I’ve lived in Austin for a long time. When I first came here to visit the University of Texas for college, I was blown away. It was big, it was mythical, it was weird. It was perfect.
We had barbecue, queso, and live music in every nook and cranny of the city. We had a cross-dressing homeless person, Leslie, who lived on Sixth Street, and ran for mayor. We had a university full of the best and the brightest from all over the world. Most of them didn’t look like me, talk like me, or think like me, and that was just fine. I liked the challenge, I liked the melting pot, and I loved the scenery.
Austin is often called the blue dot in the sea of Texas red. It has always been a liberal city, but not coastal liberal. It was Texas liberal. Yes, it was Democrat, but mostly business-friendly, Bill Clinton-style Democrats who were still sensible and understood that it was a growing community of people from the left, right and everywhere in-between.
Then San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York discovered our sleepy little college town. In the two decades I’ve lived here, I’ve seen Austin grow from a small city of just more than half a million people centered around a university, to a bustling metropolis of nearly 2.5 million people. I’ll let you do the math, but that’s a lot of people we’ve added while I’ve lived here.
I’ve watched downtown explode with glass-covered condos, the median home price skyrocket, and waved goodbye to many of the old haunts I enjoyed as a college kid as they vanished, replaced by a fancy boutique, “luxury” apartments, or a trendy restaurant.
Projecting Racism Onto Texas
Who were those two million souls who decided to move to Austin? Well, it would seem they’re Rob Lowe’s new character in “9-1-1: Lone Star,” snooty New Yorkers who want to “civilize” us.
On Lowe’s new Fox show, the aging sex symbol plays a New York City firefighter hired by the Austin Fire Department to restart a ladder unit decimated by an accident at a fertilizer plant. After all but one of the unit’s firefighters are killed, the Austin Fire Department hires him to start a “diverse” fire station, and boy do I mean diverse. It’s like they went to the woke checklist at the studio in Burbank and decided to check every single box, stir in the appearance that everyone else who lives in Texas is a racist pig, and spit out a terrible television show that is not worth your time.
We learn in the first ten minutes that the reason this station has to use identity politics to hire people is that the U.S. Justice Department has interceded. Apparently our Austin fire department is full of nothing but white, good ol’ boy racists, and DOJ needs Lowe, a New Yorker, to help construct a rainbow fire brigade to save Austin from itself.
That crew ends up containing a Muslim woman from Miami, a black transgender man from Chicago, an overlooked Latino man from Austin, and Lowe’s son, a gay opioid-addicted kid from NYC.
Now, if my house is on fire or I need the Jaws of Life to get me out of a bad car wreck, I don’t care what color or sex the firefighter is. As long as they can save me, I could not care less who they are on their down time. The problem here is that this show implies that Austin needs to be saved from itself, and that saving has to be done by the Woke Fire Brigade.
Go Back to New York City, Buddy
Lowe’s character makes numerous cracks throughout the first two episodes about how “this place is just like New York, but without so much trash in the streets.” He finds the same organic market (that would be Whole Foods, started in Austin), the same kooky hair doctor (they’re a dime a dozen), and feels like it’s just like home, but with better real estate prices.
Well here’s the thing, Rob: no one who has lived in Austin for a long time wants it to feel just like New York, or Los Angeles, or San Francisco. It’s Austin. We’ve been our own kind of weird for a very long time, and we like it that way. We don’t need any rescuing, and definitely not from the likes of the woke left.
I have to wonder if the creators and writers of this show have ever spent any real time in Austin. And no, the lobby bar of the W Hotel, or the Four Seasons during SXSW, does not count. I get the sense this show is the creation of a drunken SXSW evening.
I bet Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear, and Ryan Murphy came into town to see Barack Obama give the keynote address at SXSW a few years ago, had one too many cocktails at their hotel afterwards and said, “Hey, we should make a show that’s based here.” It’s clearly not filmed in Austin. Other than some B-roll, establishing shots, and green screen plates, “9-1-1: Lone Star” is filmed almost entirely in the Los Angeles area. And you can tell.
Texans Don’t Think Mexican Food Is Dangerous, Bro
It also does a horrible job of portraying Austinites. At one point in the early episodes, they respond to a call from a woman with a stereotypical Texas accent who complains that her neighbors’ barbacoa cooking is going to burn down the whole neighborhood.
If you’ve never cooked barbacoa, it’s beef cheek, goat, or lamb that is cooked with Mexican spices in a pit you dig in the ground. It makes the best street tacos, and is a treasured part of Latino culture in Texas.
It’s not something one neighbor would call the fire department over. That’s just absurd. It’s a Texas tradition. The only reason you’d call the fire department is to invite them to the party.
So too are peppers, another common ingredient in Tex-Mex foods, and the gag in another misadventure of Lowe’s fire brigade. At one point they save a man who accidentally eats some Carolina Reaper pepper sauce on a taco. I’m not sure how, but it makes him bleed out internally. I guess because it’s a TV show and you need something extra dramatic. That must also be the reason a baby seat was thrown from a car in an accident 30 feet high into a tree. Because, television.
This show also does a hit job on firefighters. After I graduated from college, I spent a couple of years working in Washington, D.C. The best job I had while in D.C. was working to get fire departments back in Texas money for new equipment. I got grants and appropriations requests for Texas firefighters to get new trucks, survival gear, boats for water rescue, breathing equipment, and radios so they could talk more effectively to other first responders. It was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.
When the money came through, I would get to fly back to Texas and deliver the good news to the hard-working fire crews, often in rural Texas towns. Every one of these firefighters were salt of the earth individuals. Whenever everyone was running from a disaster, they ran in to it, to save lives. It’s hard to find better people than firefighters, but I’m not sure you’d know that if you believed the DOJ in “9-1-1: Lone Star.”
I implore you, do not watch this show, and please, in the words of our official Minister of Culture, Matthew McConaughey, “Keep Austin Austin.”