npr on cajuns

An update to that last Cajun post: Karen points out this piece from today’s Morning Edition on a related topic — the bizarre prism through which Cajuns are viewed in popular culture.
It’s an interview with Shane Bernard, a guy I’ve been meaning to have a beer with for about a decade now and the author of [the] The Cajuns: Americanization of a People. Shane hits the right points about how a variety of factors (World War II service, the rise of television) led to the loss of much of Cajun culture and how goofy movies like The Big Easy and Southern Comfort caricature Cajuns, generally in unflattering ways. (He didn’t even mention the abominable The Waterboy, a movie whose mere mention makes me angry. For what it’s worth, Passion Fish remains one of the few mainstream Hollywood movie I’ve seen that nailed my part of the country.)
He also hits on one of my pet peeves — those who confuse New Orleans (a fine, fine city in its own right) with Cajun country. Very different places, people. There are essentially no Cajuns in New Orleans, for starters. (There are many more Cajuns in Houston than in New Orleans.) If you see anything Cajun in New Orleans, there’s a 99 percent chance it’s been faked and imported by the tourism industry in the last 20 years. Cajun music, zydeco, boudin, swamps, boiled crawfish — not New Orleans. (And for that matter: jazz, beignets, voodoo, those epic Mardi Gras parades — not Cajun.)

3 thoughts on “npr on cajuns”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I dig Nola, but it is its own funky little town that bears no resemblance to traditional Cajun culture. I had lived here for four years and had never heard of boudin until I ventured into southwest Louisiana for depositions.

  2. I wonder if anyone else thinks that Shane Bernard is a bit pessimistic with his thesis that traditional Cajun culture is no more. I found his book instructive and intriguing for the most part, but I can name ten or twenty aspects of Cajun culture that persist. Just the fact that those in the know can critique “The Big Easy” or find differences between New Orleans and Acadiana shows that a distinct Cajun culture endures.

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