Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
With all their beady little eyes
And flapping heads so full of lies...
Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
It seems everything's gone wrong
Since Canada came along...
The infamous "Blame Canada" song from South Park: The Movie is probably, up until this point, one of the most popular, notable references to Canada in cinema. As hilarious as it is (I still giggle at the Anne Murray dig), it's a classic depiction of my country: a nation of idiots who just sit "up here," twiddling our thumbs and watching the world go by. We're not viewed as particularly active in politics on an international level, we're often lumped in with the U.S. on nearly everything, and just try ordering stuff online -- for whatever reason, it's usually a pain in the neck to find a Canada-specific URL or an acceptable price for goods.
This general ignorance about Canada exists in culture across the board, which is a sad reality, but it makes Ben Affleck's "Argo" all the more important in the grand scheme of things. For once (and I use the word "once" because I don't think this has ever happened before in a movie), Canada (and by extension, Canadians) comes across as clever, devious, innovative -- but most of all, awesome.
Based on a true story, Argo takes place in the late '70s and early '80s, when the Iranian revolution is in full swing. Protesting Iranians invade the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take most of the foreign diplomats hostage, but six quick thinkers manage to sneak out undetected. After being turned away by the Kiwis and the Brits, the escapee Americans find shelter at the Canadian ambassador's family home. There, with the help of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (played by Canuck Victor Garber), the group hatches a plan to get them out of Iran to safety.
After the Argo premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, there were a lot of complaints by those close to Taylor, saying that the film misrepresented what actually happened, and the Americans/the CIA/Affleck are giving themselves more credit than they deserve. Affleck immediately changed the movie's postscript, highlighting that, yes, it was Taylor's idea and the CIA helped execute the plan. I personally think it was very nice of Affleck to alter his film, however minimal the change; after viewing the movie, it's obvious how much credit he seeks to give Canada. Surprisingly, we're not an afterthought.
He's so favourable to Canada, and makes so many references to subtle Canadian intricacies ("No, it's not 'ToronTo.' It's pronounced 'Toronno.' Canadians don't pronounce the 'T'!"), people in the theatre were cheering and hooting. Our country is simultaneously made to seem like a safe haven as well as a strong, resolute brother-at-arms to the U.S., quite a far cry from our current reputation as a docile, gentle, ineffectual neighbour.
And, of course, the opportunities are rife to mock Canada, which Affleck does once or twice, but they're genuinely funny and not cheap. I won't ruin them here, but thankfully there's only one reference to "eh." It was such a nice change to see ruthless Canada, a major player on the world stage, rather than spineless Canada. In truth, I had no idea what that visualization was like, and it added a whole other dimension of enjoyment to watching Argo.
I'm so tired of the classic Canadian cinematic stereotypes: cold, winter, snow, depression, melancholia, introspection to the point of ridiculousness. Guess what, everyone? Canadians exist in summertime! Canadians can be happy! Canadians can hatch plans and carry out intelligent processes just like the rest of the world. Sure, inhabitants of this country know that, but does the world at large? I don't think so. We're almost always the object of derision or mockery in popular culture, and I think it's high time we deserve a little respect.
Our country has a reputation -- that's fact. Argo turns it on its head, and makes us seem as amazing as we really are. Canadians might be the last nation to heap praise on itself, so we often wait for others to do it for us. Let's take it and be happy about it, instead of wondering whether it's enough. Better yet, let's get all nationalistic about it (which, c'mon, we hardly ever do) and be proud of what we accomplished so many years ago.
In this hostile, volatile world, Argo bears two important messages: it's far easier to work together than against each other, and sometimes your greatest ally is whom you'd least expect. We knew you had it in you, Canada.
Argo opens in theatres on October 12.
Follow Chris Jancelewicz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CJancelewicz