Deep South Documentary Discovers Segregated Mardi Gras Celebrations in Mobile, Alabama
Judging from The Order of Myths, recent pronunciations of America as a post-racial society are a bit premature. For this eye-opening documentary, directed by Margaret Brown (Be Here to Love Me), matter-of-factly examines the still-segregated celebration of Mardi Gras staged in Mobile, Alabama in 2007.
The city was ostensibly picked because it is steeped in tradition, being the site where the annual ritual was first introduced to this country way back in 1703, a full 15 years before New Orleans was even founded. The event has continued to be observed to this day, ostensibly oblivious to the inroads achieved by the Civil Rights Movement elsewhere in terms of integration.
Helen Meaher at her coronation in
Margaret Brown’s documentary
“The Order of Myths”
Consequently, Mobile simultaneously mounts two elaborate Mardi Gras.
Carnivals: one for blacks, one for whites. Ms. Brown never presumes to take an editorial stance on Mobile’s enduring color line, opting to allow the citizens’ words speak for themselves.
Not surprisingly, the Caucasians are rather comfortable with the arrangement, and generally suggest that the affairs are essentially “separate but equal.” They see the situation as simply a case of people choosing to associate with their own kind. As one salty cracker puts it, “Nobody’s going to tell me who’s going to come into my house. Black people have their own Mardi Gras and want it that way.”
Most of the African-Americans who appear on camera avoid controversy and certainly seem content with the status quo, but one can’t help but wonder whether they might be too intimidated to share their true feelings. Dr. Cain Hope Felder, a Professor at Howard University, is a glaring exception in this regard. He speaks freely about Mobile’s ugly legacy, including a lynching by a 19 year-old by the Klan as recently as 1981. He also notes that there’s a neighborhood known as Slave Town, which is where Africans brought by a slave ship settled in 1859, well after the trade was supposedly illegal.
At least the picture ends on an upbeat, with the black Mardi Gras King and Queen being announced and greeted by the white King and Queen and their Royal Court at their gathering. A nice gesture, but in the sequel I’d like to see these refined rednecks really shaken out of their comfort zone.
Next time, how about taking these folks north of the Mason-Dixon Line to see how the other half of the country lives before they miss out on the 21st Century entirely?
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 77 minutes
Studio: Lucky Hat Entertainment
Distributor: The Cinema Guild
To see a trailer of The Order of Myths,