Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oh, Canada-a-a!!

It's no secret that I have a total crush on Canada. This place is amazing: sure, the natural landscape is totally postcard-worthy, and unlike tiny jewel nations (like Switzerland, say), Canada's a huge sprawl of pretty. Canada's a babe, yo.

While our natural good looks are widely acknowledged, our cultural aesthetic gets this rep as boring and back-watery. Apparently, we're the nation equivalent to being a really hot band geek. I mean, sure, Newfies have accents (high-larious! What a boon to lazy American stand-up comics!), and we have some farmers and fishermen. We have health care and like, WAY few guns than other places in the world (rhymes with "Shmamerica"). We like soulful singer-songwriters, literature and hockey. We like gay marriage and we're down with the smoke. No-one except uppity city folk are claiming that Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver are on-par, worldliness-wise, with London, Paris or New York. We're not morons, and we're not what's the deal?

I guess Canada is easily stereotyped. We have more than our fair share of earnestness, ranging from La Atwood to our coffee shops; hell, compared to shiny, imported Starbucks, Timmie's is a pit stop on a country road (actually, Tim Hortons is often literally a pit stop on a country road, all analogies aside). But I think we're only earnest when people look at Canada in an us-vs.-them perspective; "them" in this case being, of course, the US. I prefer to think of my homeland in a more global sense; it also helps to remember that yeah, we were a bunch of hosers at one point. Look how far we've come!

Actor peeps like Sarah Polley often have a grittiness that's totally lacking in airbrushed and glossy Hollywood performers; Canadian movie stars have more in common with across-the-pond stars like Tilda Swinton or Cate Blanchett: complicated, real-seeming people who can act the pants off a scene without even trying. Our national identity is closely tied to sports, the outdoors, and the arts, especially internally: I don't know tons of mondo hockey fans, but I do know a bunch of people who would shed blood to see Sarah Harmer live. Plus, some of my favourite art in the past few years was done by a Canuck: check it out! Haida masks made from Nikes? That's some smart dealing.

It's a fact that Canada's been squeezed on both sides by cultural juggernauts: we sprang from the fertile loins of the British Empire, and we share a border and a lot of head-space with Americans. But then again, so what? Those Brits are back on their island (except between 7:00 and 7:30 on CBC, obviously). Maybe America ain't that far behind. It's time we started making some noise of our own.

Instead of some high-strung country kid who's always a little a little slow on the uptake, Canadians could start thinking of their national identity as Hoser 2.0: we were the people who invented peacekeeping, for Christ's sake. I'm not naive enough to think that everyone's having the same brainwaves as me (my two parents love their three cars, f'rinstance). On the other hand, I don't doubt that it's possible to pimp our socially progressive, beautiful, smart, inclusive nation a little harder out there in the world. Instead of that same old plaid-wearing, beer-guzzling, lacrosse-playing imbecile who seems to be what people think of, let's get some hot young thang out there, reppin' hard for all us Canadians who are effing awesome, eh.

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