Will Mardi Gras nudity define 21st century America?

A german carnivalTomorrow is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins in the Christian world, the penitential season of 40 days in preparation for the death and resurrection of Christ. But today is Shrove Tuesday in traditional Anglo-Saxon lingo -- a day for confession and absolution of sins (shriving) before Lent. It is also known as “Pancake Tuesday”, pancakes being a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season begins. Pancake Tuesday in the European and Latin world is “Fat Tuesday” or Mardi Gras, usually associated with a carnival season (“carnival” deriving from the Latin phrase, carnem levare, to put away meat -- for Lent).

And carnivals are about all most people today know about Mardi Gras, let alone Lent. Moreover, the carnival has degenerated from a folk festival to the type of pornographic extravanganza found in Rio de Janiero and now New Orleans. Temple University psychologist Frank Farley observes that, “Mardi Gras has been going topless [in New Orleans] for some years with no end in sight. Is this reflecting a growing acceptance of such behaviour in America? I think so.”

Farley calls this the “disinhibition” of America and says it is becoming emblematic of our 21st century, with self-revelation rampant on the internet, an apparently booming porn industry, and politicians and public figures being caught in flagrante delicto. A specialist in extreme behaviour, Prof Farley questions tolerance of the trend to public nudity. “Censorship of such displays is becoming increasingly difficult in this media saturated century and the Mardi Gras is helping to fuel the trend. Self-exposure of all types, including the now accepted ‘flashing breasts-for-beads’ at Mardi Gras, is beginning to define the Internet.” ~ Newswise, Feb 20



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