I’ve resisted about as much as possible the urge to post on this.
No, I haven’t seen “Memphis Beat,” the cable cop show with characters set in Memphis but shot in New Orleans.
I have an aversion to just about any portrayal of our city in movies or on episodic television and I think I come by it honestly.
I get the whole thing about Memphis being a backdrop for a story arc that could take place anywhere. I know it’s not personal. But it is my hometown, so I feel the need to waste time making the point that Memphis is interesting enough without making up stuff about us.
The general notion in these kinds of portrayals is that we aren’t too bright or if we are, we aren’t capable of knowing it.
The ultra-eccentric xenophobic Memphian or Southerner rooted in an alternate universe of their own creation while dispensing unknowing wisdom with an exaggerated Southern accent is a movie or television character I’ve seen enough of. But to each his or her own.
The problem is that folks who aren’t from here, I believe have a greater tendency to use the movies and television shows as their guide to the real Memphis and the real South than they would if they were visiting some other part of the country.
If anyone writing these Memphis storylines really knew Memphis they would understand that our relationship with one Elvis Presley – while a quick way to establish location – is much more complex than they have ever imagined. And imagination is, I would think, a necessary quality in writing these stories.
Yet, here we are again with another faux Memphian bellowing the King’s tunes for family and friends as a regular part of his everyday life. That’s so you get that the story is set in Memphis, I guess.
It’s like the Law & Order detectives having to shoot one scene per episode in Ralph Kramden’s kitchen from The Honeymooners.
Maybe making the point wouldn’t be necessary if at this time of the year I didn’t continually encounter visitors to our city who are under the impression they’ve walked onto the set of Driving Miss Daisy or Steel Magnolias.
Little Feat and the late Lowell George are on the list too from years of working on Beale Street and encountering people trying to find the Commodore Hotel.
Note to those who have yet to visit Memphis but think they might want to: Those thousands of people you see every August outside the walls of Graceland dressed like various incarnations of Elvis or covered in every Elvis button and gee gaw copyrighted by EPE – That’s not us. They are very nice people who spend a lot of money here while on vacation. But they are living in a world of their own creation that has little to do with the day in – day out Memphis.
We are pretty tolerant of much of this. No one gets hurt. And the folks who visit have a good time even if they don’t really encounter any Memphians on a sustained basis.
Blending or hanging with the locals is a new frontier these days in tourism along with eco tourism and heritage tourism.
Memphis can and should be a big player in those frontiers because it has a richness to offer that few outside the city understand.
That’s why we need to be about the business of telling our own story.