Here we go again! This is the other half of an article I posted two weeks ago. New Orleans is my hometown, and one of the most diverse and beautiful places in America. New Orleans does get play in media, but it’s more illusive than your Chicago or your New York. And it’s always Mardi Gras. Seriously, there’s even a TV Tropes page about it. So, as an added condition to this list, I’m going to be highlighting pieces that don’t just use the Mardi Gras backdrop but actually incorporate the city, or it’s people or it’s culture. Last time I talked about Plays and Movies and Books and Comics. This time I’m going to go over Cartoons, Games and TV shows.
I don’t think anyone is going to argue when I say that HBO’s Treme is the best there’s ever been when it comes to showing our culture. Treme is a TV show from 2010 that focuses on the lives of New Orleans natives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’m part of the diaspora, but watching this show left me next to the ground zero aftermath in intimate detail. More than that, it shows people that could be my family and neighbors as they pick up the soggy pieces of their lives in an emphatic and realistic way. Folks, you will never see a show that understands you and your culture better than this one. Check it out on HBO Max.
Another strong contender is American Horror Story: Coven.
This is the third season of AHS, and it comes out firing on all cylinders. It’s about a coven of witches descended from Salem as they fight tooth and nail to find out who’s going to be their leader- the Supreme. It takes place in and around New Orleans and draws heavily on its culture and especially it’s local mythology. I don’t want to spoil much, but standouts include Danny Huston as the horrifying and soulful Axeman of New Orleans and the pitch perfect casting choice of Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau herself! Binge it on Netflix as soon as you can.
Probably the slimmest pickings on this list, video games do let you wander around the Big Easy from time to time, though they rarely refer to it by its actual name.
The Mafia series is exactly what it says on the tin. But the third game in the series took a departure from tommy guns and fedoras straight down to the dirty south. It’s called New Bordeaux, and it’s New Orleans in the year 1968. That makes it the only video game I can think of that lets me roleplay as my Dad. It’s about the best realized version of the city that you can kick around in games. And it’s about the only one I know that let’s you beat the snot out of the Klan. Get it for cheap on the PSN store.
Infamous 2 is a game where you play as an electrically charged superhero as he rail slides and lightning strikes all over the city of “New Marais.” You unravel a plot to turn citizens into mutant monsters as part of a tangle of political intrigue. It’s made by the good guys at Sucker Punch, who previously flirted with New Orleans culture by setting a Sly Cooper level in a Louisiana swamp. Infamous 2 gets special mention because it’s the closest thing I’ll ever get to a Static Shock simulator. And it takes place in my home town!
Cartoons don’t really get set in New Orleans. They tend to visit the city from time to time. If you’re my age, you’re probably thinking about Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. It’s probably the first time you saw your home in a cartoon. And it’s a surprisingly subversive and dark take on the Mystery Gang formula that mostly takes place in a haunted plantation on fictional “Moon Scar Island”.
The Boondocks Episode “Invasion of the Katrinians” is an honorable mention. In it, the Freeman family is imposed upon to house New Orleans refugees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Keep in mind that New Orleans media post Katrina pretty much always has the ghost of the disaster hanging over it.
The boondocks lambasts and dissects our people and our culture in the same way it does every corner of black culture, and it is damn funny about it the whole way through.
The Princess and the Frog also gets a mention, but it spends most of its time in the swamps around the city, and it frankly deserves a more thorough examination by a native like me.
I’d go on, but it looks like I’m out of time. When’s the last time you saw New Orleans on the page or the screen? Let me know in the comments below!