It’s a story as old as time. A 16-year old Canadian boy sits in front of his laptop, looking for a place to watch Television online. He clicks on hulu.com (thinking it will bring him what he desires) but it just does not work. He is left staring at a black screen with a message that reads, “This content will be available in Canada soon”. He knows it’s a lie but he’s still left waiting for a train that will never come.
Just like that little boy, as Canadians, we all seem to be disappointed in how prevalently and how positively Canada is represented in the films and television shows that we enjoy. Since most of these films are made in America by Americans, Canadians are helpless to watch as 34.88 million people are reduced to the idealized icons of a few Mounties and some lumberjacks.
In American movies we’re often “othered” rather than realistically portrayed, instead of giving Canadians character roles, Canada is instead referred to as a place of simple society defined by soft spoken people and underlying Communist intentions.
Canada is also often the comical relief, serving as a place for criminals on the lamb to run to and for con-artists to take advantage of our free healthcare. Canada is ultimately portrayed as non-offensive, a barren ice field filled with spineless simpletons, which is disturbing, as a Canadian. Having this pounded into your brain consistently throughout all forms of our available media is not only disheartening, but indoctrinating.
Educationalist W.E.B. Du Bois coined a term, “Double consciousness”, that refers to an individual internalizing others perceptions of one’s self. Therefore, media may not just reflect stereotypical behaviour, but it also reinforces it. The only reasons Canadians might be statistically nicer than Americans is because Americans perpetuated a falsehood in the media and Canadians believed it.
Therefore, it becomes extremely important that Canada chooses its own representation and how the world sees its people. Rightfully so, the Canadian government has played a role in attempting to secure the accurate depiction of its people through the CRTC’s (Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission) Broadcast Act of 1970 that regulated that all private stations must present at least 60 per cent of their programming in a Canadian context.
Has this really helped solidify a Canadian identity though? Have we at all succeeded in distancing ourselves from the steamrollers of the American media and popular culture?
When it comes down to original Canadian programming however, most shows are simply vapid remakes of pre-existing British or American television shows. Does Canadian Idol really bring the country together or is it simply a way for Canada to show that they too can cash in on an existing license.
Attempting to think and find Canadian programming that was 100 per cent original and 100 per cent Canadian involved sifting through a lot of impossible-to-understand French Canadian game shows and a lot of soap operas about malevolent housewives in Edmonton. Eventually however, I thought of Corner Gas. Corner Gas is everything the Canadian media should be. It presents a geographic location and well represents what small-town life would be like. Although nothing ever really happens with the show and it gained little to no traction outside of our unguarded boarders, it gives Canadians a chance to be proud of their countrymen and celebrate the diversity of the Canadian identity.
Hot on the heels of the Olympic’s closing ceremony, Canada has recently come down from a high note of national pride. Not necessarily a dangerous sense of brooding nationalism, but an edifying and collectively positive shared experience of pride and contentment. The country fully supported our women’s hockey team for a gold medal win — you could feel the excitement on Twitter and Facebook and even in our schools as young children gathered around SMART boards to watch the women achieve victory.
There was a sense of national pride this week. We all shared in the celebration of our athletes and their accomplishments: this is the power of the media. It can bring people together through shared experiences but alternatively, it can isolate and objectify through ignorance and misrepresentation.
With a stronger prevalence of Canadian ideals in the media that solidified our national connection to one another and boosted our sense of selves, would the country not band together on a daily basis, creating happier more fulfilled citizens? I’m not suggesting propaganda — far from it — our country should be represented fully as it is, because that is more than good
enough. We don’t need a pat on the back in every show and movie we watch, just some positivity.
Canada’s identity crisis transcends television and has become an issue in every form of media. As far as video games go, I know of two that represent Canada in them. Both to different extremes.
Firstly, Deus Ex: Human Revolution presented a high-tech futuristic Vancouver and Montreal to run around in. The team was obviously Canadian, the Eidos division being based out of Montreal. This is the rare time that Canadians take advantage of the unique landscapes and heritage of our country and bring it to the world stage in their form of media.
The second example however, is Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 that provides a single Canadian map. In the Canadian location you spend your time grinding on igloos, ollying past Inuit, some log cabins and little else.
Both of these pieces of media define how the world sees us, each influencing individuals about our society, culture and norms (some effectively, others not so much).
Americans also tend to ignore the Canadian influence on their media more than we do. Justin Bieber, Céline Dion, Shania Twain, William Shatner and Ryan Reynolds are all Canadian but work almost exclusively in the United States on distinctly American projects. Although most Canadians are alright with giving up Bieber, Drake and Dion, the rest are more than welcome to return home.
Our politics may not be very exciting, our towns may not be very dirty and our people may not be as grotesquely horrifying as the Swamp People they broadcast in America, but Canada deserves further representation.
We need movies made by Canadians for Canadians that adequately express what Canadian life is like, maybe then a Canadian-made film might not elicit an eye roll upon mention. It is important that Canadians take charge of how they would like to be viewed by the world. It took the first World War for Canada to gain autonomy as a powerful nation, it’ll only take a sitcom or blockbuster to become a nation that is understood and respected by individuals among those on the world stage.
I dream of living in a world where it doesn’t take a crack-scandal for the world to take notice of what goes on throughout our wide and majestic borders. After 200 years of history, the Canadian people have a lot more to share than simply Rob Ford.
Here at Brock University there are a lot of shared experiences students partake in within the media. From things as simple as Brockurealities and BrockU Bucketlist, these are forms of media that a wide variety of students can take part in, enjoy and help create. Even though these may poke fun at the high food prices at Market or the annoying bus routes that students have to endure, they build a collaborative positivity among students, creating a sense of Badger Pride.
It is this same concept that must be applied to Canadian media. Even if a show pokes fun at flat wheat fields or overly friendly police officers, if it adequately expresses a Canadian ideal or experience, it will have a positive impact on Canadian unity and its identity.
We can feel like a strong and collected front all year round, not just when Team Canada scores a gold medal. Canada is a great country — not because of an outstanding administration or social justice — but because it is a population