New Orleans Magazine calls By Invitation Only a “Hatchet Job”

At least that’s what I think they’re talking about. In the Speaking Out section (p. 32 of the January 2008 issue), you find this:

Carnival can count on at least one hatchet job a year. In 2006, it was a documentary that, in preaching against perceived intolerance, was as close-minded, uninformed and unfair to innocent people as the bigotry it portended to erase.

Awkward writing aside, this statement is a crock. By Invitation Only may have ruffled the feathers of elite New Orleanians, and they may have been duped a bit, but Rebecca Snedeker and her colleagues did a hell of a job exposing some people for what they are–racist, sexist, classist pricks who give a bad name to our city. I’m not sure why NOM thinks this was a hatchet job, but I’d like to know more about what it considers to be unfair and uninformed. In fact, the fact that Snedeker was informed allowed her to make the movie and to make it effective. I, for one, was glad to see what was there, even if there may have been a touch of misinformation on the part of the (willing or not) participants in the film.

Part of what chaps me is that shit likes this gives people the perception that NO is more racist than other places. I feel strongly that although there is plenty of racism here, and more than most of us would like to see, the average New Orleanian is pretty damned tolerant, and that tolerance is one thing that leads us to love the city. Yeah, this is the area that spawned David Duke and the “Wake Up White People” bumper stickers around town, but I’ve certainly never lived where my neighbors were so diverse. Nowhere growing up, Topeka-Tulsa-Lawrence-Lincoln-Beaumont, did I or my family ever have neighbors any blacker, poorer, or much different in any way than ourselves. Yet here, where I choose to live, it’s a different deal. And yet I’m painfully aware that some people wish we could go back to the “good old days” of race and class separation. This movie exposes that, and cheers to Rebecca for illuminating the rest of us.

Nevertheless, when I worry that maybe the world’s perceptions are right, and we are assholes, or I read the comments in the blogs and see the outright bigotry that they show, I come across something like this, from the progressive West. Just take a look at the article and the comments; pricks everywhere, indeed.

UPDATE:  Here’s the letter I sent to NO Magazine…

I assume the above passage refers to Rebecca Snedeker’s documentary “By Invitation Only.”  I would like to know exactly what about the film you believe to be so “close [sic]-minded, uninformed and unfair to innocent people” as to warrant the label of “hatchet job.”  As a non-elite New Orleanian, I found the film to be enlightening and strangely sympathetic to the well-connected citizens who are sometimes blissfully unaware of the hideousness of their organizations’ traditions. 

As Harry Connick, Jr. showed us in founding Orpheus, Mardi Gras need not continue to embrace the discriminatory norms of old line Mardi Gras krewes in order to be exciting, flamboyant, and traditional.  The film didn’t “portend” (I assume you meant purport) to erase bigotry but to expose it, and it did so effectively.  It’s true that some people may have been somewhat deceived as to the purpose of the filming, but as we are often told when it comes to things like the Patriot Act, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to hide. 

Would the krewe have admitted Snedeker’s Black boyfriend?  Did they not lampoon Darwin in past themes?  Do some of the traditions not hearken back to a time of antebellum simplicity and clarity of class standing?  If not, then rebut these claims in your magazine (I searched for any coverage of the film and found none), rather than broadly dismissing the film as irrelevant or off-base. 

I don’t disagree with the article’s premise that Mardi Gras has saved New Orleans; indeed, we all felt the presence of something like a miracle in the exuberance of Mardi Gras 2006.  Still, Mardi Gras does what it does in spite of, and not because of, the bizarre and discriminatory history of the celebrations.  Tradition is great to a point, but times change, and Mardi Gras is changing with it.  All hail Zulu & Muses!

3 Responses to New Orleans Magazine calls By Invitation Only a “Hatchet Job”

  1. liprap says:

    All RIGHT! Good letter.

    Errol Laborde, one of the scions of the folks that uphold and extol old-line Carnival, was probably responsible for that article. I hope the magazine prints your letter.

  2. Adrastos says:

    And we in KDV are tolerant of the penisy krewes. Errol’s not a bad guy but he has a major man crunch on the old line krewes. I do enjoy watching Orpheus fall off the bus at their den near my house though…

  3. Maitri says:

    Thanks for sending that well-written response.

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