Why We Always Make Fun of Ourselves

“That’s an embarassment to Pilsner,” says Dean Murdoch after he partially shotguns a beer, leaving the rest to pour out onto the pavement in front of his friend Terry. These two men are the stars of Fubar – a Canadian cult classic about two Albertan headbangers – and right now they’re shotgunning beers, playing hockey and fighting each other. Most Canadians would agree this is not the best portrayal of what it means to be Canadian, but hey, it’s popular.

Illustration by Faye Alexander
From “Trailer Park Boys” and Fubar, Canadian comedians make a living portraying themselves as our country’s negative stereotypes. In “Trailer Park Boys”, the trio of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles try get rich quick schemes like marijuana grow-ops, large scale petty crimes and fostering homeless kittens within their fictional place of residence, Sunnyvale Trailer Park. Fubar is not far removed from this, nor are both far from their distant cousin: SCTV’s “Great White North”, where Bob and Doug McKenzie popularized hoser talk and the beer drinking, ‘eh’-ing Canadian.

An important question to ask in response to this image is simply “why?” Why do
these Canadian comedians choose to portray their own kind in an unattractive way?
Where does this image come from? Perhaps this view has its roots in our Canadian attitude and heritage.

Fundamentally, I believe that it is safe to say that Canadians are a relaxed community of people. In the most obvious historical examples of this, our settlers did not massacre the indigenous owners of the Canadian land, our major civil war between the British and French ended in a draw, and the majority of our currency still boasts simple images of animals. On top of this, the Canadian population was largely built off of foreigners who settled as farmers, a profession known to induce a simple lifestyle. It would make sense that these founding attitudes have led the way to the comical image now in question.

So perhaps this negative image holds some fundamental truth. Take the relaxed opinion of marijuana use, or the culture of drinking that pervades small-town Canada. Do all Canadians drink and smoke pot excessively? No, but most have smoked weed and gotten bent off their rocker. We can enjoy, yet not directly relate to people we see in American movies. Canadian comedy is different: It’s funny because it’s us.

Similarly, another way to examine the popularity of these shows is to do so through an age-old Candian stereotype: the one of the polite, self-deprecating Canadian. It’s easy for Canadians to laugh at themselves. In America, reality TV gives their version of the American stereotype that, while possibly funny, is more cringe inducing than funny. Thankfully, Fubar and “Trailer Park Boys” give us chances to relax, let our guard down, and laugh at ourselves.
That being said, the Canadian image these cult classics have portrayed was born within our own country. We as Canadian can only hope that our international neighbors, either supporting or criticizing this image, notice a common, self-deprecating trend in Canadian comedy. Our laughter has always been directed towards our own nature as a combined community, either through over-generalization or distorting reality. In the long run, though, does it really matter?

//Travis Lawrenuk

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