A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to see a sneak preview of the new Bruce McDonald film Weirdos courtesy of my cousin Mark Almon, who was one of the producers of the film.
While there are many fascinating angles to talk about in what is a wonderful film overall, the one that stood out to me perhaps the most is the theme of English Canadian nationalism, which is expressed visually through constant background coverage of the US Bicentennial celebrations (the story is set over the July 1st to July 4th weekend of 1976) and then contrasted by the constant audio of early and mid-1970s “Can-Con” pop radio that pours joyously out of the various cars that transport the young characters from place to place in the film.
While there has always been a unique vitality to French Canadian nationalism, the response from the English side of the equation has often been marginalized in the broader transatlantic imperial Anglo-Saxon monoculture. As a result, it was for many years reduced to a small but important stream: the Confederation Poets, the Group of Seven, and the CBC and the National Film Board in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In 1970, the iconoclastic Don Shebib film Goin’ Down the Road added to the mix.
English Canadian nationalism’s ground zero in the 1960s was marked by the Halifax philosopher George Parkin Grant’s 1965 book Lament For A Nation. It set forth the argument that English Canada was doomed to vanish into the great mush of the endless dynamic of America’s dominant culture.
The book, posted on the Literary Review of Canada’s 2005 “Most Important 100 Canadian Books Ever” list, challenged a generation of nascent nationalists to prove Grant wrong. Inspiring the likes of Margaret Atwood and James Laxer, a new English Canadian nationalism did eventually arise, but it was rarely expressed in the broader popular culture.
Except in pop music.
Eclectic. Distinct. Glorious. Catchy. Irresistible.
It was, culturally, the only thing that seemed to be ours.
It’s all there, raging in the background of Weirdos, a quintessentially Canadian film in the very best sense, and that you positively have to see… and hear!Read more