February 10, 2009 -- The Order of Myths shows us there are undiscovered wonders and terrors in America. I am a pretty well-informed person, but what was revealed in this movie from the very country in which I proudly live was foreign to me. It was as strange as watching Martian mating rituals. It was exotic, unexpected, colorful and incredibly ritualized, layered with vast amounts of denial, submerged agendas and hypocrisy. This movie is a glimpse back into the Old South, complete with clothing, costumes, rituals and customs dating back more than one hundred years. The film centers on the annual Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile, Alabama, a celebration that far predates the world famous annual celebration in New Orleans. They started celebrating Mardi Gras in Mobile in 1703, before New Orleans was even founded.
A whole series of formal debuts, coming-out parties, grand balls and other rituals have grown up around Mardi Gras and this film takes us through some of them. There isn't just one Mardi Gras parade, there are many. There isn't just one king and queen of Mardi Gras, there are at least two kings and two queens, one set is white, one set is black. There is a black parade and a white one, a black coronation ball and a white one. Blacks go to the white parade, but the candy and traditional jewelry thrown from the floats is thrown only to the whites. Various “mystic societies” hold concurrent celebrations. Some of these societies date back over 100 years. The Striker's Independent Society, the oldest mystic society in the country, started in 1842. Some society masks look like part of a KKK costume. Other masks look piggish and the membership of one looks like a “Larry the Cable Guy” look-alike contest.
The film closely follows the black and white kings and queens through their preparations for the big celebrations, including the making of their incredibly elaborate costumes. The Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association, formerly the Colored Carnival Association, was founded in 1938. The Mobile Carnival Association (MCA) is exclusively white. The MAMGA is exclusively black. Helen Meaher is the MCA 2007 Mardi Gras queen, while Joseph Roberson, 2007 is the MAMGA king. Max Bruckman, is the MCA king, while Stefanie Lucas is the MAMGA queen. Both Lucas and Roberson are teachers in the same school. Queen Helen Meaher's ancestor, Timothy Meaher, engineered the last shipment of slaves to America in 1859, after the international shipment of slaves had been outlawed. The ancestors of the survivors of that shipment, aboard the schooner Clothilde, assemble in Mobile to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, and Alabama's formal apology for slavery in 2007.
The film also notes that Mobile was the site of one of the last lynchings in America. In 1981, the KKK lynched 19-year-old Michael Donald from a tree along a Mobile street, which was actually more than a year after the founding of Mobile's first homosexual mystic society, the Order of Osiris. The anger among the blacks surfaces during some fiery speeches during the commemorative gathering. The black king and queen, Roberson and Lucas, attend the inaugural ball of Bruckman and Meaher in 2007, the first time this had ever been done. Evidently, there had been a longstanding invitation for them to attend, but the conflicting schedules of black and white ceremonies didn't permit it. White kings and queens have attended the black coronation ball for the past five years. Things change slowly in Mobile. This film is a revelation. It rates an A.
And what is the Order of Myths? It is the “Oldest continuously parading mystic society in existence,” dating back over 140 years. The OOM parade is the last of the Mobile Mardi Gras celebration. One of the floats in the OOM parade depicts the end of the old Confederate States of America: a jester chases a skeleton around a broken greek column, bearing the inscription 1868, beating him with an inflated pig bladder. Just plain weird.Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.