Thursday, October 13, 2011
Localism and its Discontents: A Regional Rant
Disclaimer: the following diatribe, which hinterlanders the world over may relate to, is no way directed at the actual people of Toronto, just its cultural mavens.
Do all Canadians hate Toronto?
Not really but many of us outside the 416 area code do despise how Toronto's still-omnipresent media trumps up its culture, despite the fact that on a per capita - and per government grant - basis it rarely produces its share of winners. It's like how the city's media still sells its hapless hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs*, as "Canada's Team", despite all evidence to the contrary. (Side note to my countrymen: If you need a survey to prove Canadians love the the Habs more then the Leafs, you may have taken a few too many pucks to the head). And the part that embitters us regional-types is that we all get inundated with whatever Toronto-based media is hyping, in the same way the CBC plays Leafs games on Hockey Night in Canada almost every damn Saturday night**.
This blatant localism can also be seen in almost any discussion about the seventies punk scene in Canada. Civic boosters (see this list) claim that while New York and London produced era-defining bands like The Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Blondie, Toronto produced comparably great bands like The Viletones, Teenage Head, The Battered Wives, The Diodes and (close neighbours) The Demics. If some readers go, Who the Hell...?, you'd be forgiven. Despite having some truly excellent bands, some classic records and some legendary shows the influence of Toronto's punk scene is in NO way even slightly comparable to those cities, regardless of how you qualify it. So even though the more isolated, less moneyed Vancouver scene of the times spawned a far more influential set of sounds, T.O. punk pundits glorify it's modest accomplishments just like those damn Leafs!
It's this Torontonian insecurity, it's near-constant pleas to be seen as an elite, international city, that grates on so many Canadians. If Toronto's proponents, musical or otherwise, looked at themselves with some steely-eyed realism, then they'd tell their stories in a way that would do their city proud.
So no, there's no Toronto hatred here, in fact I'd like to spend the next week or so celebrating the legacy of Toronto's original punk scene without any of that rose-tinted retro-hype that only diminishes the bands' actual legacies. Perhaps if I explained the Toronto's scene was a notch below Cleavland's storied scene, it might give a better sense of perspective on the city's worthy accomplishments. As long as I don't have to mouth any hyperbolic revisionism, I'd love to speak of the courage and innovation of the bands who slugged it out in in the sleazy underside of Toronto the Good.
So readers, was I too harsh on Toronto, too soft or did I just leave you baffled? Let us know in the COMMENTS section.
Tomorrow: The Viletones
* Of to a strong start this season, I'll admit.
**Yes, the internet age has lessened the stiffing influence of Toronto...a bit.
Posted by jeffen at 6:49 AM