Remembering Katrina via Satire

Parades – all of us have been to one or two at a point in our lives; they’re fun. But why do we enjoy parades, and what is the significance of them? Well, the answer to both of these questions is subjective, but to aid in understanding it is important to look at the etymology and what it means to celebrate a parade. A parade is defined as “[a] large public procession, usually including a marching band and often of a festive nature, held in honor of an anniversary, person, event, etc” by Dicitonary.com. But if we look at the origin of the word, there’s a difference in meaning. According to etymonline.com, the present-day use of the word derives from the 15th century French word “parade,” which is an “assembly of troops for inspections.” Modern displays of parades are an agency to the performance of memory; and in the context of contemporary New Orleans and its famous Mardi Gras parade(s), the militaristic connotation of the word can be traced back to the French Quarter of the city. When we talk of the French Quarter and parades in New Orleans, we must also talk of the “Krewe du Vieux.”

The Krewe du Vieux is a satirical parade that was erected in 1987 and is primarily based around adult themes and often hosts native brass bands. The Krewe de Vieux is an amalgamation of several other “krewes” that join together to celebrate the history, through satire, of New Orleans’ French Quarter; they are also the only parade permitted to inhabit the area. This is important to note especially in the context of post-Katrina New Orleans, for it raises the question of whether the agency of satire is productive in remembering the life before Katrina.

According to this article, published by Cambridge University Press, it is stated that “[r]ecent empirical research into humour and memory attests to the fact that people remember better when they perceive a word, phrase or image to be humorous” – satire aids in the performance of memory by using humor to transmit information – in this case, trauma. In the context of post-Katrina NOLA, we must focus on the Mardi Gras parade hosted by the Krewe de Vieux immediately following the devastation, and the specific theme celebrated. The theme of the 2006 parade through the French Quarter was spoken through the voice of the people as a response to Katrina: “C’est la Vie,” or, “that’s life.” It represents the willingness and perseverance of the citizens of New Orleans to overcome adversity and remember the events that unfolded in Katrina’s wake – the agency of satire helps to translate the memory of the people to others by making light of the devastation.

 The Krewe de Vieux has been operating successfully through satire since the late 1980’s and using evidence from the article above that proves satire to be efficient in the performance of memory, the traumatic events in which we want to forget are not. The Krewe de Vieux uses satire to make light of situations with traumatic stigmas, ultimately making these situations easier to remember.

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