“My, Those Are Spiffy Sunglasses. Did You Fall Down A Mine?”

October 14, 2010

Hope, and capitalism, have won out in Chile.

For the past few days I, like the rest of the world, have been captivated by the ongoing saga in Chile as 33 miners were rescued from almost 700 metres below ground, all emerging with shouts, laughs, and plenty of thanks for God and the scientists who have spent the last two months trying to get them out. Frankly, it’s great to hear some good news from the world media, which recently have been depressing us endlessly with their tales of woe about the recession, the impending political reign of morons, and the demise of their own industry. The great mining rescue has also provided the best branding opportunity this year: Oakley sunglasses have suddenly become the eyewear of choice for the discerning miner.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Bronzed Gods Triumphed Over Pale Britannia

July 28, 2010

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, the season when the attentions of those who follow fashion shift to achieving that suitable all-over skin blistering we commonly refer to as a “suntan.” I always marvel at how the desire for a deep brown “glow” exists in the same societies in which racism against all those not of European origin still flourishes. I also wonder at how these bronze aspirations exist so strongly in the western world, when pale skin is still the preferred look in much of India, the Far East, and Africa.

Less than a century ago a tan, anywhere in the world, was seen as the unquestionable mark of someone who laboured outside in the sun because he could not afford to pay someone else to do it for him. The sun makes the skin tough and leathery, the opposite effect of what Victorian ladies desired. For centuries, women used everything from arsenic powder to drawn-on blue veins to highlight the soft, pale, translucent nature of their skin. The look was a very European courtly one, where the majority of social gatherings occurred indoors away from the prying eyes of the lower classes. And the ideal spread with European imperialism, condemning those races with naturally darker skin tones to perpetual inferiority. In the famous ad below, for Pears soap, a white boy uses Pears as part of a cleansing ritual with a black boy, the end result being lighter, more desirable, skin. Read the rest of this entry »


Cities of the Imagination

March 29, 2010

The Wrigley Building, Chicago is
The Union Stockyard, Chicago is
One town that won’t let you down
It’s my kind of town

I love Paris every moment,
every moment of the year.
I love Paris, why, oh why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.

If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York

All of these well-known song lyrics have something in common, and no, it’s not just that Frank Sinatra has sung them all. They all sum up the idea of the cities they describe: a hard-working town that “won’t let you down”; a city of love; a place requiring gumption but well worth the effort. They are the lyrical equivalent of the montages that open every episode of the CSI series. They are but a few of the millions of references – words, images, or feelings – that make up the way we imagine cities. And they are powerful enough to dictate how we feel about places we’ve never been, and channel the experiences we expect once we get there.

One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read recently was uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto. A collection of short essays, it looked at Toronto’s past, present, and future in a way that was intriguing, thoughtful and – perhaps most importantly – hopeful. Covering everything from proposed dedicated bike highways to greenroofs to the necessity of public washrooms (I could take or leave that one), it made me realize the possibilities that exist for this city. (If anyone is interested, it’s sold by Coach House Books, available at major monopolistic Canadian bookstores which shall remain nameless, and many libraries, I’m sure.)

Perhaps my favourite essay was by Bert Archer, entitled “Making a Toronto of the imagination.” (I’d actually recommend that you buy the book for these 10 pages alone, they’re that good.) In it, he discusses why Toronto has no real “global city” status whereas, say, Montreal does (because of its comparative difference from the rest of North America and its low tuition fees making an international alumni diaspora); the kinds of “layers” and networks in which we get to know our cities (the work area and the home area and a few others thrown in); and how cities become vested in our minds. He talks about how authors, directors, or other artists pluck areas – like, say, the Prince Edward Viaduct from In the Skin of a Lion – to use in their works, which then serve as reference points in a constantly reinforcing cycle. We feel more attached to the places and spaces we love because we know other people love them too, and then more people want to sing or write about them, and so on. This is how cities become stories.

The idea of imagined cities is one that has been percolating in my brain since long before I started the posthistorical blog, but a film review by Liam Lacey in the Globe & Mail today pushed it right back to the top of my mind. In it, Lacey reviews Chloe, a new ‘erotic thriller’ by Canadian director Atom Egoyan – but his review is more about Toronto than the film. This is Toronto’s chance to finally stop being the city that has “a distinct iconography that audiences in other cities feel they recognize but can’t quite identify, because they’ve seen it in the movies,” he says. But he notes that this is a glossy, unrealistic Toronto, with none of the “suburbs, strip malls or ethnic neighbourhoods” locals love.

The trouble is, art can’t portray cities as they really are, in all their complexity and contradiction. It sells a simplified version of what people think they are. And it is a self-reinforcing cycle. Chicago is a great example of this, the wild and dangerous “second city” of the United States, where uncouth lawlessness (i.e. wanton murder, licentiousness, and trains!) was, and maybe still is, the order of the day. Live in a safe neighbourhood with no trouble in Hinsdale? Doesn’t matter: audiences want to see the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail. Paris? Come prepared to fall in love, or fall in love again. In this light, even the rude waitstaff seem charming. And New York is an example of simplicity from diversity, as it has been portrayed as a kind of microcosm of all the hardship and potential of America. Only within this uniting vision is it allowed its complexities: extreme poverty next to extreme wealth, immigrant families and established American dynasties, joy and sorrow, the past and the future, all side by side.

Toronto doesn’t have a unifying vision yet. In part this is because of the country in which it is located. Nobody quite knows how to characterize Canada either (sitting inside or outside of it). Not quite the US, not quite Britain, Canada doesn’t really have a clear and coherent image that it stands for yet, and even if it did at one point, it’s constantly in flux. In part, I suspect that this is because Canada, and Toronto even more so, is a place people go to, a hope, a destination. It is by definition about many different things, what one great blog post I read recently called “multiculturalism – a legal reality.”

Will Toronto ever have the status of a city of the imagination, shared amongst a global audience? Perhaps it will follow from Canadians’ growing sense of national pride, the idea that yes, we do have something to celebrate, an identity, a pride of place. The first step is surely to achieve some form of unity from diversity. I did a little research into what’s out there in the popular imagination, and stumbled upon the Toronto Unlimited website, which seeks to brand Toronto for purposes of travel and tourism. According to this project, Toronto is, “in short … a city built with and for the limitless imaginations of the people that come here. And it is these people that make Toronto the city of imagination.” Interesting. [Ironic, too, as I just looked this up toward the end of writing my post.]

The font of the brand is also intended to convey this limitlessness, it seems, by being sans serif in the extreme. Yikes. (Look out for it on t-shirts near you. But not on me.)

Now, I think it’s difficult to “brand” a city outright – if anything, a city brand should be iterative, evolving from many years and countless stories that are told about it – but in the age of the commoditization of all things, perhaps this is the way to start the process. What I do like about the project is that the slogan/phrase Toronto Unlimited was created to “celebrate the unlimited potential of the people and the endless opportunities they offer the city” – not a bad message to get behind, considering that it is the people who make the city before the city can make the people, really. Now all we need is a schmaltzy Broadway number, and we’re set.


What’s Your Personal Brand?

March 8, 2010

The last post I wrote looked at how countries are attempting to portray themselves internationally through their brands. It is perhaps a bit odd to speak of nations through the lens of branding, as though they are things that can be commoditized and “sold” like sneakers and cola. However, I believe it is part of the zeitgeist; everything these days seems to have a commercial lens, and anything can be processed, packaged, and marketed for a profit. Call it the triumph of capitalism. (Lloyd Dobler would be unimpressed.)

Because the commoditization of everything has come to make a bit of sense to us, I want to examine in a bit more detail another concept I think is novel, and more than  slightly alarming: personal branding. I do a lot of workshops about this at work because of its seeming ubiquity as a concept in the business world right now. But what does it really mean, and why is it so popular?  Is it a change in how we see each other, or just an iteration of something else?

Some have criticized personal branding as emphasizing “packaging” oneself well over focusing on self-improvement. I don’t think that’s actually true. I went back to what some have identified as the first extended discussion on personal branding, a 1997 article in Fast Company titled “The Brand Called You,” by Tom Peters, to see how he positions it. Peters posits that in the late twentieth-century knowledge economy and era of the Internet, workers are no longer mere employees in others’ corporations – they are instead “CEOs of Me, Inc.” The new professional world is all about the individual. He advises readers to describe, in 15 words or less, what their unique skills and contributions are – their “feature-benefit model.” This is their personal brand.

I decided to do a bit of historical contextualization to determine if the advent of personal branding really did up the ante for artifice in the business world, of if it was just another incarnation of self-help advice. I started with one of my favourite books, Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” first published in 1989. His opening section discusses the history of self-help books, and distinguishes between what he refers to as the “personality” and “character” ethics. The character ethic – a long-term approach to self-improvement that gets at the fundamental roots of behaviour in order to integrate sound principles into one’s life – dominated the literature until about the 1920s, when a new idea, the personality ethic, rose to prominence. The personality ethic, he says, was much more about strategies for achieving success by, essentially, showing others what they wanted to see. By implication, what others wanted to see may not have been one’s genuine self, and in time those who subscribed to the personality ethic might be exposed as insincere frauds. (The implicit criticism of books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” here is hilarious.) Covey calls for a return to the character ethic – a principles-based approach, over a superficial one.

So we see that, according to one of the leading writers in the genre, packaging oneself for success is not a new thing. Moreover, those who advocate personal branding do emphasize self-improvement. Peters in “The Brand Called You” clearly advocates building one’s skills in order to improve one’s personal product suite – but what he cites as the benefits are largely extrinsic. The difference, then, is not in the lack of focus on personal improvement, but in the desired outcomes from it. According to Peters, the beneficial outcomes are more power, more authority, and, most notably, more visibility. Presumably these benefits add up to personal happiness and fulfilment, but the link is not made explicit. Visibility in particular seems to be an end in itself. I suspect this is a change over the “personality ethic” kind of self-help, because that was much more focused at the interpersonal level.

To tease out the differences some more, I went back to the original in the self-help genre, Sam Smiles’s 1859 work Self-Help, widely considered the literary embodiment of liberal-progressive Victorian morality.  Contrast the personal branding mantra of visibility with what Sam Smiles says about anonymous self-improvement:

Even the humblest person, who sets before his fellows an example of industry, sobriety, and upright honesty of purpose in life, has a present as well as a future influence upon the well-being of his country; for his life and character pass unconsciously into the lives of others, and propagate good example for all time to come.

Not exactly the same as buying a building to have one’s name on it, or founding a scholarship program, or sponsoring a business school. And the return to Smiles highlights another difference. A key part of the visibility end is that it stops at the individual, whereas Smiles advocates self-betterment for the “greater good.” National progress is the Victorian self-help goal, whereas advancement of the self is the personal branding-era goal.

Perhaps the most alarming difference is in the means by which personal branding achieves its goals of visibility – through the commoditization of the self.  Such a concept had to be American, the true home of capitalism and democracy. It seems sometimes as though the history of the United States is the story of competition. Everything is settled through democratic process, and the best “product” wins. Think: religious freedom, competition among school districts, election of neighbourhood dog catchers, etc. (You can debate this concept with me in the comments section, if you like.) These days, it’s all about the money. How can I “sell” myself in a way that people want to invest in me?

Further evidence can be found in the fact that “self help” as a genre has gone from an offshoot of liberal political philosophy to sitting largely within “business literature,” because it is practical and concerned with, at the root, the effectiveness of capitalist organizations and the individuals within them. At least, that’s where the legitimate self help authors have gone, having geared their advice toward executives, or else they face relegation to the “New Age” section.

All of this leads me to believe that a desire for fame (or perhaps notability or notoriety would be a better word) is one of the defining characteristics of our era. But what do you think? I am taking too much from the visibility angle? Do you think self help does reside primarily in the business section now? And are you as alarmed by people casually discussing how to “brand” themselves as I am? I’d love to discuss this with you, so please leave a comment below if something is on your mind!


What’s Your National Brand?

March 6, 2010

Countries attempt to brand elements of their history, geography, and produce in order to “sell” them to tourists and buyers – think champagne, parmesan cheese, and America’s National Parks, to give just a few examples. It is advertising on a large scale, and the different brands combine to form a larger idea of what each country represents. But how do countries communicate their existential selves in short, catchy words and logos – brands – when people hold conflicting ideas about what they really are at the core?

Branding is, in essence, an attempt to distil very complex ideas and feelings into a simplified name or image. It is powerful when it succeeds because humans need heuristics, that is, ways to make optimal decisions easily based on mental shortcuts and approximations, and successful brands are among the most reliable heuristics. This is why advertisers don’t sell products or services but feelings: early Listerine ads promoted fitting in by not succumbing to the horrors of halitosis; Absolut Vodka ads (by virtue of their relatively early association with the gay community) signified open-mindedness, style, class, and wealth; the ubiquitous Coca-Cola Christmas ads signify all the joy and anticipation and childish delight of the holidays in a neat, 30-second spot (I dare you to watch the linked ad and not feel gleeful). Brands are so simple and powerful that even three-year-olds can identify their favourites and what they represent.

In the history of producers and consumers, branding is a remarkably modern concept, dating back to the late nineteenth century. In the days before urbanization and the growth of communities, supply chains were no longer than neighbour-to-neighbour. Consumers knew the producers and could make their own decisions about what to purchase. As soon as more steps were introduced into the supply chain, consumers lacked this direct knowledge of the products and had to rely on the expertise of those selling the products – the retailers. Before brands, small-time retailers were immensely powerful, and not always objective, but consumers had to trust them. With brands, manufacturers sought to shift the balance of power by reaching the consumers directly, through advertising and the promise of consistency in the product. Consumers could bypass the retailers, and even influence their businesses, by demanding specific products from specific producers.

Major world events are rare and powerful opportunities for countries to bypass international “retailers” (travel agents, government investment boards, mainstream media) and reach potential consumers directly. In particular, sporting events, with their viewership in the billions, represent a major branding opportunity for a whole nation. I’m going to stay within the Commonwealth and talk about two upcoming (and one recently passed) major sporting events that exemplify this idea: the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. What are the national branding strategies associated with these events and what do they signify?

Making a profit and developing the local infrastructure is always the ostensible rationale behind hosting major events such as these. Getting tourists and investors to notice a nation is (hopefully) a great recipe for future profit. And obviously, being sporting events, a large part of the brand idea is centred around the sporting prowess of the host. Much has been made of Canada’s desire to Own the Podium, and how success in sport will spell an enduring run of national pride. First among the UK’s 2012 Olympic “Legacy Promises” is to “make the UK a world-leading sporting nation.” And South Africa is no doubt hoping for a miraculous home win in the vein of their 1995 Rugby World Cup triumph (I’ve thought for months now that Invictus is just a very expensive morale booster and marketing campaign for the South African football team). But the really interesting part of the brand images is everything else these nations are attempting to associate with their brand at perhaps the world’s most visible advertising campaign. And because brands must be simple ideas that represent more complex ones, the focus really narrows to what the host nations consider to be most important to their international reputations at this moment. What do organizers want people to think when they see a maple leaf, or a Union Jack, or funky African font? Their brand images are revealing.

Modern Canada, to those not living here, is all about beer, hockey, and politeness. Historically, it is about Pierre Trudeau and lumberjacks. (This cartoon sums up the stereotypes quite amusingly.) Surely, as the Economist suggests, Canada would use the event to attempt to re-brand itself as a “modern, youthful sporting power.” Perhaps that is so – though I believe Canada has always been seen as fairly modern and youthful internationally, so this is no great stretch. Yet the extra-sport, extra-developmental goals of Vancouver 2010 were all about uniting Canada as a nation – of many languages, regions, ethnic groups, and historical conflicts, one. They were to be Canada’s Games. This is a surprisingly insular goal, considering only those fairly well acquainted with our history and politics would consider Canada a truly fractured nation. Perhaps Canada’s diversity (and consequently potentially confusing contradictions) meant organizers had to subsume the whole nation – in all its natural beauty and dynamism and multiethnic glory – into one idea. On that score, I think they succeeded, as we do seem to be more unified (at least for the moment). And if tourists and investors believe that all of Canada (and not just British Columbia) is “super, natural”, I’m sure nobody will complain.

It may be harder for Britain, given that so many have already formed an idea of the country from its long historical and cultural global dominance. Yet the stated goals for London 2012, apart from the obvious sporting- and infrastructure-related ones, are surprisingly modest. They mainly involve inspiring young people to “take part in local volunteering, cultural and physical activity,” and showing that Britain is a “creative, inclusive and welcoming place to live in, visit and for business.” Terrible grammar aside, these aims seem to have a theme of regeneration, which reflects the general undercurrent in the media that Britain is on the decline. Inspire the youth of today? Check. Attract new, wealthy residents and investors? Check. Attempt to stem the floodgates of brainpower and cultural capital that burst when we lost the Empire? Check. Unlike Canada’s stated goals – to show people what we are – Britain’s goals are to show people what they could be again someday. (No wonder their coverage of Canada’s Olympics was so bitterly critical.) And judging from the logo, the future of Britain is bright…pink.

South Africa is facing an even tougher challenge, as it prepares to host this year’s FIFA World Cup (currently 95 days, 22 hours, 28 minutes and 3 seconds away, not that I’m counting). It is the first on African soil, and South Africa is aiming to re-brand not only itself, but the whole continent of Africa as modern, safe, and open for business. The main media page for the event contains an article on safety preparations. This would have been unheard of for Germany 2006. The fact that the World Cup organizers had to confirm that it would proceed despite the fatal attacks on several members of Togo’s soccer team over one thousand miles away in Angola signifies that South Africa is representing the whole of Africa, and that the pressure is on. The main branding idea seems to be “surprise,” as in “the whole world will be surprised by what we have to offer.” Again, a chance for re-invention. My personal hope is that I’ll be pleasantly surprised by England surviving past the quarterfinals for a change.

The Vancouver Olympics were a great success, not only for our athletes, but for our image. I’m excited to see how the World Cup and London 2012 Olympics brands evolve while the world’s eyes are watching.

What do you think? Do these national brands sum up Canada, Britain or South Africa to you? What would you add or change about them? And do you think England has any chance of making the finals?

Further Reading:


New Orientations in Canadian Nationalism – And Tim Hortons!

February 24, 2010

My Honourary Olympics post on Canadian Nationalism got a fair bit of traffic and some thoughtful comments last week, which I suspect can be attributed to the fact that we are quite an introspective nation and going through a very introspective time. Canadians love to talk about what makes us unique, how we differ from other countries (especially, ahem, our neighbours to the south), and how we differ from what other people think we are. Are we friendly? Polite? Clean? Aggressive? Neurotic? Arrogant? White? Black? All of the above, I think – and happily so.

Timothy Egan, writing for his blog in the New York Times, very accurately captures our diversity – but seems unaware that we already know all about it. You’ve probably already read the following quote from his post somewhere around the web. It reduces our introspection to insecure hand-wringing:

Why the lack of self-esteem? Canada — snap out of it! You’re gorgeous, baby, you’re sophisticated, you live well. No need for an apology.

Typical American brashness (see? two can play this stereotyping game!). As though we all understand and explain our national cultures the same way. I much prefer this one, from Judith Timson of The Globe & Mail:

We are already who we are, a magnificent blend of urban and rural, of flying canoes and Chinese grocery stores, of heart-stopping scenery and mind-blowing talent, all of it confirming on a daily basis there is no Canadian identity crisis, only an identity crisis industry.

It’s so true. We are a blend. Not a melting pot, or a salad, though. Perhaps a high-quality vinaigrette, one that has clearly identifiable parts to it that sometimes separate, but that but generally mixes well together. This is what makes it so hard to talk about a Canadian “type,” as I did last week. Historically, there was, in the official literature and thinking about Canada, a definite “colonial type” – rugged and masculine, white, and very British in orientation. The old Canadian colonial type is clearly present in this hilarious ad by HBC. But then the officials doing the thinking changed, and the way Canadians started to think and talk about ourselves changed too.

Particularly in the years after World War II, improvements in communications technology and the advent of air travel further reduced the conceptual distance between geographical spaces, and made the world appear to shrink as never before.  The number of (overt) supporters of imperialism dwindled, both in the British Empire and around the world. This shift was reflected in Canadian historiography, in which imperialism was often categorized as the opposite of nationalism, and a losing allegiance. Canada’s relationship with Britain has consequently received less attention than a historical narrative which seeks to recover (or perhaps invent) a pluralistic and multicultural history more in accordance with present-day Canadian national values. To emphasize British influence in the past is to deny the influence of French, Aboriginal, or other immigrant groups to Canada, now a highly politically-charged issue.

Instead, historians have increasingly focused on Canada’s relationship with the United States, portraying Canada as a diplomatic intermediary of sorts between America and Britain. (This can perhaps be read as an attempt to grant Canada political capital in the post-World War II world by emphasizing the arbitrary role Canada played in events like the Suez Crisis and the lead-up to the Vietnam War. But that’s another story entirely.)  The predominant narrative of the past 60 years has emphasized the inevitability of the Canada-U.S. relationship in the history of both countries – and the links between Canada and the countries where so many of its citizens were born.

There is another ad that is making me sit up and take notice this Olympic season. It’s for Tim Hortons, which perhaps has an even greater claim on speaking for Canadian identity than HBC. It chronicles a “true story” of the “new” Canada, with new, multicultural immigrants and strong families – not a bunch of rugged, white, English fellows struggling against the driving snow.  In fact, I don’t think there’s a white person in the entire video. Check it out here to see what I mean. We’re also seeing Canadian Tire commercials in which kids know how to skate – of course! like all Canadian children! – but their (presumably immigrant) parents don’t. It’s a completely different image, and probably one that speaks to many more Canadians who have bought into and propagated the new national narrative of multiculturalism. And sells more terrible coffee and snow shovels, probably.

The British press has been slamming Canada right, left, and centre for not living up to the world’s expectations of our national character. The irony is that the new Canada doesn’t really care what Britain has to say. Now, if it comes from the US? That’s a whole different story.

What do you think? Is the new Canadian “type” more accurate than the old one? Do you think Canada has tried to blur/erase its past connections with Britain in favour of multiculturalism? Or ties to the US? And which commercial wins: HBC’s or Timmy Hos’?


In Honour of the Winter Olympics, A Special Post on Canadian Nationalism

February 15, 2010

I get very excited when the topics I write major papers on appear in glorious technicolour on TV commercials. (Shockingly, this doesn’t happen all that often.) So I can’t help but write about the new Hudson’s Bay Company advertisement that is currently airing to foster a sense of national pride and sell $10 red mittens.

(You can also watch the video here, if you haven’t already seen it 800 times between biathlon and speed skating heats.)

The commercial is, in essence, a glossily-packaged 60-second breakdown of the major historical arguments for a Canadian national identity, as separate from an imperial one as a colony of the British Empire. Canadian nationalism always was very different from that in other parts of the Empire. In the “ruled” colonies (India, the rest of Africa, etc.), nationalism was often a much stronger and easily identifiable sentiment because the definition of nationalism usually presumes underlying ethnographic, linguistic, or racial difference as the basis for internal unity and distinction from empire. Easily identified differences like these make the articulation of a national idea anti-imperial and pro-national, two separate ideas that work very well together.

In the settlement colonies (Australia, Canada, South Africa, etc.), however, imperialism was usually a more subtle and nuanced affair because it wasn’t anti-imperial. In fact, Canadian nationalism is an unstable category of analysis, because many Canadians were in fact highly supportive of British imperialism. Exploiting foreign countries for resources? Check. Advancing a pure British race in new lands? Check. Hyper-masculine militarism? But of course – isn’t this the whole idea of the Olympics in the first place? Because long before the idea of cooperation between nations, sport was all about training for war, and proving that your soldiers were younger, stronger, and fitter than the next country’s. (Especially Germany. Everyone was always on the look-out for Germany. And with good reason – when East and West Germany’s totals are added in, they’ve won more medals in the Winter Olympics than any other country – by far.)

Therefore, since Canadians were, by and large, so supportive of imperial ideals, they needed to find some area of divergence from Britain. They found it in the land. It was the cold, harsh, bracing land that allowed Britannia’s children in Canada to take imperialism and advance it further than could ever happen in Britain alone. Canada’s nationalist argument was thus never anti-imperial; it was superimperial. The basis for differentiation was spatial.

I could write about this *at length* (in fact, I already have), but I will restrain myself and instead point out the supporting evidence that can so amusingly be found in the video linked to above.

“We arrived 340 years ago, to a land of rock, ice, and snow…”

I love the rugged, masculine “colonial” types that emerge from this boat (did they row from Britain? Across the Atlantic?) and immediately start running off to colonize people and, presumably, claim the land for themselves. Emigration was always promoted as a way to tame the wilderness and regain one’s sense of masculinity that had been lost in rainy, effeminate Britain. See how successful we were? Now we snowboard!

Note also, at the 0:14 second mark, the reinforcement of gender roles with the women doing laundry. How proper!

“…We didn’t just survive the elements. Together, we thrived in them.”

I love this too. See how we’ve tamed Mother Nature with our hyper-masculinism! See how we’ve bonded together, as a nation, to thrive in those elements! See what moral clarity and racial purity we have! (Note the vast quantities of snow, of course. And Caucasian people everywhere. It’s all very white.)

“We were made for this.”

Made for pioneering and exploring and skiing and running and rowing from Britain, of course. Against all of this, these Olympic Games are nothing! Hear our nifty fiddle music! See our toned bodies and hip clothing! (bonus points to HBC for so seamlessly blending their corporate history with Canadian national history. That may just be worthy of a whole separate post sometime.)

Hey, it worked. Canada is an independent nation, and we’ve also won almost six times as many Winter Olympics Medals as Britain. Go figure. Must be the red mittens. Now, if only we could figure out how to get those Olympic cauldron torches to work…

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