A Bronx Fail: Unflattering Documentary Pulled From TV

by BILLY GRAY · February 12, 2010

Hunts Point community leaders yanked Hookers at the Point, an HBO documentary about the neighborhood's prostitution trade, from the air. They say it perpetuates a rancid, outdated image of the place. Maybe so, but burying the doc smells fishy (and not because of the local market).

I'm reluctant to really rally to Hookers at the Point's defense. It's tawdry and puerile and borderline exploitative. As City Room points out, its director, Brent Owens, also graced us with the Bergman-esque Pimps Up, Ho's Down. But as one commenter said, the film accurately "captures a moment in time." Should we destroy all historical primary sources that cast their settings in a bad light?

Should Netflix take Taxi Driver out of circulation now that its jazzy, jolie laide portrait of long-gone Times Square seediness doesn't jibe with the area's ESPN Zone and Mary Poppins musical of today? Why not remove "How The Other Half Lives" from public libraries since chi-chi boutiques currently inhabit erstwhile Lower East Side tenements? And while we're at it, let's have a steamroller run over the dozens of 54 DVDs in existence since the legendary club is closed. (OK, I wouldn't be totally opposed to that one.)

I obviously cheer on the news that Hunts Point is less of a hellhole today than it once was. David Gonzales concedes that "no one is pretending that prostitution has vanished from the Point," but a resident who recently caught the flick on late night TV argues that "compared to how things were, it's a thousand times better now." Another local interviewed by the Times said that she even knows newcomers who moved there from the Upper East Side!

But it would be a pity if movies and books and music about New York were forced to become as sanitized as the city itself.