Retaining Canadian Identity Through Forfeiting International Success

The Tragically Hip, “Canada’s band,” concluded their final tour last night in Kingston, Ontario, where the band first formed. Almost as soon as they played their first shows in 1983, local college radio stations took notice. After the release of their full-length debut, Up To Here, the country took notice. However, that has always been the extent of their fame. There’s a qualifier: Canadian-famous.

Canada’s love and ownership for The Tragically Hip reminds me of how most television series based in Canada are treated. To be clear, by “based” I do not just mean shot. I mean the series is actually set in a Canadian city.

Arguably the most famous Vancouver-based series came and went in the 1960s and 1970s, The Beachcombers. When I watch the clips available on Youtube it seems impossible this series was not only well-regarded, but also went on to become the third-longest running television series in Canadian history, behind only Street Legal, set in Toronto, and Heartland, set in The Rockies.

It appears that although generations of Canadians find and watch these series with unwavering loyalty, they never truly breakout internationally. Sure, you will find Street Legal fans, Heartland fans, Beachcombers fans, and even fans of The Tragically hip in the United States, usually close to the border, but we don’t share these Canadian pieces of our culture. They remain identifiably Canadian and undeniably ours.

They’re examples of the “unplucked gems” The Tragically Hip sang about 25 years ago, and what the band members themselves have become after nearly 35. Maybe the fact that none of these stars of Canadian culture have been subject to change, or assimilated into another culture is what’s kept them so pure. Maybe it’s a good thing.

(photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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