Like me, you probably woke up this morning to learn that Canadian comedy Schitt’s Creek swept the Emmys last night. No, this isn’t a dig at Eugene Levy taking on janitorial duties in his role as financially fallen mogul Jonny Rose. The Canadian comedy collected enough Emmy statues to display Moira’s entire wig collection on their tiny, shiny heads.
While I would love to spend this entire missive singing the praises of a show I have loved since its pilot, I’m sorry to say that this is a rant, wrapped in a lecture, decorated in the elation of finally seeing art recognized for its beauty, emphasis on the finally. I know I’m going to sound like the quintessential Queen West hipster that have become, but I’ve been shouting about Schitt’s Creek from the overpriced rooftops of Toronto since the beginning. And, like so many times before when I would rave about the Cancon gems I discovered, I found myself shouted down, ignored, even scorned for supporting “another lame Canadian thing.” But instead of letting myself feel vindicated by the now global appreciation for the content I’ve loved for so long, I find myself saddened and disappointed yet again, by Canada’s seeming lack of confidence in its own creative abilities, perpetuated by our need for what we create to be accredited by others before we accept its glory for ourselves.
Time and again, it would appear that without outside influence and acceptance, usually from American sources, Canadian art remains a second class citizen in the North American and therefore global entertainment industry, whether in perception or reality. As someone who has always loved to discover and champion homegrown work and talent, only to be ignored or derided, I’ve always found this mentality to be frustrating in so many ways. Why as Canadians must we wait for our cultural output to be blessed by our neighbors down below when in so many cases it’s clearly already worthy of love and admiration? Why, when Canada has been pumping out incredible music, movies and cultural gems for years do the masses only care when an American puts their seal of approval on it. We have a long list of creatives, from actors to rappers to musicians to artists of all kinds, who must leave to succeed, and are only welcomed back with open arms once their red white and blue blessings have been bestowed.
There is a very real danger with our cultural complacency. Unlike our American neighbors, we as a population help collectively fund the creation of shows like Schitt’s Creek. The CBC, that many in more right wing, fiscally conservative circles are hankering to defund, played a pivotal role in the creation and subsequent success of Schitts Creek, a show that is now adored the world over, that brought people together to make them feel loved, and seen.
A gentle reminder that TV shows need time and space to lay foundation, to develop, and to grow. In the wrong hands, this show would have been yanked off the air in Season 1 for “underperforming”. Thank you @cbc @PopTV for letting us fly. https://t.co/Ygwrmuzjbs
— dan levy (@danjlevy) September 21, 2020
Sadly, it’s going to get harder and harder to justify that investment in our cultural output when Canadians themselves don’t even recognize the beauty of what comes out of our country.
We’re living through a global pandemic with unprecedented and astronomical economic devastation. With economies in shambles and financial support becoming harder to come by, it’s more imperative than ever for Canadians to drop our lack of confidence in our creative capacity and recognize what we’re capable of creating. If we want to see the beautiful, entertaining, diversely cast and created (one area where Schitt’s Creek did sadly disappoint), it’s important to see and cherish the value of art, our art, for what it is: a resource that we need to cultivate and nurture, and that will give back to us and future generations for years to come. We don’t need to wait for outsiders to tell us it’s good when we already have an incredible yardstick of quality to measure up against. There are so many amazing things coming out of our country, past, present and hopefully future. We’re so lucky to have our arts supported by much needed government funding that is paid for by our tax dollars, so that we can all derive joy from what our artists, writers, musicians, actors, set designers, and everyone else who are part of these processes can create. Arts and entertainment is what helped sustain us throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, and we will need it even more as we move into this dark cold pandemic tinged winter.
And congrats Schitt’s Creek, the Levys and their incredible team on your hard earned wins and accolades. It’s been so inspiring, as a creative, to see what can come when an idea is well funded, well supported, and a vision is brought to life in such a meaningful way. I’ll leave you with a clip from my personal favorite episode of this show, that to me, showcases what can be done, when people believe in the power of art.
So support Canadian creativity now and always, not just when Kanye West tells you it’s good.