Life imitating art

Watching Channel 4 News this evening with a special report on New Orleans I was reminded of a scene from Warren Ellis’ stonkingly good Transemetropolitan series. The first cruise liner had docked in the still-ravaged city with the mostly British passengers of the opinion that the Big Easy could use some tourist money. Part of their visit included a bus tour of the most damaged districts, so we had wealthy cruise passengers in a luxury coach passing through devastated areas with their expensive cameras up against the windows.

And I was reminded of a scene in Transemetropolitan where a region torn apart by a civil conflict finds that wealthy tourists from safe homes start taking breaks in the former war zone, taking in some disaster chic (but not having to live with it of course). Darrick Robertson, the artist, treated the reader to an image of former revolutionaries and terrorists in their paramilitary uniforms, now all with friendly name tags and big smiles acting as tour guides, while poverty stricken kids make souveniers for the tourists from gun shell casings.

Its a bit of a catch-22 situation I suppose – touring such areas seems insulting and tawdry, a horrid disaster voyeurism almost. And yet, like the areas devastated by the Asian tsunami, these areas used to be tourist hot spots and they do need to start attracting folk back; hard to know how to feel about it really. But I still recommend Transemetropolitan though; if John Pilger and Hunter S Thomson has an atomic mutant baby it would look a lot like Spider Jerusalem, Transmet’s underground journalist.