Scoot: Did the “Girls Trip” inspire more to come to Essence Fest?

July 06, 2018 - 11:41 am

It was the Thursday night of Essence Festival weekend in New Orleans, and the crowd on Bourbon Street rivaled a Thursday night before Mardi Gras weekend crowd!  People covered the street and the sidewalks and the massive flow of people blanketed Bourbon Street as far as one could see.  In navigating through the crowd I lost my ability to maintain a rapid pace, and my journey from one point to another was reduced to the slow pace of the crowd.

I live downtown and share my neighborhood with the Essence Fest crowd every summer, but there was definitely something different about the fest crowd this year.  The general sense throughout the city was that the Essence Fest 2018 crowd was not only bigger than past crowds, but the excitement level of the crowds seemed unprecedented.  The musical acts were not necessarily bigger this year than in past years - so why is there a new level of intensity for this year’s Essence Fest?

One of the fun box office comedies last year was the movie, “Girls Trip.”  The movie’s stars included Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith, who were part of the “Flossy Posse.”  “Girls Trip” was the story of four lifelong friends who embark on a trip to New Orleans during Essence Festival weekend.  On the trip, the girls rediscover their wild side that is easily brought to the surface by the tempting ways of New Orleans.

Some fest-goers have openly admitted while being interviewed by the news media that they came to New Orleans this year because of the image of the city and Essence Fest portrayed in the movie, “Girls Trip.”  I don’t recall past crowds being as female-dominant as this year’s crowd, and maybe more guys will show up; but the crowd on Bourbon Street seemed to be at least 75% female.  And that’s an observation, not a complaint!

Did the movie, “Girls Trip,” depict Essence Fest weekend in New Orleans as such a great time that the temptation to be here could not be resisted?  That seems to be the case. 

On my talk show, I have often talked about the relationship between entertainment and society; and I have strongly argued that movies should not be blamed for the negative behavior, especially the violence, in the real world.  But if movies are not the cause inspiring behavior, then why did the movie, “Girls Trip” obviously inspire a lot of people to come to New Orleans on the weekend of Essence Fest?

From what I saw on Bourbon Street Thursday night, not only was the crowd larger than I recall in the past, but the wild, fun-loving party attitude of the crowd seemed ramped up.  Did the movie also influence the behavior of the crowd?

If the size and attitude of the Essence Fest crowd in 2018 has been inspired by the movie, “Girls Trip,” does that mean movies do inspire behavior?  Could movies be responsible for inspiring negative behavior?

There is no doubt that we all get ideas from movies and entertainment, but we decide on whether to act on those ideas.  The images of New Orleans during Essence Fest in “Girls Trip” may have inspired new people to come here, but it is likely that those who decided to come to New Orleans already had thoughts or ideas about partying in New Orleans. 

Entertainment introduces us to ideas but should not be blamed for the decisions of individuals to manifest negative behavior in the real world.  Partying in New Orleans on a special weekend that caters to a specific group with strong bonds is an idea that lives in the hearts and minds of many people, and acting on that idea is not an example of a movie inspiring people to do things they really don’t want to do.

If “Girls Trip” included scenes that contradict an individual’s personal values or personal tastes, that individual would be faced with a conscious decision over whether to imitate the behavior that goes against who they are as a person.  Those who make that decision must accept responsibility for their actions and not blame the movie that presented the ideas.

The instinct to escape blame for our negative actions by blaming entertainment is tempting, but it ignores the power we each have to decide between right and wrong.

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