(This was my first
editorial for Taxi Vancouver Mag.zine, October 1997)
If it sends a shiver up my
spine to see a blue five-dollar bill change hands in Exotica, if
my pulse quickens when a Royal Canadian Legion badge flashes past in
Sweet Hereafter, if I dig my nails into the armrest when I hear a Quebecois
accent in Highway 61 -- it's because of the frightening absence
of these Canadian minutiae in most of what I see around me.
Civil-rights activists fight
for the fair representation of minorities and women in the media.
We take part in these debates, sometimes, as if they were about us.
They aren't; they're about America. Canada has always been further
ahead in representationism, simply because our pitifully small culture
industry is fueled by our comparatively liberal-minded government and not
profit-mad corporations, who 'identify' more with pointy-eared aliens than
with a female second-in-command. What we should lobby for, perhaps
even in U.S. Congress, is the fair and equal portrayal of Canadians in
the media. Though we outnumber U.S. blacks, we are even more sadly
underrepresented in mass culture.
I'm now the Film Section
Editor for Taxi Vancouver, so I suppose you should know where I'm coming
from, and read the film section with grains or flakes of the appropriate
seasonings. I don't claim to question everything, but from the perspective
of a young Canadian filmmaker, the world seems a confusing and frightening
place. 30-Year veterans of the industry have trouble funding their
films. Hard Core Logo lost money.
The current starving-artist
indie scene is like a white-collar coal mine. We buy our own tools,
work slave's hours, occasionally blow ourselves up, and hope someone will
pay us, 'discover' us. This may be a fine approach for novelists,
painters, dancers, singers, stand-up comics, cellists, poets, or driftwood
sculptors, but filmmaking is an expensive hobby.
Why Canadians consider it
a frivolous luxury to support culture, I'll never understand. Hollywood
is as vital to the U.S. Empire as flying a flag at the embassy; both are
purely symbolic, but serve functions as pointed as bayonets. Hollywood
serves as an advertisement for American music, fashion, ideology, and products,
and what endeavor could survive without advertising?
When I saw Independence Day,
the crowd cheered and clapped when New York, L.A. and Washington were destroyed.
These were such stirring spectacles, of course, because of our complete
acceptance of the fact that America is an invincible world power; from
the Big One to the Gulf (with the Vietnam blip) they casually trounce their
opponents. The vision of someone defeating them was indeed frightening.
But, of course, it was only
the first act. America brought together the brainy Jew (Jeff Goldblum),
the brawny Black (Wil Smith), the WASP veteran-President (Bill Pullman),
their purely supportive wives, their ultimately-justified super-secret
government megaprojects, and every single piece of military hardware they'd
ever built with all those $150 screws and bolts. The aliens suffered
a blistering defeat and America was again supreme.
Independence Day was just
as effective as Red Dawn (which the Defense Department funded) and Top
Gun (for which the US Navy lent a million-dollar-a-day aircraft carrier
for two weeks); it showed the world that America will not go down.
And it charged them eight bucks a pop to find out.
Is there anything remotely
as powerful to promote Canadian ideals like peace, diplomacy, poutine,
and (gasp) a little bit of socialism?
America, the greatest culture
squatter in history, is simply putting their stuff out there and we are
falling to attrition. Heavy rotation turns contempt into impulse
buying. Occasionally we attempt to compete with them on the 'level
playing field' which free traders seek to promote, by producing cheap action
flicks set ambiguously in America. As free traders secretly know,
we usually lose. That's why they want free trade.
And just so's the free traders
can continue tittering, let me point out the new gigantic studio in Mexico
which was built this year for (Canadian) James Cameron's Titanic.
Besides reinforcing the great American cultural legend for the umpteenth
time ($200 million feature about the Halifax explosion, anyone? Oh,
I see, there was already a Heritage Moment...), it also establishes a cheap
film production facility in our NAFTA partner. Yes! NAFTA!
AAAH! In Mexico, they just put pepper on their plate. Then
Remember, every feature film
and every season of a TV series is a separate production, and the decision
where to shoot can be made on up-to-the-moment info. The whimsical
ravings of David Duchovny should serve as a warning that the Vancouver
film industry is merely a useful colony, which can be abandoned, like all
colonies, for Mexico, Portland, or God knows where.
And as for those blue five-dollar
bills -- the Wall Street Journal has called upon Mexico to stop using the
peso. The bigwigs of the financial community have already started the wheels
in motion for a single North American Free Trade Zone currency. It's just
part of globalizing trade, I suppose; nothing to do with culture at all.