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MY Satire’s Better Than YOUR Satire

May 18, 2010
by

Oh. My. God.

To hear Creighton go on about Davis’ – “that bozo” ‘s – city council campaign, you’d think the man had come up with some form of Korsakov’s syndrome regarding his own parade plans and preparations.  His daughter’s making a sperm costume, for crying out loud.  The float the Bernettes march behind depicts then-mayor C. Ray Nagin in a masturbatory pose.  I mean, really.

All of which begs an important question: whose satire reigns more supreme?

Oh, come on, I hear friends say.  It’s apples and oranges.  Public good versus putting on a show for the hell of it (yeah, Toni gets caught up in that one).  Shedding some “sun light” on city corruption versus crude sex-and-possibly-drug-fueled commentary.  No contest.  Spare us.

Pardon me, but there was definitely something in the air other than mold spores and cold temperatures in the early months of 2006.  Despite the displacement of large numbers of the city’s population, New Orleans went ahead with its Carnival season anyhow, which brought back many locals, even if only for a day or two for a ball, or for riding on a float, or for standing in garbage to see Bacchus and Endymion coming one after the other down St Charles Avenue.  Maybe you were marching as an Indian or a Bone Man, or you decided to turn yourself out on Mardi Gras day with a merry band of people all dressed as 45s of the Greatest Hits of the Federal Flood (which included classics such as “Up On The Roof”, “When the Levee Breaks”, and “Louisiana 2005” (instead of “Louisiana 1927“, of course)).

At the same time, our hurting city was gearing up for a mayoral election, and said election initially attracted at least 23 -yes, 23 – candidates.  Who on earth would want to take control of this crazy mess?  Politically, City Hall was a black hole of corruption and cronyism (and, in too many ways, it still is), but people who paid their candidates’ fees in that election and took their chances banked on having, at the very least, a temporary soapbox on which to stand and shout out how slowly recovery was going, how horrific it was that hospitals, schools and various city services had gone straight to hell and that it was time for major changes to be made.  Oh, sure, there were some folks running who were so delusional, they actually thought they had a chance despite their past misdeeds.  There were characters from the city’s political past that reared their heads again for a shot at the Mayor’s Office. A circus atmosphere reigned, complete with a zookeeper (well, the CEO of our zoo and aquarium, anyhow) and an out-of-work actor and comedian who billed himself as “A Troubled Man For Troubled Times”.  For those needing a more detailed snapshot of those campaigns, I recommend this Washington Post article from April 2006.

The result of disaster plus political campaigning multiplied by Carnival season?  A pageant of satire that seemed to know no bounds.  There was so much material, and to let it all just sit there would have been criminal in this town.

Considering how many people were still mentally shocked and physically and mentally exhausted from their struggles rebuilding their homes, lives, and neighborhoods, to not even attempt to see the black humor in many of the situations we found ourselves in each day could well have proven to be hazardous to our health.  See, the mayor – the supposed leader of this city – parading his incompetence for the world to see was abominably awful and ultimately damaging for New Orleans  – but the ability to take his extreme vanity and translate that into a float of his pleasuring himself for all to see helped put Hizzoner the Walking Id into perspective, not just for the float builders and the krewe that came up with the idea, but for the folks watching the float as it passed by.  At the same time, presenting oneself as a fringe candidate in a race for a local office of some renown and basing a platform on satirical observations in such a serious setting gave the fringe outsider’s message more weight…hell, people are still talking about Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno today, and not just because he keeps entering the mayor’s races, but because making suggestions such as that of getting the Amish to come in and rebuild New Orleans, since they can build a barn in a day without electricity, rang especially true in post-flood 2006.

I’m not saying everybody thought the same things were funny.  And I’m not saying Carnival and the elections were the cures for all that ailed us, because they weren’t.  What they were, however, were indicators that however completely messed and screwed-up the city was at that time, we were still here, keeping the traditions going and doing our civic best to get this town back on its feet.  Mardi Gras was something to work towards.  The elections were a chance to put some real, competent change in the office on Perdido Street.  These were signs that New Orleans and its people were not going to go quietly into the Gulf.

And whether we’re running for office just to make a point or marching as some highly politically incorrect person, place, or thing in a Carnival parade, New Orleanians are still going to let you know where we’re at – if only because we’ve learned the hard way what happens when we don’t make our voices heard.

18 Comments
  1. tim permalink
    May 18, 2010 4:24 pm

    Manny Bruno is actually a pretty tame candidate by NOLA standards. Doesn’t anyone remember Albert “Supa N***” Jones?

  2. May 18, 2010 10:21 pm

    I thought Creighton was unduly hard on Davis, and that Davis’ running, within the context of the story, is as valid as political satire as Krewe du Vieux. JMHO *ducks*

  3. May 18, 2010 11:47 pm

    Concur. The Creighton character is completely blind to his own irreverence while criticizing Davis for being goofy. There’s always a crackpot on the ballot, and it’s not always obvious before the people vote.

    Loved the contrast between the nice jazz combo and the Mardi Gras ball where Antoine cuts loose. The chief’s son plays with technical precision, but we can see his heart is not in it and he’s just going through the motions because that’s what a “successful” jazz trumpeter does. At some point they have to get him up on stage with Kermit.

    Peace,

    Tim

  4. rickngentilly permalink
    May 19, 2010 12:18 am

    dang.

    good stuff.

  5. liprap permalink
    May 19, 2010 7:02 am

    Old traditions die very hard ’round here, especially the ones that involve the local characters.

  6. May 19, 2010 7:26 am

    Like I said earlier, the moment anyone takes Krewe du Vieux seriously is time for them to stop walking in it. It is one of the most ginormous instances of gearing up exactly to get a sense of humor and not to take oneself seriously. In fact, Davis is in the right to take himself more seriously, more than political satire, when running for mayor council than under normal circumstances because, well, he’s running for mayor council.

  7. liprap permalink
    May 19, 2010 7:55 am

    Davis is running for council, actually, but I’m still glad that Jacques Morial dispelled Davis’ notion that he could actually win the thing. I could see Davis getting the stars in his eyes watching himself on TV and then it was, “Uh oh, he could end up being the one depicted on a KdV float jerking himself off… Davis, run from that! RUN!”

  8. May 19, 2010 9:08 am

    Context is everything. New Orleans politics might have always been a circus, but I remember that it sure didn’t seem as funny after the storm. It still doesn’t.

    Within the story, keep in mind that Creighton has always been cold to Davis. It’s still not entirely clear why. Perhaps he’s a protective dad. Perhaps he just has a low tolerance for rich kid fuck ups. And Creighton inhabits a very different world from Davis. Although the professor’s wife spends her time defending musicians, I don’t see any evidence that Creighton knows that world firsthand. He goes to Frenchmen Street in the afternoon for coffee, but at night he heads to Upperline and the fictional bistro.

    I still don’t know how to read the professor. There are suggestions that he is morally the most complex lead character. Most of the other characters are facing the almost overwhelming task of rebuilding their lives. It’s hard, given that situation, to cast them as anything but good in the face of evil. Creighton, however, isn’t in that position.

    When he tells his daughter that life is a zero sum game and for her to get an education others will lose, that shows that unlike his wife–who seems almost like a saint in her sacrifices for others–he’s navigating a situation where good and bad aren’t always so clear. You can’t do the best for your child while also doing the best for everyone else.

  9. May 19, 2010 12:01 pm

    There are suggestions that he is morally the most complex lead character.

    Bingo!

    The claims that Creighton is just a big fat hypocrite blind to his own obvious failings is too simplistic. This is not how things were done in The Wire and likely not how they are done here. The truth of the matter is that we are likely to learn more about Creighton (and the other characters) as time goes on that makes things more clear, but to dump it all out in an obvious manner in the first few episodes would have been ham-handed and weak.

    Seriously, at what point in The Wire did Lt. Daniels become a bad-ass? He was an officious pain-in-the-ass career man who wanted no mikes, no wires, just buy-and-bust, get some quick indictments and get out. It wasn’t until well into the first season that he really started fleshing out as a character.

  10. liprap permalink
    May 19, 2010 12:02 pm

    Creighton, on initially meeting Davis, cringed at his wordiness and then wanted to get a move on when Davis heard he was an English prof and that Davis himself had been an English major in his college days. Earlier in that same episode, Creighton bemoaned the undergrad students he had to work with whose heaviest reading had been, more often than not, the Harry Potter series. Throw in the protectiveness he has for his daughter and the relationship between him and Davis ain’t off to a good start with him. It goes downhill from there.

    Creighton is pretty damn depressed, and it’s a depression that probably predates the storm, judging from his six-year hiatus on his novel. The circumstances of Tulane being out, keeping him home, and the general heightened malaise of the post-flood days is probably making things worse. The man needs to get the hell out of his house…but, then again, he feels that obligation to finish his novel now, since his agent came down and pitched the idea of basing something on his YouTube rants to his publisher. He’s stuck. I hate to see what he’s going to be like trying to meet his self-imposed month-long deadline for something to get to the publisher. It won’t be pretty at all.

  11. May 19, 2010 12:43 pm

    Is Goodman available for the second season?

  12. brueso permalink
    May 20, 2010 1:41 am

    Daniels didn’t begin biting back til around episode 10 in the 12 episode 1st season of the Wire.

    Time will tell, but Creighton may always be a bit of a snob when it comes to such things as satire, etc. One of the great things about John Goodman being cast in that role is that he personally has so much good will with the audience going in- who doesn’t like John Goodman? So to have him play a crotchety guy that isn’t always likable must be a gas for him.

  13. May 20, 2010 6:29 am

    liprap, I’ll have to check again, but I think what his agent proposed was that the novel be set in contemporary, Katrina times (even just a bracketing device, a prologue or something).

    Maybe it seems like a fine point, but consider that Creighton is novelist, and asking him to abandon a novel for some kind of Chicken Soup for the Fucker’s Soul would be a serious insult and blow to him. They’ve insulted the integrity of his novel to a certain extent, but are willing to let him keep most of his vision if they can find some way to hang it on the hot hot hot Katrina, and he is sick about exploiting it (on top of all the other baggage).

  14. wigatrisk permalink
    May 20, 2010 7:29 am

    Everytime Treme starts in on political corruption or political campaigning I keep expecting Senator Clay Davis to appear in a doorway with that self-righteous grimace and a long “ssssssssssshhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttt!!!”

  15. liprap permalink
    May 20, 2010 7:30 am

    That’s true, Greg. But he has put that deadline on himself. I’m just wondering what the quality of it will be like in a month’s worth of rushed work. He’s in a bind.

  16. liprap permalink
    May 20, 2010 7:44 am

    Heh. That wouldn’t be colorful enough for New Orleans and Louisiana pols or candidates.

  17. wigatrisk permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:14 am

    hehe, no doubt that would rankle Clay the most. Still, I’m not sure that the Wire-actors employment project always pays off for Treme. Seeing Prez for one minute was just distracting to me, without any real reward beyond the obvious recognition.

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