Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Ontario's Consumer Minister is looking to get the popular Molson beer commercial, Joe's Rant, banned from the airwaves because it upsets Americans.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2000]
Origins: Every once in a while a bit of advertising emerges overnight as a definitive piece of popular culture. That was the case with the Molson Canadian commercial "The Rant," (aka "Joe's Rant") which debuted in late March 2000. (Molson is a noted brewer in Canada, and Canadian is but one of this family of beers, which also includes Golden, Brador, Export, Ice, and Dry.)
From concept to creation, The Rant took nearly three months to complete. Which was time well spent — not only did it give Molson Canadian, a beer lagging in popularity, an instantaneous boost in sales with 19-to-29-year-old men, but the ad established itself with the non-beer crowd as a passionate declaration of national pride.
Many have come to see The Rant as a Canadian gospel of sorts, and reactions to it range from choked up to shouting along with its script. The ad is deceptively simple, merely featuring an "ordinary Joe" alone on a stage in front of a slide show of various Canadian backgrounds that cycle while he vents a litany of corrections to common misperceptions about Canadians.
The Rant has become a tidal wave of Canadian affirmation. According to a
It started in movie theatres, migrated to television and now has become such a cultural phenomenon that the Molson brewery is having it performed live at sporting events.This commercial has sparked debate about whether it should be interpreted as an expression of Canadian pride or as a declaration of anti-American sentiment. Controversy or not, no one is looking to pull it from the airwaves. Nothing supports the notion that Canada's powerful neighbors to the south feel offended by it or that Bob Runciman, Ontario's Minister of Consumer Affairs (full title, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations) is looking to have The Rant banned.
Bar patrons now demand that the volume be turned up when the ad comes on the TV screen, so they can shout the words along with the handsome Nova Scotia actor in the plaid shirt.
High-school students reportedly have begun reciting it spontaneously in corridors between classes.
And when it was performed two weeks ago at the National Hockey League playoff game between the hometown Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators, it generated the kind of fist-in-the-air ovation usually reserved for goals scored in sudden-death.
When the commercial first appeared, Runciman voiced concerns over what he saw as its negative message about Americans. ''I felt it was saying things that didn't have to be said in terms of feeling good about our country,'' he said. ''You can send out very strong messages about being Canadian - I'm certainly as pro-Canadian as anybody - but I don't think you have to kick anybody else in the shins to do
Runciman's read of the commercial's message never translated into an attempt to ban the ad, though.
At least one highly-placed government official has made use of The Rant to promote a Canadian agenda in an international forum. On
Whoever started this current
Though the ad may well deliver some anti-American jabs, it's not as if the Americans much care one way or the other about it. In typical Americentric fashion, it appears they haven't much noticed. While it's true the ad doesn't air in the U.S. (any more than Coca-Cola's 1976 jingoistic "Red, White, and You" campaign was unloosed upon the Frozen North), the cultural frenzy engendered by The Rant is so great one has to wonder at the lack of American reaction to what could be seen as a slap at American characterization of Canadians. Perhaps the elephant fails to notice the mosquito or credit it with the ability to be annoying.
Those behind the ad insist it packs a pro-Canadian, not anti-American, wallop. The United States is such a looming presence in Canadian life that virtually the only way Canadians have to define their identity is to highlight whatever is un-American about themselves. Thus, "I am not..." becomes a way of saying "I am...."
Americans have the stirring first scene of Patton to swell chests and get hearts pumping in nationalistic frenzy. Canadians have a beer commercial. Which, in the final analysis, might be better.
Barbara "the Americans have their draft, and we have ours" Mikkelson
Last updated: 5 January 2008
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