“Invade Us If You Can: The Reconciliation of the British Tourist and New Orleans’ History” by Simon McKenzie

An advertisement was produced by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and specifically targets British tourists to visit the American city.[1] The ad was funded by British Petroleum (BP) as damages for the 2010 Mexican Gulf Crisis in which an offshore oil drilling rig leaked record breaking amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico sea. Pictured in the photo is Jackson Square, so named to celebrate the victory of General Major Arthur Jackson in repelling the British Red Coats during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. An equestrian statue in the centre of the image depicts the man himself with St. Louis Cathedral standing behind. The ad attempts to provoke the British sense of banter by pointing out these repeated historical British failures to “invade” New Orleans. The premise of the ad rests upon the city’s resistance to the British and the title is taunting the British tourist to try again. Behind this tongue in cheek adversarial stance, however, there is a desire for reconciliation between New Orleans and the British tourist. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “reconcile” as, “to restore friendly relations between” or “make or show to be compatible with another” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2013) I will argue that the ad seeks to reconcile, in the two dictionary senses of the word, New Orleans with the British tourist, both through the explicit intention of the tourist ad and the more subtle textual allusions to New Orleans’ provocative British history.

Consistent with the former definition, the explicit touristic intentions of the ad reconcile New Orleans with the British tourist. The ad achieves the promotion of “friendly relations” between New Orleans and British tourists by presenting both visual and textual invitations. The chosen colour scheme for the poster presents a city of clear blue skies and vast greenery that is inviting to the viewer, no matter what their nationality. Furthermore, at the end of the text this invitation becomes both explicit and specifically targeted towards British tourists: “everyone is welcome, especially our friends from England.” Part and parcel of New Orleans extending an invitation to British tourists is promoting “friendly relations between” both parties and, hence, reconciling them.

In order to explain how, rather than drive them away, New Orleans’ provocative British history implicitly reconciles New Orleans with British tourists, it is necessary to first explain how this history is presented. At very different levels, the ad refers to this provocative history being made up of three “invasions” of New Orleans by Britain: the Battle of New Orleans, the BP oil crisis and the arrival of British tourists. The Battle of New Orleans is the only one of these “invasions” that the text explicitly refers to. Visually, Jackson Square’s heritage alludes to the Battle of New Orleans whilst, textually, the main body of text simply states, “Ever since the Battle of New Orleans…” The BP oil crisis, on the other hand, is only referred to by the context of the ad itself. The source of the ad’s funding—BP’s payment of damages—and the objective of the ad—to motivate British tourists back to New Orleans after the oil spill—both refer directly to this “invasion” by a British multinational corporation, yet are not alluded to in the ad at all. It is these two past “invasions” that establish New Orleans’ apparent adversarial stance against the British. Finally, the title’s use of the phrase, “This isn’t the first time New Orleans has survived the British” (emphasis mine), implies that New Orleans would survive another “invasion” of the British in the future. These future invaders, by the context of the ad’s target audience and its “adversarial stance,” are the British tourists themselves. It is this third implicit “invasion” that is the challenge to British tourists. By including British tourists as part of this provocative history, the ad implies that New Orleans’ reconciliation with its provocative British history and with the British tourist are equivalent.

The ad does not simply explicitly reconcile New Orleans with the British tourist through the inviting nature of the advert, but it also implicitly achieves this reconciliation through the ambiguity of pronoun usage in the text and their subtle references to New Orleans’ provocative British history. Throughout the text neither New Orleans nor the British are ever referenced by name. The use of pronouns promotes a sense of familiarity, and hence “friendly relations” and the reconciliation of New Orleans’ and British tourists. The first use of the pronoun in “we’ve been ‘funkin’ it up’” has a deeper implicit significance than one might think at first glance. On the surface, the phrase “funkin’ it up” conveys a sense of partying and dancing. If so, it would seem that “we” refers to New Orleanians. Yet, New Orleans, especially in the minds of foreigners, is most famous for its jazz music rather than funk. By describing funk music playing in the “French quarter” rather than jazz, as a reader, we already realise that something is awry. This might lead us to detect the pun that is enabled by the reference to funk music instead of jazz music, in which “‘funkin’ it up” sounds and looks like “‘fuckin’ it up.” Given the target audience, this is not a huge speculative leap. But if so, then the people who can fuck things up in New Orleans, according to the ad, are British citizens (namely the invaders of 1815, BP, and British tourists). Hence, “we” is ambiguous: interpreted literally, the subject is the people of New Orleans, partying in the “French quarter,” whereas in the pun interpretation the subject becomes Britons, fuckin’ everything up with their “invasions.” The consequential ambiguity implies that the “we” is collective for both the British and New Orleanians. By including both parties together in a pronoun, the ad is grammatically and symbolically demonstrating them “to be compatible with [one] another.” Thus, this ambiguity of pronouns reconciles the British tourists with New Orleans and, hence, its provocative history.

In this ad, several literal and figurative “invasions” of New Orleans by Britain are alluded to as part of a provocative history that sets up an “adversarial stance” against the British tourist. However, the typical inviting messages that characterise tourism ads reconcile New Orleans with British tourists as the ad “restore[s] friendly relations.” Furthermore, the ambiguity of pronouns in the body of the ad symbolically “show [New Orleans and the British tourist] to be compatible with [one] another.” Oscar Wilde once joked, “True friends stab you in the front.” The ad’s teasing of Britain’s history of ‘invading’ New Orleans is not only consistent with reconciliation but, perhaps, required in order to have truly “friendly relations” between New Orleans and British tourists.

 

Works Cited:

“Reconcile.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2013. Online.

The Telegraph. “New Orleans drops ‘anti-British’ tourism ad in wake of BP oil

spill.” The Telegraph. The Telegraph., 18 June. 2010. Web. 8 February         2013.     <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/783            9122/New-Orleans-drops-anti-British-tourism-ad-in-wake-of-BP-oil-s      pill.html>

The Telegraph. “BP leak the world’s worst accidental oil spill.” The Telegraph. The            Telegraph., 3 August 2010. Web. 8 February. 2013.

<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/

7924009/BP-leak-the-worlds-worst-accidental-oil-spill.html>

Wikipedia. “Jackson Square (New Orleans).” Wikipedia. Wikipedia., 9 December.

  1. 8 February 2013.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Square,_New_Orleans&gt;

Wilde, Oscar. “Oscar Wilde Quotes.” Brainy Quote. Brainy Quote., 8 February.

  1. Web.

<http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/oscarwilde100745.ht

ml>

[1] A reproduction of the advertisement can be found here: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/06/17/article-0-0A147DAD000005DC-234_468x542.jpg

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