Stop it, Canada, you’re embarrassing me!


My 16-year-old was watching a movie on her tablet. I hovered over her shoulder until the scene ended in a surge of hip-hop. It was something by, I don’t know, L’il Change Purse or Jimmy Jimmy Jam Jam, a tune with, as the kids say, a sick beat. It was lit. It was AF as heck. So naturally, I had to bust some moves. I busted all the moves. I busted so many moves I needed a broom.

“Stop! Stop!” My daughter shouted. “You’re embarrassing everyone!”

The funny thing is, I get it. I know exactly what she means, because sometimes I feel like I’m a teenager and Canada is my dad.

I felt this way when I gazed into the zeitgeist of Twitter Monday and witnessed a clip of Shania Twain being towed into a snowed-in Grey Cup halftime show aboard a dog sled in sparkly pink long-johns escorted by Mounties.

Oh, Canada…

Let’s break that down in order of embarrassment.

The Grey Cup is a football game. Some Canadians like football. Most would rather the NFL, but there may be a few who prefer the CFL, the type of people who unironically suggest Sudbury as a vacation spot and who actually measure things in centimetres.

But let’s not pretend the Grey Cup is Canada’s Super Bowl. It’s more like Canada’s Thing To Watch Because It’s Sunday And I Haven’t Put Snow Tires On Yet. The Super Bowl is a massive cultural exercise in excess; the Grey Cup is a pretty nice tradition. Super Bowl tickets cost on average $3000; Grey Cup tickets can be had if you R-R-Roll Up the R-R-Rim to Win.

Yet the Grey Cup has aspirations of Super Bowldom. Consequently, since 1990, the Grey Cup has incorporated a halftime show. Burton Cummings has performed three times! He’s the Up With People of Canada’s signature football event.

In 1996, the Super Bowl had Diana Ross. That same year, the Grey Cup had The Nylons, and if you remember The Nylons, then bless your soft-rock a cappella heart.

But you know what? Music is music and a show is a show, so thank you, Luba, Trooper and free-trade imports The Black Eyed Peas for entertaining our cold Canadian souls, even if you foolishly do so with a 60% chance of flurries. And if there’s an inherent lameness to it, a sort-of-but-not-quite American quality, I think that adequately speaks to the Canadian identity.

But to take that Canadian identity and drive it into the snowbank, that’s too much.

The dog sled I can maybe get behind. (Get it?) It shouts, “Hey, look at me: Canadian!” It’s the unicycle of Canadian transportation. But in this scenario, with snow covering the field, it was actually a viable means of conveyance. I cringed but gave it a pass.

However, when Shania dismounted the sled in her sparkling pink onesie and was escorted to the stage by Mounties in red serge, that’s when the show went over the CanCon falls (the Horseshoe Falls, naturally).

It’s always bothered me when American pop culture has depicted Canadians as igloo-hugging hosers with funny accents or when the shorthand for “Canadian” is a Mountie on a horse. “Canada is more than that!” I yell at the TV. “We’re a regionally diverse, politically complex people with a wide range of policing options. Also we don’t say ‘aboat,’ except for every single guy who announces the hockey games.”

No one complains, though, because Canadians feel so giddy whenever Canada is mentioned in even the worst American entertainment context. It’s like getting noticed by the cool kids.

In fact, Canada has recently become a cool kid, thanks to our sensitive PM and generally not being a horrible country. We’re cool without the stereotypes.

And then we pull off this stereotype-stuffed Grey Cup.

We do this all the time. If we’re not wallowing in our own stereotypes, we’re rallying as a nation (well, non-Quebec nation) around the oddest things: our lone pro basketball or baseball teams (played by non-Canadians, except for that one guy); fretting over who will be the next anchor of “The National”; contests on The Most Canadian Television Thing that end up being a kids’ show with a mute dog and androgynous puppet; mourning for the end of The Tragically Hip, a rock band that was… okay, I guess. I mean, they’re no Burton Cummings!

“Normalizing” is the word of the day, and it feels like we go out of our way to normalize Canuckness – though if you’re a Canadian who refers to yourself as a “Canuck,” please leave the room.

It’s all super embarrassing. Or it would be if it weren’t for the fact that, like me boogieing down in front of my daughter, no one is actually paying attention. In fact, fretting about this stuff at all? So-o-o-o Canadian!


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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36 Responses to Stop it, Canada, you’re embarrassing me!

  1. List of X says:

    This is obviously a very Canadian way of overthinking your appearance to the outside world. Here in the US, we just go “USA! Number 1! We’re the best!”
    We don’t even go into what exactly we’re the best at, we’re simply the best!

  2. Lil Change Purse. I chortled at that one!

    I agree with List of X. We do overthink. But it also seems regional to me. I don’t think the west cares as much. Ontario on the other hand …

  3. Forgive me while I strap on my bottes à crampons rabattables, and try to catch up, tragically hip-deep in drifts of introspection, up there in Canada. I guess self-reflection is inevitable with all the ice.
    I had to look up this Greybowl, sorry, bad job on brand identity, sounds like a job for the Ty-D-Bol Man. ( Earl Grey? The tea guy? ) Google hit me with a flurry of Mud Bowl, Fog Bowl, Ice Bowl, etc. – – so obviously, it’s just Canada promoting this all wrong – to me, it screams “Survival!” and grainy slo-mo videos with pounding heavy metal soundtracks – come on, obviously it’s meant to be promoted as an Ultimate Extreme Sport, not football. It’s that reticence and honesty stuff that’s screwing you guys up. “Who Will Survive…And Get a Nice Cup of Our Sponsor’s Perfume-y Tea…And Who Will Freeze But Possibly Be Reanimated For Next Season If We Run Out of Plot Lines” And more Shania Twain — on a dogsled, dishwasher, having her teeth cleaned, it doesn’t matter, she’s stunning and a terrific singer.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Yeah, no dis on Shania. Here’s a thing: there’s a small outfit in the town I live in that makes something called Bag Balm. It’s for cow udders (chafing, you know) but people use it on their hands. (People like me.) During Shania’s heyday, someone asked about her hair, She said she coated it with Bag Balm. Well, sales skyrocketed! The little mom-and-pop could barely keep up. I ran the local paper at the time, and our head line was “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a Bag Balm boom!” It was my proudest moment.
      And that’s Lord Grey to you, sonny Jim.

  4. Lynn says:

    Love this Ross! Just to add to the whole Shania thing, I listened to an interview where she indicated that she when considering her wardrobe, she needed to be prepared for the cold weather (not her exact words). HUH? When is the last time she resided in Canada in the cold weather? I mean, I know she had on furry little boots on & some sort of furry little red cape but that sparkly netted onesie? Unless those sparkles were giving off heat, I am thinking this certainly was not proper Canadian winter attire! Thanks for the chuckle this morning. Only thing that would have made this post better would have been a video of your dance moves.

  5. Yahooey says:

    You’re implying that one third of Canada is too lazy to put on their snow tires.

    And showing your Quebecer influences, Pierre Falardeau is the only person I know who ever suggested Sudbury was a happening place.

  6. Carrie Rubin says:

    Ha, you think you guys are embarrassed? Look what’s happening to us in the US. We’re mortified on a daily basis. Can we borrow your PM? 😄

  7. Australia has a similar inferiority complex when it comes to the US or in fact any major world player. Australian politicians wag their tails with glee whenever anything happens that brings attention from the international press. Acclaim for our actors or sportsmen on the world scene holds a special place of patriotic pride. Strangely, we are also very proud of our ability to consume large amounts of beer and of having some of the deadliest spiders and snakes in the world. 🕷

  8. ksbeth says:

    i’m peeking out from behind two maple leaves at what’s happening here, and would love to have your pm -.

  9. Gavin Keenan says:

    Great column as usual. Remember, it could be worse. I am a loyal Yank, and hope that my beleaguered nation can pull itself out of it’s self-inflicted tailspin someday soon. I always look at Canadian Society with awe, holding it in comparison to what the USA has lost over the past half-century. Our countries share a vastness of space and peoples which makes national identity tricky at times, but please, don’t ever allow the CFL to mimic the NFL. Canada probably does not contain the requisite number of wife / girlfriend beaters, animal torturers, child beaters, murderers and rapists to fill the roster of an entire team like here.

  10. Is Shania Twain Canadian? No way! I had no idea. I’d be more impressed if they haul up Geddy Lee in that dogsled. This is the only place I ever see a nod to Burton Cummings. It keeps me young-ish.

  11. I think it’s sic beat, not sick beat…

  12. Did you know? The Shania Twain museum in Timmins was torn down to build an open pit mine. Not sure how that’s relevant to your post, but it’s the only bit of trivia I know about the pop star.

  13. Jessica says:

    At least you don’t have a leader named Trump. I love List of X’s comment and your response at the very beginning of this thread. I have been embarrassed to be an American for a while now…

    • rossmurray1 says:

      X is the best.
      I don’t think Americans should be embarrassed. If anything, what’s happening now is waking people up from the notion of blind patriotism. Questioning authority and leadership is good for democracy. Be strong, have courage and know we will always be jealous of you.

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