For some reason, we have been inundated with reality shows located in Louisiana. I’ve watched at least a few episodes of each of these; some of them, I never miss. The newest of these programs, Cajun Justice, which airs on A&E Thursdays at 9:00 Louisiana Time, is by far the best. Let’s look briefly at some of these shows, figure out why there are so many located here in the Pelican State, and explain what makes Cajun Justice the best.
Swamp People – This show began on the History Channel during 2010, and is wrapping up its third season next week. It follows a number of gator hunters through the Atchafalaya Swamp. It’s a lot of fun watching them hunt; the main problem with the show is that it amplifies a number of stereotypes about Cajuns and perhaps paints them as a colorful, barely literate, tribe. Whenever one of the main characters speaks, there are subtitles translating what they are saying for non-Cajuns. Other than these flamboyant individuals, we learn very little about Cajun culture.
Bayou Billionaires – This program aired on CMT on Saturdays. I confess that I only watched a few episodes since I have a life. Those that I saw portrayed this northern Louisiana family as a real-life Beverly Hillbillies (without Elly Mae, which might have made it worthwhile DVRing). The Dowden family hit the mother lode when it turned out that their farm sat on top of the Haynesville Shale natural gas strike, one of the largest recent natural gas finds in America. I get it. People who come into a lot of money luckily are all morons. They’ll probably be hustled out of it in a few years and then live in a double wide.
Sons of Guns – Obviously, this is one of my favorites. It airs on Discovery Channel, and involves Will Hayden, his winsome daughter Stephanie and their crew as they build fascinating new guns. It may have jumped the shark with the romance between Stephanie and Kris Ford, who used to be an apprentice at Red Jacket Firearms, but as long as Stephanie stars, the program will have at least one loyal viewer, moi. This show doesn’t give much insight into the Cajun life, other than featuring crawfish once in a while.
Cajun Justice – When this show began a month or so, I didn’t have very high hopes for it. The previews emphasized the powerful sheriff, Vernon Bourgeois, of Terrebonne Parish, so I thought he would be a central figure. Instead, the program emphasizes the dangerous work that the deputies perform, and actually provides some insight into a number of aspects of life in south Louisiana. We’ve had episodes on grave-robbing, hunting camp thefts, swamp monsters and voodoo, among others. The police aren’t presented as bozos, and neither are the normal citizenry. It actually makes an effort to picture Cajun folklore in a non-disparaging manner.
Why do so many reality shows revolve around the Cajun subculture? Well, they’re actually pretty interesting historically; how many people would get kicked out of Nova Scotia, and decide that Louisiana would be their next option? They’re also not like a lot of the other subcultures in the nation. The only people I’ve found that are similar to them in attitudes and lifestyle, are the people who reside in the ‘hollers’ of West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky.