This past week I received approximately 20 people sending me a YouTube web show called “Ask a Slave” by Azie Dungey who portrayed an enslaved maid at Mount Vernon. Through this medium of YouTube she shares some insensitive and not very thoughtful questions asked by people at Mount Vernon (and at a host of other sites that deal with slavery). Like others I appreciate the explanation and intent behind the project. My friends want to know “What do you think?”
The problem I have with this show is that interpreting enslavement in eighteenth and nineteenth century contexts must be taken seriously by the presenter and also by the receiver. Poking fun at visitor inquiries is not the best method of interpreting (to be fair this web show is not claiming to interpret). However, the questions posed by visitors are their (albeit often poorly worded) way to find some information…
I’ve written a few blogs entries on Pop South about Louisiana-based reality television shows. There are so many that it’s hard to keep up. One of the more recent ones (I will have to blog about Duck Dynasty another time) is Cajun Pawn Stars, set in Alexandria, Louisiana. And, as those in the know will tell you, it isn’t even in Cajun country.
It seems that the abundance of the shows set in Louisiana often play the “Cajun card” in order to draw in viewers and to create some sense of authenticity. This particular show, which airs on The History Channel (boo, hiss), must strive for some authenticity if it’s going to get the thumbs up from The Big H, but as we all know by now the H stands for anything BUT history (hysterical, hokey, and hollow might do). In this case, Frances Coleman, a native of Alexandria and a writer for the Mobile Press-Register writes, it’s time to cry “foul.” She says it better than I can, so read her editorial here, and take all those “Cajun” shows with a grain of salt (or Tony Chachere’s.)