as cultural exoticising has a tendency to turn into political exclusion. Here’s an example.
People in New Orleans joke about other Americans needing a passport to visit their city. Then, after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana citizens forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in other states were routinely labelled as “refugees”, as if they’d come from another country, probably one of those far away ones that are a bit strange and that we don’t actually need to worry about.
So I’ll carry on watching True Detective, but with this in mind: whatever’s “true Louisiana” about it is also “true America”.