Caricature of Carnival
Posted By: Newsday
Date: 27, June 03, at 12:10 p.m.
TRINIDAD and Tobago's unique Carnival needs all the international media coverage it can get, since the national festival attracts hundreds of visitors to our shores every year, also making it an important economic asset. However, we expect that foreign media people who are invited here to cover the celebrations would at least be true to the essential nature of the event, interested in capturing the heart of the spectacle which reveals the creativity and joie de vivre of our pluralistic society. However, the programme producers of E!TV, the satellite entertainment channel, who did an hour-long feature on TT's last Carnival, clearly had no such honest concern or intention and what they aired on the channel on Tuesday night was such a dreadfully superficial caricature of our Carnival that we are compelled to express our outrage and to demand that TIDCO seek from them an apology for such an insult to our country and its culture.
It is true that E!TV is an entertainment channel but entertainment should not always be regarded as a totally mindless affair having no intellectual content or no historical and social significance. We find it quite unbelievable that an E!TV production crew can come here, experience the explosion of colourful costumes, infectious music and the all-embracing merriment of our rainbow people and then produce for viewing the utter rubbish that was shown on Tuesday night. At the end of the show, the name of TIDCO appeared among the credits, so we must assume that the tourist promotion agency had some connection with, at least, the conception or genesis of this ridiculous programme. We hope that they would now see the need to explain the extent of their role in it. If TIDCO is responsible for inviting the E!TV people here, did the company pay any of the expenses of the American television crew during their visit? If it did, were the agency's officials concerned about what was being produced, the need for consultation, to offer guidance, advice, historical and cultural information? Or were the E!TV producers left to do their own ridiculous thing?
Instead of presenting a truthful portrait of TT's multi-faceted festival, the E!TV people aired a show that depicted our country as having a preponderantly white population with yachties dancing on our beaches with a few "natives" as part of the national celebrations. No serious attempt was made to explain the festival historically, no prominent bandleader or TT expert on the celebrations were interviewed, none of the essential ingredients of our Carnival - the steelband, calypso and soca - were featured. The insults became intolerable when a Barbadian entertainer and a woman with a Latin accent were seen pontificating on the meaning of our national celebrations. While E!TV may have wanted to "pitch" the programme - which was slotted in their "Wild On" series - to an American audience, it was grossly dishonest of them to portray our country as if its population was largely Caucasian. As far as we are concerned, this was the unkindest cut of all since our Carnival is essentially a merry melting pot of our multi-ethnic society, a festival that brings together as nothing else, the many diverse elements of our population. This piece of nonsensical froth produced by E!TV must be seen as a lesson for us, particularly for those entrusted with the international promotion of the national celebrations. Yes, our Carnival needs as much foreign media exposure as it can get, but certainly not at this kind of depreciated and distorted price. The "greatest show on earth" is not just a shallow "Wild On" caper. Its unique annual flowering, responsible for the germination of Trini-style festivals in several foreign cities, is born out of the creative expression of our people with their own history, personality and character. Those who come from abroad to cover it must be made to understand that.
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