Monday, March 5, 2007

I am perplexed in many ways by Canadians.

OK, I'm sick of Canada. Not the country itself, or it's delicious Alberta beef, PEI potatoes, or eclairs from Gatineau. No, I'm sick of our national identity being that of a noisy, irritating little brother to the United States.

Nothing bothers me more than when people say "did you know Jim Carrey is a Canadian?", or "Neil Young is from Winnipeg, you know". Of course, I'm more irritated when they mention Rush or Celine Dion or Bryan Adams or Pamela Anderson, and hold up these people as shining examples that yes, we Canadians can be famous and wonderful too!

This once again annoyed me during Oscar time. First of all, we're nominated for an Oscar! In foreign language film! Deepa Mehta's Water was a sensational film, directed by an Indian woman who lives in Canada, filmed in an Indian language, in India and Sri Lanka, and mentions Canada in passing on the DVD box. It's ours!

Now we've won one. Best animated short film. It's called The Danish Poet. It couldn't be called The Canadian Poet, of course, because what American would watch a short animated film about Robert Service? Hmmm. Come to think of it, what American would watch an animated short film? What Canadian would, for that matter? When it comes to Oscars, Best Animated Short Film is a category akin to Best Handstand at a wet T-Shirt contest. It's basically one of those "participation" awards I used to get in Grade four.

So who sits at home watching the Oscars, and waits with breathless anticipation for the announcement of the winner of the Best Animated Short Film award? Well, friends and family of Torill Kove, the Canadian filmmaker who won. And those friends and family are Canadian! Well, not really. She's Norwegian, and they're...also Norwegian. She isn't a Canadian citizen. But the MOVIE is Canadian! Well...no...she says the fim is 100 percent Norwegian. Except the "Danish" in the title. But she's lived in Montreal for a little while. Canada won an Oscar! Yay!

Radio stations are required, by the government, to play 35 percent Canadian music. Which is fine for a station like CHEZ, because there is a lot of Neil Young, BTO and Guess Who music we can go through. But all this does with the stations that play "new" music is create an environment where instead of hearing any new, exciting Canadian bands, like Broken Social Scene or Godspeed! You Black Emperor, you get fed a diet of Nickelback, or Celine Dion, or Avril Lavigne, or Shania Twain, over and over and over, depending on what kind of station you are.

And this creates my biggest pet peeve. There is nothing worse for Canada's music community (or, artistic community in general) than the blanket acceptance of all things Canadian. Are we to love and support Nickelback and Shania Twain simply because they were born and created in the same country in which we were born and created?

I had this conversation with someone the other day. I will try to relate it word-for-word, although it WAS over beers, and my memory is hazy.

He said "you can't hate Rush. I mean, you HAVE to like them - they're Canadian!"
I said "That doesn't mean I have to like them. In fact, I am more likely to dislike them BECAUSE they're Canadian."
He was flabbergasted. "But what about Blue Rodeo"
"Meh."
"Tragically Hip?"
"Meh."
"Honeymoon Suite?"
"Garbage."
"Barenaked Ladies!"
"They're terrible."
"Triumph?"
"Hahaha. Come on."

I tried to explain that the only way to create a great music scene in Canada is to force musicians to create great music. Just accepting Nickelback because they're Canadian, and playing the crap out of them, does nothing for Canada. In fact, it weakens our music system. As long as that band is successful, other bands will merely imitate them, and be equally, if not more, awful. This explains Theory of a Deadman, Default, and countless others.

We must hold our own music to a higher standard. Maybe not a higher standard than other music, but definitely a higher standard than we currently do. That way, if people want to get by in Canada with their music, they'll have to actually make it GOOD.

Suggesting I should accept Rush, and Terry Jacks, and Celine Dion, and that I should buy all their albums simply because of their heritage is foolish. I tried to explain to this gentleman that this is kind of like saying "That Paul Bernardo guy's not that bad. Give him a break, he's Canadian!" "Did you know Robert Pickton is from CANADA!" Hooray.

Pride in one's country is a good thing. But be proud when we win an Olympic medal. Be proud when we decline to send troops to Iraq. Be proud of our health care system, and the fact that we care about the environment. Don't be proud that we produced Nickelback. I, for one, am ashamed.

4 comments:

  1. The Bernardo and Pickton comparison is a bit of a stretch, but I see your point.

    However, you have to respect that everyone has their favourites for different reasons. If some people like these singers/bands because they're Canadian, then so be it.

    I like Shania because she's hot (imho). (She sings?)

    I like Rush because of their older stuff. Listening to it brings back some cool memories. I'm not too keen on newer Rush.

    I'm not a big Bryan Adams fan, but I have to admit his last concert was pretty good. (Took my wife)

    I hate Neil Young because he makes my ears bleed.

    What the hell am I trying to say here...

    As for being ashamed of Nickelback. What's there to be ashamed of? If you think about it, it's the American's that made them what they are today, not us.

    Just because you were born in the oven, doesn't make you biscuit. My Mother used to say that, and I'm still not quite sure when to use it.

    I think it might be appropriate for this comment.

    P.S. I think I've mastered rambling.

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  3. You're approaching on an ability to ramble that rivals my own. And frankly, I agree with you. I can't disparage the music or the movies or the books that others like. OK, that's not entirely true. I can disparage the book or the movie or the album, bu I can't denounce that PERSON for liking it. Your opinions are yours for whatever reason you have them. But don't tell me why I SHOULD like something, any more than I would tell you why you should hate it. This is the point I'm trying to make. Perhaps I missed a bit, but that's what I'm tryin to say. And as for being ashamed of Nickelback, what I really mean is that I would NEVER say to someone - you know, Nickelback comes from MY country! Yay! I would also keep quiet about it if my cousin or something was a member of N'Sync. I would talk about it with someone who moentioned it, but I wouldn't shout it from the rooftops, that's for sure.

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  4. well I waz Made In Canada
    and liking it..


    ((tossing eric a beer))
    Good work!!!
    Keep it up , we love you for all of your hard yes HARD OH YES very BIG HARD
    umm work that you do for chez and the cheo,,,

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