He may be running for president — again — but Donald Trump is no longer at the center of our news universe. Fittingly, Trump also is no longer the prime target for Mardi Gras-season satire.
In 2023, that honor, such as it is, goes to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
With Carnival falling just as the deadline for signatures to force a recall election neared, there was no way Cantrell was going to avoid getting slammed. And it’s a measure of her broad-based troubles that she got hit equally hard by counterculture Krewe du Vieux as well as rightward-skewing Le Krewe d’Etat and the Knights of Chaos.
Typical of KDV's treatment were the circus-themed, not-suitable-for-a-family-newspaper “The Greatest (fill in the blank) Show on Earth" float and the one that declared the city in “LaToyalet.”
D’etat depicted “Calamateedy Jane” (in reference to Cantrell's nickname) in its western-themed parade, as well as the “Best Lil’ Apartment in NOLA,” which focused on whatever's happening at that public crash pad in the Pontalba.
Chaos’ cocktail-theme parade featured a float titled “Cosmopolitan,” in reference to the travel upgrades that Cantrell improperly charged to taxpayers.
The Krewe of Muses — my krewe, full disclosure — was a little more even-handed. Five years after Cantrell rode in the signature giant fiber-optic pump as the city’s first female mayor-elect, she was lampooned in this year’s children’s book-themed parade on a float titled “Oh, the Places She’ll Go!...Or Has Already Been.” But Muses also hit Cantrell’s rivals on the City Council, portraying their appetite for powers that are traditionally in the mayor’s purview in “The Very Hungry Council-Pillar.” The visual of Council member JP Morrell’s head on an Eric Carle-inspired caterpillar was lagniappe.
Elsewhere, New Orleans’ infrastructure woes are an evergreen topic; this year Muses offered up “Where the Sidewalk Ends and Construction Begins,” and d’Etat had “Dodge City.”
The era of floats celebrating the Saints’ success has obviously passed, at least for now; this year’s gridiron themes were expressions of frustration with the team’s new normal. Chaos’ “Hangover” float zeroed in on the raft of ailments that sidelined key players last season. D’Etat brought back the paper bag of Aints days for its “Masked Man” float. Muses posed the question of what would happen “If you give the Saints a rookie…” The answer? “They are probably going to ask for a quarterback.”
Elon Musk, of Tesla and now Twitter fame, has become a regular target, depicted this year as a needy “Lonesome Dove” by d’Etat and having a series of “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days” by Muses.
Confession: I was pulling for the Alexander stand-in to be Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021. But hey, I always lean in on the political punchlines.
And this year’s parades offered plenty of those.
D’Etat hit former state senator and Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson, who recently pleaded guilty to skimming campaign contributions to feed a gambling addiction, in “The Gambler,” and President Joe Biden as “Old Timer.” No explanation necessary there. Chaos featured presidential son Hunter Biden on its “High Ball” float.
Muses imagined Bernie Sanders teaming with the “Berniestain Bears” to unionize the forest and push the Evergreen New Deal. And it channeled women's post-Roe rage in “It’s Okay to be MADeline.” (“In front of a Washington, D.C. shrine stand twelve protesters in two straight lines….”)
The latest front in the GOP's culture wars — the effort to restrict what kids can read — was a hot topic ... a very hot one in Krewe du Vieux, which featured a book-burning barbecue. Muses weighed in on the topic with “Where’s Waldo?” in honor of his fellow literary characters who are in danger of being banned in several states, and sadly, several Louisiana parishes. With leading gubernatorial candidate Jeff Landry vowing to crack down on librarians, expect more of that — and certainly expect him to be the topic of much ridicule should he be governor this time next year.
Of course, many people are entirely over the brand of divisive politics that Landry and those like him embrace. That sentiment inspired one of my favorite floats of the year. It was in Muses, and it was titled “The Day the Blue and Red Crayons Quit.”
“Give purple a chance!” a character on the float pleaded.
So say many of us this Mardi Gras.