A Generation of Canadian Media Culture
by Melanie Strong
Up here, where the secretive and unassuming Canadians live and breed, generations have been raised on Saturday morning cartoons and after dinner sitcoms. In that, myself and my fellow Canucks are no different than any other Westernized country.
In fact, much of our collective cultural consciousness has been permanently altered by the broadcasted American stations to which we all tune in. Our childhoods and our childrens’ hoods are filled with NBC, HBO and Dan Rather’s eyebrows.
Knowing full well that a country is only as patriotic and tax-paying as its media makes it, a lovely concept called Cancon was created to feed 50-60 percent Canadian content down our collective gullet on any Canadian broadcasting station.
This content often took the form of cheaply produced drama series, hastily concocted news programs and and even sketchier sketch comedy programs. Many of these attempts by our entertainment industry have been largely forgotten. It has become the shorts in between these and other shows which would come to define us as a culture. Our childhoods predominantly featured renditions of the song “Don’t Put It In Your Mouth” and the awareness that drugs are sometimes bad and that we should ask our mom or ask our dad.
Don’t you put it in your mouth / Don’t stuff it in your face / Though it might look good to eat / And it might look good to taste / You could get sick / Real quick / ICK!
Drugs, drugs drugs! / Which are good? /Which are bad? / Ask your mom or ask your dad!
Such sage advice can be attributed solely to an organization called Concerned Children’s Advertisers. The CCA is responsible for over thirty public service announcements that predominated my awareness of the dangers of the world around me. If it weren’t already known that the 1980s were drug-fueled (see: He-Man), I would have guessed it anyway from the amount of anti-drug advertising that seeped into my brain. Speaking of drugs and brains, check out your brain on drugs:
Perhaps, for me, one of the most touching commercials of my youth comes from the CCA and also deals with the effect of drugs. Using The Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, this public service announcement (PSA) shows the difficulties of dealing with a drug-addicted friend:
Still makes me all girly-eyed.
As well as all of these anti-drug commercials mave have worked on us (they didn’t), the PSAs also focused on bullying, self-image and abuse. Check out more here.
Not everything on TV is real.
The War Amps of Canada are an organization originally created to help veterans who had lost limbs in the line of duty. It eventually evolved to provide financial and social support to all amputees. As part of this, the War Amps took it upon themselves to do educational outreach about safety, to hopefully reduce the amount of accidents experienced by Canadians each year.
“I am Astar. I am a robot. I can put my arm back on. You can’t. Play safe.”
Our government, in an effort to prevent obesity and heart disease (so as to not clog up our wonderful universal health care – NB: didn’t work) created a program, in association with Health Canada, called Participaction.
There’s nothing quite like vintage claymation.
Keep fit and have fun, with Hal Johnson & Joanne Mcleod!
Aside from warning us of the dangers of our lifestyle, Canadian advertisers and the government decided to educate the toque-wearing masses.
Hinterland Who’s Who catches a frazzled mind’s attention immediately with its haunting lone flute introducing the latest indigenous animal deserving of thirty seconds of undivided attention.
The beaver. We used to hunt ’em some good.
The Muskox, Canada’s ton-ton.
And, ahhhhh, Canadian history. Heritage Moment quotations can still be heard echoing through drunken kitchen parties from Vancouver to Cape Breton (that is, coast to coast).
“Dr. Penfield, Dr. Penfield, I smell burnt toast!”
Guess what you didn’t know about Canada?
Finally, the National Film Board –long a saviour of independent filmmakers and animators nationwide – is responsible for the epitome of the Canadian mythos:
The Log Driver’s Waltz: This is rendition performed by the McGarrigle Sisters (Kate McGarrigle is the mother of solo artists Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright.)
Canadian Content for This Recording:
“Far Away” – Martha Wainwright (mp3)
“Mostly Waving” – Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton (mp3)
“Consumption” – Laura Barrett (mp3)
“Kennedy Killed the Hat (Dance Remix)” – MSTRKRFT (mp3)
“You Can Heal” – The Heavy Blinkers (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Molly explored the fifties TV angle.
We gave you a lil’ mixtape.
When you’re with me, I’m free.