No, I’m not Cajun
A&E’s new series Cajun Justice just rebrands old stereotypes
By Jake ClappPosted Jun 13, 2012
Is anyone else tired of this whole Cajun reality show kick that’s been going on lately? A&E’s latest reality TV Show Cajun Justice just made it clear to me that no one takes Louisiana serious anymore.
If you missed it last week, A&E debuted its new cop reality show following Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois and his posse as they traverse the swamps of Terrebonne Parish. It’s a disaster.
I was fine with the bad movies. Yes, movies dating back to the 1930s, like White Zombie, have always held a certain stereotype of Louisiana. The backwoods, mosquito-infested land where a ‘gator will pop out at any moment and eat you. I’ll admit I grew up with a boathouse and the word “redneck” was an endearing term to some in my hometown, but it’s beyond me why television shows want to gloss over the normal, real Louisiana in favor of mislabeling everything about the state.
Apparently, if you live in Louisiana, you’re Cajun. Oh, you’re from Shreveport, Monroe or Mandeville with no French heritage at all? Well, you’re still Cajun. The History channel series Cajun Pawn Stars, which takes place in Alexandria, far removed from the Cajun hub in the Acadiana region, proved that no one knows what they’re talking about when they think of Louisiana.
Cajun Justice just makes it worse. At least A&E got it right this time by putting the reality show in an area of the state that has a true Cajun culture, but of course they can’t just show how normal police go about their duties in the average Louisiana town.
I’ll admit, my roommate and I recorded the back-to-back episodes. Partly as a joke — we knew nothing good would come of this — and partly out of curiosity — we just didn’t know how bad it would really be.
At best, Cajun Justice is a mindless 30 minutes of watching Bourgeois chase his 15 minutes of fame as he goes after Voodoo rituals and Rougaroo sightings. At worst, Cajun Justice exploits the same tired stereotypes the rest of the nation associates with Louisiana.
In an online poll, The Courier and Daily Comet newspapers — the dailies that serve the very area Cajun Justice films in — tested the waters. With 1,200 votes cast, 11 percent said the show was “great,” 68 percent said “it makes us look bad.” Another 21 percent had no opinion.
That’s pretty bad when the area where you filmed your show strikes against you. I’m not Cajun and I’ve never lived in Houma, but even I felt insulted by how Cajun Justice presented Louisiana life.
It worries me that most Americans believe what they see in the TV reality shows. Louisiana to them is a dirty, dumb place filled with swamp people. It’s almost guaranteed that when I travel out of the state people will ask “where’s your accent?” or “do you kill chickens during a Voodoo ritual?” — I wish that last one was a joke.
People really don’t know about the great, rich culture we have in Louisiana and the intelligent, innovative people who come from the state. First person to perform coronary artery bypass surgery, Dr. Michael DeBakey, yeah we can claim that one.
I can’t really blame the viewers though, if they haven’t really experienced the Audubon Zoo, walked inside the beautiful Old State Capitol, or visited any of the other million and one beautiful things this state holds, all they know is what’s on TV. All I know of Southern California is bikinis and supermodels — well, maybe that’s a bad example, but you get my point.
It’s something of a vicious cycle. Stupidity sells reality TV. People on the outside come to expect this stupidity, so in order to keep getting the business, we have to give them what they want.
It’s time for Louisiana to stop whoring itself out.