Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Canada and Pop Culture

When I first started this blog I was very proud of my Canadian roots. My first few posts were right in the middle of the Vancouver Olympics, so the collective Canadian patriotism was at an all time high. It was a good time to be Canadian.

Since then, my blog has descended into reviews about tv shows, rants about romance, and ramblings about random things. But tonight I bring you back to Canada (with references to tv shows, romance, and random things).

This last week Canada has been popping up everywhere in pop culture. It's been quite amusing for us up here in the Great White North. But I've always wondered what Americans think of Canadian humour? Us Canucks find it funny because we like to laugh at ourselves--but why do Americans care? Is all this Canadian humour just waste of time to them? What exactly is the American appeal to making fun of Canadians?

The examples are neverending. There's the whole Robin is Canadian thing on How I Met Your Mother, which, for me, is a joke that keeps on giving. I loved the whole Canadian pop star thing, and the episode where Marshall and Robin go to the Canadian bar ("Everyone knows Canadians are afraid of the dark"). And I adored the episode when Barney and Robin came to Toronto. I love Barney's comment about Canadian money! And how the lady at Tim Horton's said that Robin wasn't Canadian because she didn't watch the hockey game and she didn't say thank you for her coffee. Personally, I loved all that stuff. The thank you thing is totally true--I always say thank you to the servers at Tim Horton's (or Timmies as many Canadians call it) or Starbucks or whatever. And I agree with Barney--our money is dumb. It has pictures of people playing hockey with random french poetry. It's so much fun for me to hear all these Canadian jokes because I can connect with them, relate them to my own life. But what do Americans care about our money or our obsession with hockey or whatever?

HIMYM is one example of a show that has a major Canadian element. This week there was lots of little Canadian moments. In no particular order:

1) The BNL Bashing on Community

I love the Barenaked Ladies. They're from Toronto! If I had a Million Dollars is like our city's theme song! I grew up listening to Steven Page and Ed Robertson with my Dad. I'll always have a soft spot for BNL. So, I was greatly amused by the whole thing on Community. First, on the most surface level: yay, a Canadian band is getting a shout out! And, of course, on a deeper level: hah, Community, that's right, Big Bang will always kick your butt!

But...why would Americans care about this reference? I'm sure BNL is barely heard of south of the border.

2) The 30 Rock Canadian hate fest

This episode was hilarious. Some of my favourite lines:

"I know. I'm a living stereotype. Everyone assumes a guy from Quebec can do karate."
"I don't know. I tried to ask how far it was to the border and they answered in kilometres!"
"Come on, Avery. We're going to find a Canadian who will take our money!"

I think part of the reason this storyline worked so well (for me at least) was that Jack and Avery weren't just average Americans, who are actually quite similar to Canadians in a lot of ways. Jack and Avery are Republicans, very extreme Republicans. That gave it a different edge. It made more sense why Jack and Avery were being so ridiculous--why they wouldn't support Canadian healthcare, for instance.

3) The Toronto Mix Up on Jeopardy

This one was funny too. Yeah, the main airport in Toronto is Lester B. Pearson International Airport, named after a Prime Minister from the 60's; not at all correct. And we have another airport called Billy Bishop Airport, named after a Canadian hero from WWI; again, nowhere near correct. Besides the fact that Toronto is not an American city. But hey, shout out to Toronto! TO! The TDOT! Go Toronto!

4) Justin Bieber Jokes About Canada

I love this picture! And I laughed at Justin Bieber's interview (for the record I am NOT a Bieber fan. NO WAY IN EVER). I loved his whole thing about the Canadian healthcare system and Canada just being awesome. I agree Justin, I agree.

There are countless other references, but they all lead to the same points:

1) Why is making fun of Canada such a big thing (especially this week?)
2) Why do Americans find Canadian humour funny, when it doesn't connect in the same way?
3) How do Canadians feel about being made fun of all the time?

(To be fair, the Jeopardy question doesn't really relate to any of these things. But still, a shout is a shout out)

To question c), I say that these type of jokes are walking a thin lines. Sometimes I love Canadian humour. Sometimes it just offends me. There was a line in Friends where Joey is telling Rachel why he shouldn't go out with this list of guys, and one of the reasons is that a guy is Canadian. That was a weak, sloppy joke that kind of annoyed me. Thin line, thin ice. Step over too far or too often and you might just fall through.

I'd be interested to go to the states and actually ask Americans what they think of Canadians. I can tell you what Canadians think of Canadians. Generally, I think we're pretty lame. Humble at least. Expect when we win at hockey. We're very proud then (Sidney Crosby is practically our national hero for his Olympics goal). But, generally, we're proud of our country, but we don't show off about it. Living in Canada and being Canadian is great. But, you, sometimes it's not so great, for not so obvious reasons (not because we live in igloos or anything like that). Here are a few examples:

-Ordering anything online is a freaking pain in the butt. We have, sure, but the selection and pricing is way worse than So it's a choice--higher price or higher shipping. Or, don't order anything at all?

-Our books, from physical bookstores, cost way more. It says it right on the back of the book. US price: $15. Canadian price? $18.50! Are you kidding me? A $3.50 difference when our dollars are almost on par?

-We refuse to do anything even remotely controversial, even when no one would really care. For example, we won't even say that we won the freaking War of 1812. The Americans claim they won. We say we tied. What kind of lame thing is that? Who ties at a war?!? We need to stand up for ourselves, gosh darnit!

-We have different channels/networks in Canada, which means we get different commercials. Usually, this doesn't matter. But sometimes, especially during the Superbowl, people like to talk about the commercials. Canadians have no idea what anybody is talking about. Totally lost.

But, of course, I love Canada. I celebrate with the best of them on July 1. And I cheer for my country during every sports game or Olympic event or whatever. I love being Canadian everyday. And I love being referenced in pop culture! Us Canadians make fun of ourselves enough, it's okay you Americans do it for a night. One night that is. Don't cross the line. We will get you back in the form of something totally lame and non-controversial. You'd better be scared!

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