Colbert does it. South Park does it. Heck, I have even done it. And let me tell you, Canadians may chuckle politely at their own expense, but they don’t like it much. I was reminded of this last week when I ran across an article in the Globe and Mail about the latest Canadian bashing efforts of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. When I first started watching South Park, I was confused by baby Ike’s flapping head. Even his being adopted didn’t adequately explain the fact that he looked like a cut-out. A really badly done cut-out. Then, of course, it was revealed that Ike was Canadian and combine that with the (flatulent) Canadian actors, Terrance and Philip, who showed up from time to time (with flapping heads) and it all made sense. No Canadians I know (I haven’t been to Quebec yet) are similarly afflicted, although the one I live with is a bit windy, and it seems not very nice of South Park to characterize them this way. My Canadian (windy and all) is very nice (with a nice bum). And that is the problem. Canadians are very nice and polite and, as we all learned on the playground, this makes one a target for harrassment and ridicule.
The latest South Park offering has Canadians going on strike and no one in the States really noticing. Which makes sense as Americans view Canada as a future territory (though when peak oil becomes a real bitch in another decade – the U.S. is going to find itself having to show a little respect if it wants to continue its oil-soaked ways).
When I mentioned South Park and its take on Canadians to Rob, I got the ultra polite response that one will get from a Canadian who is maintaining the Canuck version of the “stiff upper lip” while composing lyrical French curses within the recesses behind that very nice smile. South Park employs all the usual Canadian stereotypes – hockey players, lumberjacks, Quebeckers. I don’t really understand them. In the Midwest I come from, hockey is also a big deal. I haven’t seen a single lumberjack after being here almost a year, and the French speakers I have met don’t seem the least bit xenophobic or secessionist. The American take on Canada is that our northern neighbors are just American wanna-be’s. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Canadians have a somewhat low opinion of the States, mainly due to its politics, and they see themselves and their country and culture as on par or even excelling that of America.
I wonder what the average American would think if they knew how they were portrayed in foreign media or talked about by people of other countries. While the U.S. is a place that many people from other countries would like to live, it seems to me that their reasons for that are more about money than anything else. No one seems to envy us our culture. Our culture is kind of viewed as vacuous.
Just another side-effect of living “abroad”.