It's probably fitting, given the constant threat of wet weather throughout this year's Carnival season, that the dominant theme of 2018's satirical floats can be summed up in a simple phrase: Water, water, everywhere. Especially in the streets of New Orleans.
A good bit of this year's skewering focused on the Sewerage & Water Board, an evergreen target for those who poke fun at New Orleans' shortcomings — and one that, after a year of street flooding and shocking revelations about the agency's inadequacies, has apparently replaced the Confederate monuments as the city's premier lost cause. Other, related floats zeroed in on the area's overall environmental vulnerability.
Every krewe that takes on topical themes focused in on this one, starting with the raunchy Krewe du Vieux, which named its parade "Bienville's Wet Dream" and featured NOLA's Ark, with two nutria, two pelicans, and so forth.
'Tit Rəx, the krewe that creates intricate miniature floats, celebrated its 10th year with a vision of New Orleans ten years from now, under water. The Knights of Chaos titled their float "Sewer Rats," and the Krewe of Muses (of which I'm a member) and Le Krewe d'Etat, which coincidentally shared a great works of art theme, each depicted heroic crossings of a local street in spoofs of "Washington Crossing the Delaware."
There was more. Muses' tricentennial float, the "Persistence of New Orleans," replaced Dali's iconic melting clock with a fluid water meter cover, the most visible element in a montage of everything the city has survived in its 300 years (yellow fever, FEMA, BP, Ray Nagin, and so forth). Then there was the "Great Wave off Louisiana," a take on Hokusai's famous woodblock print, which depicts a wave crashing dramatically over the Superdome. The idea came up long before last week's accidental tsunami scare.
Other popular topics this year included the wave of reports on sexual harassment and assault, both elsewhere and close to home. Famed chef John Besh's travails inspired some Besh bashing from several krewes, including Krewe du Vieux, which published a mock menu featuring things like "fresh groper with jerk sauce" and "lift up your skirt steak." Chaos portrayed Besh as a "Cooked Goose."
And of course, everyone had something to say about President Donald Trump, including Muses, which made Trump the centerpiece of its reimagining of Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus." "The Birth of Trump" pictured the president being brought to life by Vladimir Putin and an over-eager media.
And d'Etat substituted him for Rodin's "The Thinker." "The Stinker" showed Trump sitting on the toilet, cell phone in hand. 'Tit Rəx's offerings included one showing Trump thinking, "I must not Tweet bad thoughts."
As for local leadership, this year marks both Mayor Mitch Landrieu's departure from office and the swearing in of LaToya Cantrell as the city's first female mayor. Both occasions were marked during the parades.
In fact, both Muses and d'Etat depicted Landrieu's last supper as a crawfish boil, but with different guest lists. Muses included his highest-profile staffers and allies, family members Moon, Mary and Cheryl Landrieu, James Carville, a couple of Boh Bros. workers (a nod to the incessant street work on Landrieu's watch), plus former Sewerage & Water Board executive director Cedric Grant holding a pitcher of contaminated water. D'Etat's version featured Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard, the subjects of three Civil War statues that Landrieu pushed to remove from city streets last year.
Muses, the all-woman krewe, offered Cantrell a honeymoon. She rode in the krewe's signature fiber-optic pump as this year's honorary Muse, and was pictured alongside Landrieu on "Mitch's Last Supper."
The guys weren't so hospitable. Both d'Etat and Chaos, which are all male, had floats highlighting the investigation into Cantrell's credit card use, a campaign issue kept alive first by District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, pictured prominently on Chaos' "First Mare" float, and Attorney General Jeff Landry, featured on d'Etat's "Birth of Venus."
Welcome to the big time, Madame Mayor-Elect. It's all in day's work.