Let’s get this straight: Canada’s second-ranking official, Deputy Prime Minister and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, makes the front pages last week by threatening a trade war against Hollywood to protect the Great White North against “American cultural imperialism.”
Never mind that the suggestion came in a week when the British Commonwealth cleaned our clocks in Oscar nominations. God bless Americans Tom Cruise and the Coen brothers for keeping us competitive, except that Cruise’s “Jerry Maguire” was made by a Japanese-owned studio, and a Dutch-controlled company distributed the Coens’ “Fargo.”
Protect Canada from U.S. culture? Last year, Canadian Alanis Morissette sold more albums in the U.S. than anyone else, by a longshot, with an album that enhanced our culture with song lyrics about oral sex in a theater. The second top seller? Another Canadian, Celine Dion.
That most cutting-edge of American TV shows, “The X-Files,” is shot entirely in Canada. “In Cold Blood” is about one of America’s most famous murder cases, in the Midwest heartland, but the makers of the recent TV movie opted for the heartland of western Canada.
One of the surest bets you can make is that the top-grossing film this year will be “The Lost World,” Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” sequel. The film, toys, kids’ hamburger combo meals, figurines, theme park promotions and stuffed dinosaurs will come to us courtesy of Universal Studios Inc., which happens to be owned by Canadian liquor giant Seagram Co.
To quote Morissette: “Isn’t it ironic?”
Once again, there is talk of culture wars and the need by government officials to protect ordinary people from their own good judgment in deciding what movies or TV shows to watch or music to listen to. A couple of years ago, the French were talking about it. Now it’s a Canadian politician. The common link is that in both cases, the suggestions are equally silly.
For one thing, Hollywood’s nationality is increasingly murky as the industry becomes more global. The Japanese and Australians own movie studios, and the Germans, Koreans and French routinely write the checks to finance movies. What’s more, the argument that culture should be protected will soon be irrelevant in an age of home satellite dishes and the 60-plus-channel television universe. Such technology will easily skirt the border checkpoints erected by cultural protectionists.
Fortunately, based on some of the things being written in Canada over the last week, nobody seems to be taking Copps very seriously. As the Financial Post wrote in an editorial, “Heritage Minister Sheila Copps has always been a bit of a loose cannon, but provoking a trade war with the U.S. is outrageous--even for her.”
Still, the potential for mischief is there. Canada now actually spells out the maximum percentage of non-Canadian music that can be played on its radio stations. Wonder how many people are employed to sit and log the number of minutes spent playing k.d. lang and Shania Twain from the north, Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins from the south.
So let’s turn the argument around. With the likes of Morissette and Dion dominating our music sales, and “The Lost World” on the horizon, maybe it’s time to start taking a look at Canada’s dilution of American culture.
Here’s an inventory of the ammunition at hand in case Copps succeeds in launching a cultural trade war:
1. Don’t play the Canadian national anthem at U.S. sporting events.
When the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies (which feature benches full of U.S. players) come to the Forum to play the Lakers, forget about “O, Canada.” Two immediate benefits: Games will have a better chance of starting on time, and fans will be spared the sexist line, “True patriot love, in all thy sons command.”
2. Make it illegal for cashiers to slip in Canadian coins when giving back change.
The sooner we get rid of all those coins floating around with Queen Elizabeth’s likeness on them the better. Even vending machines don’t like them.
3. Confiscate the passports of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter, all of those people on “Millennium,” Stephen J. Cannell and anyone else who does a lot of work in Canada.
Canada has done everything it can to lure the production of U.S. cultural imperialism, including various tax schemes and other government-subsidized benefits. Start shooting “The X-Files” and other shows in Seattle and the truth will be out there: Cultural imperialism is good for Canada’s economy.
4. Next time the Olympics are held in a U.S. city, don’t let Celine Dion sing the theme song for the event.
Whitney Houston wasn’t available?
5. Implement the Dan Aykroyd rule.
Don’t let Canadians exploit music that is uniquely American. Make the Ontario native disassociate himself from House of Blues, and prohibit him from dressing and performing in public as a Blues Brother.
6. Prohibit Canadian companies from advertising liquor on TV.
A good, and politically safe, way to get rid of those Seagram ads.
7. Cut by 50% the number of times Alanis Morissette videos and singles can air in a single day.
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Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps wants to hose down what she sees as Hollywood’s invasion of Canada, but who’s invading whom? Top U.S. recording artists Alanis Morissette and Celine Dion are Canadian; “The X-Files” is shot entirely in Canada; and Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” sequel will come from Universal Studios, which is owned by a Canadian firm. What’s that aboot?