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.
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!