I read this great National Post story the other day that got me thinking about depictions of Canadian history in popular culture. The notion that Canada’s past is “boring” is one that, like article suggests, is based on years of that fact being drilled into our heads in school and beyond. I do wish the article had touched on more of the reasons why we’ve taught it that way—it mentions the darker parts of history, like Japanese internment camps and drunk Prime Ministers as being a reason—but nonetheless it’s a good read.
I started thinking about how much things could change if we had a better historical film industry in Canada. A lot of the sexiness in US history comes from the fact that their history has been immortalized on film in so many different ways and with such drama (and a lot of Tom Hanks…think about it). We have only had a few historical movies come out of Canada, and only one—Passchendaele—with the kind of big-budget style that can inspire a Nation.
There’s also an opportunity in books. As the article mentions, the great Chester Brown book on Louis Riel is a big help (my mom, a high school teacher, uses it in her Social Studies classroom when teaching the Metis Rebellion). And there is an effort by the government to create the kind of museum spaces that would attract engaged, passionate visitors. It’s all a little high-hopes, but it’s a good thought.
One other thing the article failed to mention is that history is always a little bit boring. Older people are always going to be more attracted to historical stuff than young people are, but a few awesome movies about our history wouldn’t hurt. How about something about the conquering of the west? The War of 1812 (we burned down the Whitehouse, you guys!)? Explorers? Early natives? I’d go see these films—would you?