I didn’t claim to be Cajun until I went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I didn’t realize the fascinating tale of my heritage. I also didn’t gather there was a distinction between Cajun or Creole or that there was actually a vast difference between all parts of my state: New Orleans is completely different from Baton Rouge; Lafayette/Acadiana is distinguished from the current and former state capitals; there are actually Prairie Cajuns and Bayou Cajuns; and north Louisiana is almost a different state completely.
Once I had this cultural epiphany, I realized the equation that perpetuates the problem: media + advertising + corrupt politics = misinformed perception.
Louisiana has always had a colorful history with a flare for fun. After all, we are the toe-tapping boot and the mouth of the Mississippi. We literally are the shit – the excess of the entire right half of the country flows from tributaries through us to the Gulf of Mexico.
With the surge of technology over the past 10 years, the Cajun image has been contorted to a nearly unrecognizable spin-off of a New Orleans step-brother. People from across the nation assume we are one in the same, but that could not be farther from the truth. But how would they know? They see commercials for multiple chain restaurants that say, “Try our Cajun style ________, straight from New Orleans.” Or they watch new popular shows like “Swamp People” and think that we all say, “Choot ’em.”
Should we embrace the fact that people know who we are even though they don’t understand that we do not cook like New Orleans or possess the same colloquial vernacular?
In the past two weeks I have joked that we should create a class action lawsuit as Cajuns against restaurants who misuse our name for their recipes. Shouldn’t it be Cajun approved before it goes national? Anyone who has eaten food in both New Orleans and Lafayette knows that the food is vastly different. Not even all Louisianians understand this concept, so how can anyone who has never visited our homestead?
I’m sure that many denizens from other states have similar issues with how their lives are portrayed on television. For example, the first time I flew to New York City to visit a friend, I was terribly nervous to hale a taxi cab and travel solo at night. My friend commented that life in NYC is not like NYPD Blue and he assured me that I would be fine – and he was right.
This morning I saw a status on Facebook that announced a casting call for a new show, “Party Down South.” The concept is similar to that of Jersey Shore. My qualm with the announcement was this line: “The search is on for the next big television personalities who are ragin’ Cajuns and appreciate all that the Southern Gulf cities have to offer.” This may not seem like a big deal, but a sentence later it listed that casting calls will be in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (NOT JUST REAL CAJUNS).
I feel like yelling, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”. All Americans should be outraged. We are allowing pop-culture society to ruin our roots. It doesn’t matter if you are Cajun or not. We should not sit by and let D-listed entertainment further cripple the minds of today’s ignorance and tomorrow’s youth. How long will we let rich culture deteriorate – everywhere?
A lawsuit may seem extreme. But sometimes an extreme measure is the only thing that makes it into the sensational mainstream media.
Here’s the full Casting Call invitation. Think for yourself:
Media Alert: Party Down South Casting
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Doron Ofir Casting June 27, 2011
DORON OFIR CASTING & 495 PRODUCTIONS ARE CURRENTLY CASTING LOUD & PROUD GULF SOUTHERNERS AND CAJUNS
LOS ANGELES, CA (June 27, 2011) – Doron Ofir Casting in conjunction with 495 Productions is proud to announce the summer 2011 casting tour in search of the hottest, proudest Gulf Southerners, Bayou residents and Cajuns to star in PARTY DOWN SOUTH (working title) by the legendary Casting Company and Production Company of MTV’s smash hit series, JERSEY SHORE . . . the search is on for the next big television personalities who are ragin’ Cajuns and appreciate all that the Southern Gulf cities have to offer.
“American is the greatest melting pot of cultures, dialects, lifestyles and hometown pride! I am excited at the prospect of presenting a cast that’s rich with personalities, that capture the world’s attention by showcasing the unique flavor of this slice of the South” – Doron Ofir Executive Casting Director.
In an effort to find the most outrageous and best characters in the South, casting events and interviews will be held throughout the month of July in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Doron Ofir Casting is seeking Gulf-Coast Southerners who are at least 21 years old and looking to prove that the party down South will rise again. If you call ‘gators your neighbors, reckon Mardi Gras should be a national holiday, your daisy dukes fit just right and are ready to make your Maw Maw and Paw Paw proud, we are looking for you!
The official casting and digital application to be considered and invited to audition can be found atwww.partydownsouth.com