Lonita needs no introduction to Voice readers as she’s been submitting to this publication in many capacities since 2002. Aside from serving as Vice President External on the AU Students’ Union, Lonita contributes to a number of the Voice listings columns and also provides short news items and themed links lists. Her full length articles appear less frequently, but represent an eclectic mix of topics ranging from album reviews with a historical context, to musings on 21st century life and the role of technology in socialization. This article, a heartfelt commentary on the corporate consumption of our Canadian identity, first appeared in the April 6, 2005 issue.
It’s been said that Canada’s suffered three invasions throughout her history: French, British, and the cultural one by our neighbours to the south. The first two shaped us as a physical nation, the third is interfering with one of the largest problems we, as a people, have ever faced: our search for a national identity. We’re stuck, y’see, between two world powers, one old and one new, trying to figure out if we’re more British, more American, or something else entirely. In some small fashion, at least, I think we’ve decided that we want to be something else, taking the best elements we’ve learned from our two largest English-speaking cultural influences, pounding them together with what we remember of our French and Native heritages, and coming up with something that is uniquely Canadian, something that we didn’t have to borrow from somewhere else and pretend was ours.
One thing we’ve always been proud of is our beer. We like the fact that it’s better and stronger than that of our neighbours to the south. There’s always been something uniquely Canadian about the way we approach beer and beer drinking; something we could be protective of, and something that, until recently at least, Molson was getting very good at reminding us of — however many Canadian stereotypes they played into. Their commercials highlighted certain beliefs we have about ourselves, and while not always being in the best of truth, sense, or taste, they did give us something else that crept into our national identity: they allowed us to say “I Am Canadian” in more than just a beer-drinking context, mean it, and be proud of it.
I can’t really describe the old Molson “I Am Canadian” ads to anyone who’s never seen or heard one, but they played on certain Canadian stereotypes well and made us all happy about them. They were cute, enjoyable, and amusing.
Ever since Molson’s merger with the Coors empire, however, the tone has changed. The ads are mostly sex-oriented, with big production budgets. Even their promotions are sexually motivated. The ads are no longer cute, amusing, or enjoyable. They’re getting crass, vulgar, and playing on the cheap side of stupid rather than the subtly amusing side. The old ads could have appealed to women as well as men in some cases, but now they’re all decidedly male-oriented, and play on aspects of lies to the female, headgames with the female, and being Big Man On Campus. The ads have become stupid. While some of the concepts are all right, they get buried under all the tits-and-ass appeals. We’ve never been a nation that needed its beer sold to them with tits and ass. We’ve been fine having it sold to us with guys playing hockey, loons in the background, and nights around the cottage campfire. We’re not a hard lot to sell beer to. The big shiny beer ads aren’t necessary. The Hollywood production quality is over-the-top. It, like the advantage you’re supposed to take of the women and situations portrayed in the ads, is going beyond what is necessary for doing other than big-budget action films.
Molson, I am losing any respect I had for your company. If you felt that the merger with the American beer empire had to change your style of advertising, I can certainly understand that, but couldn’t you have come up with something less overt? Did you lose all sense of subtlety when you signed those merger contracts? Please make a liar out of me sometime soon, before you take what was a good nationalistic ad campaign and make me regret every bottle of Canadian that’s passed through these lips.
Right now I’m sorely disappointed, and if I see someone wearing one of your lie-to-the-woman conversation-starter t-shirts, I’ll be heading in the opposite direction. How am I supposed to take seriously a guy who’s wearing a t-shirt they got out of a slab of beer anyhow? I never have before, and I don’t think it’s suddenly going to appeal to me now. I miss the offshoot of Canadiana and Canadian identity your old ads were. That’s gone now, and I think, however silly it may sound, taking those ads away removed you from our national identity — a place that it was probably very good for your business for you to be. It was certainly good for some faction of our identity as a people. We’ve got other beers to turn to, but it’s not the same.
Well, my identity is still intact at least; I Am (Still) Canadian, but I’m not so certain about you.