Tuesday 28th March 2017,
Televisual

On ‘Treme,’ Reliving the Early Days of YouTube

Remember vlogging? Yes, people still vlog. But seeing Creighton Bernette (John Goodman), 50-something non-telegenic English professor, turn on his webcam and rant into a camera without irony or zippy editing sent me running to Google to confirm Treme does, in fact, take place in late 2005. Vlogging, direct upload-style, seems so retro!

In the fourth episode, Creighton sees an article titled “Post Katrina Mardi Gras Spurs National Debate” — which from what I can tell never appeared on Nola.com or the Times-Picayune — and decides to take to the Internet, following his daughter’s example, to complain about the general political impasse in New Orleans: the lack of federal money, the rapidity with which Chicago and San Francisco were rebuilt after their catastrophic disasters and a general “fuck you” to all those non-invested in Crescent City. The rant is apparently based on this text-based rant from the late Ashley Morris.

Of course, in 2006, old people could still get hits on YouTube — apologies for using “old,” but the average age of a popular YouTuber must now be about 22 — see Zipster08 and Geriatric1927, both of whom joined in August 2006 and still have decent, if not stratospheric, followings. Now YouTube’s top tier consists largely of the young, attractive, apolitical and editing-saavy. Creighton’s direct-upload is largely a thing of the past, a strategy once associated with YouTube’s authenticity — see my article in FirstMondayan ideology advocated by YouTube stalwarts like Renetto (see his appearance on Professor Mike Wesch’s famous viral video about YouTube). This was quickly usurped by users like Philip DeFranco and Ze Frank, who knew style worked over substance. Given Treme‘s ongoing love affair with authenticity, it seems fitting the show would memorialize, comically, this fleeting moment in digital culture.

Treme is an exercise in recent history, which is, at times, the easiest to forget. It isn’t simply footage of George Bush or narratives ripped from newspapers stories (seems like I need to do some reading on Entergy)Β that marks Treme as a pseudo-documentary exploration in hyperrealist storytelling. Apparently it’s also the quirky stuff too. Nice to know Simon & Co. have a sense of humor, a sense of how, as much as plus ca change, some things change quite rapidly.

 

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

6 Comments

  1. geroyche May 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    As an aside, i find the depiction of websites/computers in “historic settings” challenging for production designers.
    i am not sure if that is how youtube looked in december 2005. whether it is or not, there is a video among the similar video links named something like “Bush Katrina Second Anniversary”…

  2. geroyche May 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    …the desktop looks suspiciously like Windows Vista or maybe even Win7 too πŸ˜‰

  3. Aymar Jean Christian May 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Good point! It’s certainly possible to basically recreate something online from five years ago, but probably takes more diligence, effort and money than even HBO is likely to expend.

  4. jimmy May 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

    yeah, it does look like win 7 or vista. I looked into the dates and he should have been 100% using XP.

    too funny, and what a f up on the site of the producers.

  5. geroyche April 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    was gonna let sleeping dogs lie, but in episode 1 of season 2 mrs. bernette
    is using IE8, which was released in ’09…

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