“Disneyfication” is an accusation hurled regularly at the Mayor of New Orleans and the City Council. When government imposes rules on activities, gatherings, parades, etc., folks get upset. They feel government should stay out of street culture. This is an almost-weekly battle. Musicians, artists, performers, and just average citizens rail against rules. They believe hizzoner and the Council “sanitize” the Quarter with these rules. This sanitation, they argue, turns the Quarter into Disneyland’s “New Orleans Square”, rather than a living community.
Disneyfication is pushed by the community as well
City Hall is not the only source of Disneyfication. Look at how Disneyland presents New Orleans. They created a point-in-time snapshot of the French Quarter. Now they maintain that snapshot. This is a deeper issue than scheduled parades, perfectly-clean streets, and no spontaneous/ad hoc cultural demonstrations.
So, the snapshot itself is the problem. New Orleans neighborhoods, are living communities. Residents change, businesses change, buildings evolve. Some of these changes are natural, others, such as demolition by neglect situations, are bad for the community. It is important that everyone’s thoughts and needs be considered when discussing the future of the neighborhood.
Disneyfication outside the Quarter
So, let’s stroll through Faubourg Marigny and into the Bywater. These areas also have historic protections in place. So, they are much less commercialized. They are still primarily residential. Therefore, the residents of these neighborhoods define the culture. They have a larger impact than the residents of the Quarter. We’ve seen an interesting expansion of our Carnival celebration in these neighborhoods. Over the years, ad hoc street parades evolved into full-blown events. These parades now require permits, cops, and serious organization.
Furthermore, Carnival parades happened all over the city. Over time, City Hall and the cops forced krewes into standard routes. The current neighborhood clubs bring Carnival back to parts of town that are outside the standards. Overall, this evolution is popular. It’s ignored by folks who have no interest in venturing into the Bywater.
New Orleans has a rich tradition of parades outside of Carnival season. The most common street parades are put on by the various Social Aid and Pleasure organizations in the African-American community. These clubs continue the “second line” tradition, expanding it beyond just funeral parades for jazz musicians.
While the “second line season” in the backatown neighborhoods continues strong, there’s been an expansion brass band parades. It’s much easier to obtain a permit for such a parade than it’s been in the past, so we see more “jazz funerals” and weddings in this style. These parades are usually short and conform to the traditions of brass band parades we’ve seen develop over decades.
Advocating a snapshot
This year, we’ll have two “tribute parades” in the second line style. As a result, there’s a huge howl from “purists”. These critics view non-traditional events as an affront to history and heritage. By their opposition, these advocates for conformity argue for “snapshots”. They want have a personal view of what a street parade should be. Deviations from that snapshot are viciously criticized on social media. These scolds insist that those who want to modify the style and purpose of a New Orleans street parade are abhorrent to the culture.
What the scolds don’t realize is that they’ve become what they hate. They are a downtown/backatown version of “sanitization”. They are as much part of the Disneyfication trend as the government.