Beaver Bites Back?

Beaver Bites Back?

Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Beaver Bites Back?
    Book Description:

    The contributing authors explore three aspects of American culture: its transmission by means of print and broadcast media and through live events in sport, entertainment, religious evangelism, and other public productions; its influence on Canadian popular culture; and the variety of Canadian responses. They suggest that the Canadian version of American popular culture is far more than a copy. Instead, it is frequently a creative response - often parodic in tone and subversive in intent - that gives public expression to Canadian sentiment and sensibility and provides protection from, and resistance to, American domination. Ironically, it may be in responding to American culture that Canadian sovereignty finds its most meaningful and potent articulation.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6429-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    David H. Flaherty
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-2)
  6. 1 Reversible Resistance: Canadian Popular Culture and the American Other
    (pp. 3-28)

    A popular Canadian creation myth has it that when the Fathers of Confederation came together, they decided to build a truly great country by borrowing the best of what their ancestors and neighbours had produced. The country they envisioned would combine French culture, British politics, and American technology. But the plan went wrong, and Canada was left instead with French politics, British technology, and American culture.

    The continuing debate about free trade between the United States and Canada reveals the extent to which concern about American cultural influence remains a Canadian preoccupation. A 1989 opinion poll indicated that this concern...

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 29-32)

      This part is especially concerned with the spread of American popular culture through modern techniques of communication. Bernard Ostry, a person with a lifetime of experience as a government official in the national and international politics of culture, first reminds us of the extraordinary tentacles that U.S. popular culture has spread around the world in the second half of the twentieth century, tentacles whose grasp shows little sign of abating. The advent of commercial television in the 1950s hastened this process. Touching on a broad range of topics, Ostry seeks to explain why the spread of U.S. popular culture has...

    • 2 American Culture in a Changing World
      (pp. 33-41)

      That we should be examining the implications of Americanization of culture for the cultural sovereignties of the free world seems apt, especially from a Canadian perspective. To be candid, we should admit that for Canadians the threat of Americanization is quite different from that of all other nations that feel endangered. It is different for us because American culture arrived in our territory with planters and settlers from New England in the early eighteenth century and with refugees from many countries over the succeeding decades. There is undeniably a powerful strand in Canadian culture that is and always has been...

    • 3 Awakening from the National Broadcasting Dream: Rethinking Television Regulation for National Cultural Goals
      (pp. 42-74)

      Since the earliest days of radio, Canadians have attempted to regulate broadcasting for national cultural purposes.¹ We have tried to ensure that the broadcast media promote Canadian national culture, and we have tried to limit the degree to which American and Canadian broadcasting media transmit American national culture. Despite these efforts, the United States today dominates the television environment of English-speaking Canada, which, especially during prime time, appears to exist as a mini-replica of the American system.² In this essay I consider both the threat to Canadian national culture posed by this state of affairs and the regulatory policies that...

    • 4 Broadcasting and Canadian Culture: A Commentary
      (pp. 75-87)

      Since the term “Canadian culture” is used promiscuously these days, it is refreshing to see that Bruce Feldthusen (in chapter 3) treats the subject seriously. Feldthusen’s major purpose is to justify changes in the methods we use to regulate broadcasting so that we may better preserve and strengthen Canadian culture. But in order to accept the changes, he says, we must understand realistically, and value properly, what we seek to preserve.

      In this vein, Feldthusen argues — sensibly, I think — that the “National Broadcasting Dream,” which has inspired the systems of broadcast regulation, is, well, a dream. It has been conceived...

    • 5 A Sweet Hope of Glory in My Soul: Television Evangelism in the United States and Canada
      (pp. 88-103)

      Television evangelism is an aspect of American mass culture that is both more frightening and more comforting than some of its other manifestations. It is frightening because of its (perceived) links with distrusted trends in American politics. It is comforting because few middle-class Canadian intellectuals are in danger of actually having to admit to a liking for the stuff. In this latter sense, it differs fromMiami Viceand Coca-Cola, and we need neither Dallas Smythe nor Mel Hurtig to protect us from it.¹ We can monitor its penetration into the Canadian market, compare it with its home-grown imitations, and...

    • 6 Inflecting the Formula: The First Seasons of Street Legal and L.A. Law
      (pp. 104-122)

      Generic theory goes back to Aristotle's definition of tragedy. As is well known, his influential description of tragedy fitsOedipus Rexvery well but does not adequately describeAntigoneorOedipus at Colonnus, most of the surviving plays of Aeschylus and much of Euripides — that is, much of what we know of as Greek “tragedy.” Yet the term is not meaningless as a way of analysing Greek drama, or Shakespeare, or some contemporary plays. Theatre is a public art. When its context changes, the concepts that define a genre alter over the centuries. With Racine true Aristotelian tragedy appeared only...

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 123-125)

      Part two opens with a fascinating comparative essay by John MacAloon, an American anthropologist with a strong interest in the comparative study of Olympic sport. His broad concern is “the recovery and analysis of patterned difference” in the conduct of contemporary popular cultural studies, in contrast to familiar claims of “homogenization” as mass culture’s distinctive feature. In particular, he contests the almost automatic assumptions made about the similarity of the Olympic movement in Canada and the United States. MacAloon views the topic of popular culture as highly politicized in Canada because of nationalism and demonstrable or feared U.S. domination, which...

    • 7 Popular Cultures of Olympic Sport in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 126-151)

      The old debates about the scholarly dignity of popular culture studies have been overwhelmed by the explosion of such work in the social and human sciences over the past fifteen years.¹ Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to recall what all the fuss was about amid the currently rich harvest of case studies, the transformation of whole disciplines (such as history), emergent boundary-defying intellectual programs (such as critical cultural studies),² and a diffuse postmodernism indexed by a studied transvaluation of high- and lowcultural values. Culturally oriented sociologists and anthropologists, long bemused by the category “popular culture” itself, have turned to the...

    • 8 Whose National Pastime? Baseball in Canadian Popular Culture
      (pp. 152-162)

      Late in the American depression, in 1939 to be exact, my father’s daily woodcutting chores (like millions, he was jobless), complemented by my impatient stacking of the split pieces, inevitably were accompanied in summer months by an imposing New England cultural ritual — afternoon radio broadcasts of Red Sox games from Fenway Park in Boston. Jimmy Foxx was my first baseball hero. I never saw him play, but the descripton of his feats by Jim Britt, the play-by-play announcer, were magnified several times over by my imagination. By the summer of 1941 the nation's economic woes had abated. America girded for...

    • 9 Ambivalence at the Fifty-five-Yard Line: Transformation and Resistance in Canadian Football
      (pp. 163-174)

      English Canadians have always been ambivalent towards their second national sport, that master-symbol of Canadian popular culture, Canadian football. People who are uncertain hold contradictory attitudes or emotions towards the object of ambivalence, such that actions that would be taken with reference to it are often inhibited by the more or less equally strong contradictory orientations. In this essay I will argue that, given their ambivalence about their game at the professional level, Canadians are restrained today by their own feelings from at least one important football-related act: buying tickets to games. This ambivalence, however, has been present since the...

    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 175-177)

      In the first contribution to Part Three, Reid Gilbert, a literary scholar, examines various images of Canada in popular entertainment under the rubric of “Mounties, Muggings, and Moose.” He reviews them as components of Canadian national identity — in effect, the popular sense of self that popular entertainments project. Gilbert's treatment is suffused with the complex interactions of American and Canadian popular culture; he even suggests that the Canadian sense of self is split between “an external set of images” in popular entertainments (which he describes in detail from films and TV programs) and “an often inarticulate internal set of images”...

    • 10 Mounties, Muggings, and Moose: Canadian Icons in a Landscape of American Violence
      (pp. 178-196)

      Any attempt to define the effect of pop entertainment on a Canadian sense of national identity immediately comes up against four major questions. What is the sense of national identity that popular entertainments reflect? To what extent can any sense of self be unitary in a multinational country whose minorities are asserting their individual vision? How do the images of self that fill Canadian popular entertainments differ from those that present America to Canadians in the entertainments that flood across our long, peaceful, but highly porous border? What has been the effect on a contemporary Canadian sense of self of...

    • 11 Syncretizing Sound: The Emergence of Canadian Popular Music
      (pp. 197-208)

      Making categories is a long-standing academic tradition; breaking them is an equally old popular tradition. In attempts to understand the nature of popular culture, categories seem essential, if only to reduce this vast area of creativity to manageable chunks: cinema, literature, theatre, food, architecture, and song, among others. Yet gingerbread houses shaped like wedding-cakes sold in bakeries, children's books that play music, and films that mix live action with animation show the mutability of any strict classification of popular culture.

      At least for the purposes of analysis one might be able to separate one popular culture genre from another, but...

    • 12 Our House, Their House: Canadian Cinema’s Coming of Age
      (pp. 209-221)

      Any discussion of American popular culture in Canada is, I believe, in danger of inspiring a spirited round of one-upmanship as scholars compete for the distinction of representing the field most coopted by the Yankee nemesis. Let me, then, as a student of cinema, stake my ground. Among the popular arts, film is certainly situated in the avant garde of cultural assimilation. It is not just that cinema in Canada has always meant Hollywood cinema; but film, like television, is distinguished by the fact that Canadians not only watch but actually make the American product. We do so literally in...

    • 13 Wives, Whores, and Priests: Gender Relations and Narrative Voices in Two Quebecois Traditions
      (pp. 222-234)

      In 1988 Chantal Hébert suggested one sociological difference between the way burlesque is performed in the United States and the way it is performed in Quebec: “In the U.S., the audience was almost exclusively male ... whereas the audience in Quebec consisted mainly of women. The Quebec texts are also longer ... and put a larger number of actors on stage, and these are mostly women.”¹ This characterization is no doubt correct. However, the distinct voices in which the burlesque story is told in each country appear to be more important and consequential to the performances than a merely sociological...

    • [PART FOUR Introduction]
      (pp. 235-236)

      Part Four returns to a continuing theme of this volume, the meaning of the persistent merchandising of American culture in Canada. Michael Ames, an anthropologist and the director of the well-known Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, treats Expo 86, the world’s fair in Vancouver, as an essentially American event occurring in Canada. The process began with a significant number of Americans and American companies being hired to create the fair itself and to make it work. But, Ames argues, Expo 86 became distinctively Canadian in style, and “American popular themes and institutions were taken over, Canadianized,...

    • 14 The Canadianization of an American Fair: The Case of Expo 86
      (pp. 237-246)

      Vancouver’s Expo 86 was described by a reporter as “the largest American fair ever held outside the United States”; only the address was Canadian.¹ Fears about the Americanization of Expo 86 were expressed early when a U.S. theme park expert, Michael Bartlett, was appointed the fair’s president. The trouble with Bartlett, complained theVancouver Suncolumnist Marjorie Nichols, was that he was “a transplanted American with carnival credentials” who was, heaven help us, “hell bent on turning Expo 86 into a doppelganger for Disneyland.”² Bartlett was quoted as saying that the philosophy of running fairs was quite simple: “You get...

    • 15 Culture for Sale: American Dollars Preferred
      (pp. 247-256)

      The border between Canada and the United States is a permeable barrier. Residents of one country can pass to the other with a minimum of formality, and many do so. Most such travellers, numbering in the millions in both directions, are tourists drawn by the attractions on the other side of the fence. Florida, for example, attracts both English- and French-speaking Canadians, particularly in the winter, but the two groups head for different locations. Arizona also hosts large numbers of elderly Canadian snowbirds. Myrtle Beach has its “Canadian week,” and some ski resorts in New England accept Canadian currency at...

    • [PART FIVE Introduction]
      (pp. 257-259)

      Since many of the essays in this volume deal with specific topics, readers are fortunate that this concluding part is a series of reflections that try to bring together some of the broad themes outlined in the preface and introduction. In the first essay Paul Rutherford, a leading historian of Canadian culture, reflects upon Canada’s experience with mass culture during the past hundred years or so. Along the way he seeks to dispel several myths, especially nationalist ones. His focus is “the products, services, and practices manufactured by the communications, advertising, education, sports, leisure, and recreation industries to serve a...

    • 16 Made in America: The Problem of Mass Culture in Canada
      (pp. 260-280)

      The doctrine of nationalism has bedevilled intellectual discourse in Canada.¹ The country has never fit the ideal model: there has always loomed some outside empire, whether centred in London, the Vatican, or Washington, to restrict the country’s sovereignty; the persistence of the “two solitudes,” French and English, has made a mockery of efforts to build a pan-Canadian nationality; and the derivative or dependent character of our social or literary or even audio-visual life has been a bitter pill for any devout nationalist to swallow. Unfortunately, nationalist thinking has usually prevailed in debates about culture. My purpose here is to reflect...

    • 17 American Popular Culture and the Canadian State: The Case of Pornography
      (pp. 281-292)

      It is a long way from John Ruskin to Andy Warhol’s cookie jars or burlesque in Quebec. Nevertheless, Ruskin’s words convey today, as they did when he wrote them, that the record of a culture lies in its arts - not necessarily in the masterpieces or the Pulitzer prizes or the governor general’s awards, but in the everyday forms that are the expression of the widest possible base of the society or the “common sympathies of the race.”

      Popular culture, then, is both an art form and a record, a source of pleasure and a way of learning about a...

    • 18 American Popular Culture in Canada: Trends and Reflections
      (pp. 293-302)

      I am told by a friend who likes to spend his summers in Prince Edward Island that a couple from “away” recently tried to launch a new eating establishment in the north shore town of Morell (population 600). Named “The French Café,” it specialized in quiche and salads. Since the café opened in February, it was at the mercy of an exclusively local market and was gone long before the tourists arrived. Its rapid slide into bankruptcy was attributed locally to the fact that “its burgers were no good” and that it failed to serve either french fries or brand-name...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 303-346)
  13. Index
    (pp. 347-356)