It’s all gonna’ work out…
“It’s all gonna work out…”
— Antoine Batiste
“I’d rather my head dipped in duck fat and shoved in the French oven…”
“Fucking is fucking, but music…that’s personal”
— Annie’s friend
“I’m from the state of Texas, and no insult, but y’all have a defective work ethic.”
— The Texican
Wow…what to say? So many huge moments in this week’s episode. Obviously, the biggest is Creighton’s suicide. Then we also have Jannette’s decision to leave. I am certain that the ramifications of both of these decisions will be felt exponentially as it affects more and more characters on our show.
I have been thinking a lot about the motivation for Creighton’s suicide (as much as one can give a motivation for such things). Obviously, we have all of the standard “cliché” reasons that one could impute to him: depression, alcoholism, shame, and his general inability to move beyond where he ended up. (And using “cliché” here is already problematic as it somehow implies—which is not what I intend to do at all—that these sorts of reasons are illegitimate.) I find myself attracted to the idea of viewing this as an issue of recognition. In this sense, I would want to counterpose Creighton to Albert. Albert says an interesting thing this week, when he states: “They gonna’ do what they gonna’ do—I’m gonna be heard.” Now, we’ve seen Davis abdicate his political voice for the promise of pleasure and we’ve seemingly watched Creighton begin to find a voice in his YouTube broadcasts. Albert, on the other hand, has only spoken with his actions and he still feels like he hasn’t been heard.
Where I think Creighton ends up is in realizing that his YouTube voice is not really a voice, but just, to quote Hegel, the “fury of destruction.” In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel describes a consciousness that he calls an “ironic” one that takes any sort of objective content and immediately destroys it through its subjective claims (which could take the form of mockery or sarcasm as much as anything else). I think Creighton is the perfect stand-in for such a shape here: although Creighton gets recognition from his YouTube broadcasts, it’s fickle because there is really no Creighton recognize—he is nothing except an opposition to more and more items in the world (from Bush to FEMA to whatever else). (This becomes obvious when Creighton doesn’t recognize himself in the recognition that a fellow professor gives him w.r.t. the videos.) Eventually, as the season progresses, Creighton loses interest in even his family and once that happens, Creighton disappears, since the very people who would give him existence—who would recognize him—are no longer recognized by him. In short, what seems to happen is that Creighton dissolves the possibility of his own existence, forgets his complex dependence on everyone else, including the worst elements of our government and culture, to which he is intimately bound. Once he decides (and quotes) that everyone is found wanting, then there is no one who could change his mind about this state of affairs.
I took Ladonna to embody the precise opposite of this position. Notice that she refuses to pursue Toni’s (Creightonesque, I would add) “search for truth.” She states quite unequivocally: “What if he got beat on by some inmate? Or a guard even? What then? You think getting’ my family all riled up over what happened to Damon gonna’ make this any easier? Hell no! All this gonna’ do is make it harder…boy is dead, it stays wrong for us no matter what else happens. And giving my momma’ someone to blame and hate on only makes it harder to get past it.” Here, we once again have a sort of dialectical moment. Often, Treme has presented us with the choice between justice on the one hand and democracy on the other. Here we are presented with the choice between truth (or justice) and life. Ladonna chooses the latter, Creighton the former. In choosing the latter, Ladonna makes possible mutual recognition: she recognizes the fundamental injustices of the world, but she also recognize how those elements and the ways in which she perceives those elements forms her very self and who she is and will be.
In this regard, I take Treme to have gotten infinitely more complex and interesting and I want to comment for a moment on the direction leading up to this point. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to argue that the majority of this season has been moralizing (although admittedly not in a bad way)—it’s rightfully put blame where blame should go. With this episode, however, those earlier seemingly “heavy-handed” moments are embedded in a dialectical structure that shows the complex mutual dependencies and mutual failures that makes up contemporary American life. There is much more to be said about all of this (a book’s worth or so, at least, by my estimation), but for now I just want to end by expressing my excitement for next week’s finale…