‘Brick City’ Documentary Season 2: Real Time With Cory Booker

There isn't a documentary filmmaker alive who can possibly keep up with Newark, N.J.'s tireless mayor. How can his constituents?

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker at a January 2011 "Brick City" screeningin Park City, Utah (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker at a January 2011 "Brick City" screeningin Park City, Utah (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

“I have to be careful of everyone who is in my circumference,” Jayda tells her mentees in her nonprofit Nine Strong Women, trying to explain how she wound up facing more criminal charges. But “it’s difficult because I help people who are sick. I help strippers. I help drug dealers.”

Without these characters (and also the chain-smoking defense attorney Brooke Barnes), Newarkers themselves would be abstractions, mere numbers in a police body-count ticker.

But there is no doubt that the camera still loves Booker best. Even facing the mundane day-to-day drudgery of budget cuts and funerals, and renovating his first home, the slightly awkward and impossibly earnest Booker is a high-wattage star in what is fast becoming politics’ Reality Age.

All of this oversharing might once have been political suicide. But we are talking about a time when Sean Duffy, an alumnus of MTV’s Real World who is married to another Real World alum, is now sitting in Congress. Not to mention, this is also the era of She Who Shall Not Be Named, who failed at being governor and yet succeeded as a reality-TV star and continues to have credible presidential aspirations.

Booker’s light has shone beyond the Newark city limits ever since his first electoral defeat was documented in the 2005 Oscar-nominated film Street Fight. In one scene in Brick City‘s latest season, filmed in 2009, Booker tells his staff that they need to capitalize on his then-17,000 Twitter followers. He casually notes that 2,000 of those followers actually live in Newark.

Today, as the number of Booker followers has ballooned past 1 million (three times the population of Newark), you have to wonder who the intended audience is for his Mayor Snowplow routine. “Cory Booker gotta stop twittering,” taunts his nemesis Ras Baraka, the high school principal and son of the poet Amiri, his fingers flittering in the air.

Indeed. Jake Tapper’s Booker tweet was hilarious — if you are in on the joke. But if you are among the 92 percent of Americans who have Internet access but don’t use Twitter, your democracy moves a lot slower.

Natalie Hopkinson is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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