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Order Of Myths Documentary on Mardi Gras

Updated on November 30, 2012

Dual Kings & Queens of the Isle of Joy

King Felix III & Queen Helen\ Mobile Carnival Association
King Felix III & Queen Helen\ Mobile Carnival Association | Source
MAMGA (Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association)
MAMGA (Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association)

Exploring A Secret World

This rich, well-done documentary was filmed in Mobile by Margaret Brown, an independent film producer. It juxtaposes the privileged white world of Mardi Gras with the more economically scaled-down African-American version(MAMGA) of it in Mobile, Alabama. Ms. Brown had a relative that gave her unprecedented access to the white elite of the city; little did they know that she would decide to explore, and some would say, exaggeratedly exploit, the racial separations there. While there is certainly racism on both sides, there are many more different types of classes in Mobile. It is a very complex issue; ultimately, people will choose their friends. It doesn't really have anything to do with race, just personalities and socioeconomics. The bright and funny spot of the movie is when the Queen Helen and King Felix III are invited for the first time ever to the MAMGA royal reception; they dance awkwardly just like any random YouTube video titled "White People Can't Dance" would. Finally, the MAMGA King and Queen attend the Mobile Carnival Association's Coronation for the first time, despite supposedly being invited several times before.

Slave Ship Connection

As both sides of Mardi Gras are delved into, the connection of the white queen's family, the Meahers, to the African-American queen's family becomes plain: Queen Helen's ancestor brought Queen Stephanie's ancestor in on the last (illegal) slave ship, the Clothilda, in 1859. The illegal act was done on a heartless bet between two men, and to read the full story is truly tragic. Check out the African-American Heritage Tour short audio about the story. Today, Helen Meaher's family still owns much of the land of Africatown, where the illegal slaves were hidden and worked at first. Later, the Civil War broke out and the slaves were somewhat abandoned in the area. These people were from completely different linguistic areas of Africa and in many cases, could not understand each other. To see the area is a lesson in resilency and determination; the churches there, such as Union Baptist(short audio), are made up of the descendants of the Clothilda slave ship.

The Order of Myth Documentary Trailer

The Order of Myths DVD

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Mobile Mardi Gras

Creole Free People of Color- Gulf Coast Region

Is It All About Racism?

Margaret Brown's view is beautiful rendered, if somewhat skewed. By solely focusing on the supposed racial aspect, she misses the fact that there are many different classes here in Mobile and people ultimately choose who they like best, and this is not necessarily based on race. For instance, many whites of the city will never attend the white older mystic societies. There are only a limited number of invitations and of course, they will go to their favorite people. African-Americans have a better chance of attending than Mobile's poor white population. In addition, these are mystic societies, the membership is supposed to be secret. For instance, the widows of Joe Cain are ultra-secret. They could have black members, no one knows this if so as they are heavily veiled.

The African-American MAMGA, as well, is not necessarily open to all African-Americans; in fact, more than ten years ago, it made the local paper that a MAMGA mother jealously made the snippy comment that the then-queen was "too black" to be a proper queen, as she apparently felt that particular queen wasn't good enough. It saddened me to hear a black father rely on the racism excuse and say that no one threw his little son any throws because he was black; honestly, my white son never gets anything either. It's not racism, it's just that people simply throw to cute, little girls more than anyone.

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Too Close to See the Trees?

The good news is it certainly got people in the community talking. Some wondered about what the heck did Margaret Brown know? She wasn't even from here, despite her grandfather, and basically a Yankee, to boot! Some argued, that before the documentary, blacks and whites already had invited each other to their balls, attended the same expensive prep schools- that it was a non-issue. Many Mobilians were irritated with the inclusion of the Michael Donald lynching in the movie as if it was indicative of the entire population, rather than a lone crazy man in the 1980s. Mobile, Alabama was never the hotbed of civil rights brutality that the other Southern cities were; it's a progressive place. Many didn't feel she gave an accurate portrayal, but perhaps it was simply a case of too close to the truth for comfort. Maybe Mobile was racist. Maybe Mobile is more class conscious than most. Some were galvanized to do what they could to change mystic society memberships and exclusive club memberships. Interestingly, the white King Felix III, played by Max Bruckmann, is minor British nobility living in England with Alabama ties, yet this is not revealed . The knight serving as an escort of the attractive Brown-educated debutante, Miss Youngblood, is an obnoxious man-child from France. Make sure you watch the extra section full of his frenzied drinking exploits. I remember seeing him at different events that year, so I was thrilled to see that Margaret Brown focused on him.

Today the Conde Explorers and other groups have a more mixed membership, thanks to the documentary. Black , white or mixed couples don't draw much, if any, attention at local Mardi Gras balls. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, white or black members are ushered into mystic societies, country clubs and social clubs. Hopefully, more little boys catch throws, along with their sisters. Life goes on in Mobile.


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    • DemiMonde profile image

      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      Yes, it's too bad. There are groups at work trying to change things, but it will take a while. All groups have their traditions and don't want any change whatsoever. This situation is so complex. We have different classes clashing here as well, even within the white or black groups. White collar members are viewed with suspicion by blue collar members, and so on.

    • mpoche4 profile image

      Michal 5 years ago from Baton Rouge, LA

      I had no idea there was still such separation. It is unfortunate that they have to be separate balls- maybe attending each other's balls was the first step towards eliminating these divisive behaviors.