The Simpsons hasn’t been relevant, much less controversial, for decades. But hey: there’s always trolling Canada for laughs. That always works!

And so we got “D’Oh Canada,” an episode that really didn’t need to be made, or talked about, except for the fact that it features a “joke” where Ralph Wiggum decides he’s a “Newfie”, and then knocks the head off a stuffed baby seal and proceeds to kick it around. The Canadian media, which is as awful and transparently fake as yours (except your media reports on issues of consequence sometimes, and mine reports on…..this), duly investigated whether The Simpsons went TOO FAR.

So, first things first. Don’t call a Newfoundlander a “Newfie”, especially if you’re another Canadian with no sense of who you are, because Newfoundlanders certainly know who they are. Out all the provinces, Quebec are their only serious rivals for, you know, having a culture.

This distinct Newfoundland identity has emerged in spite of, not because of, its ties to Canada. With its economy devastated by the Great Depression and two World Wars, the province chose to join the Dominion of Canada in 1948 after a less-than-honourable election effort. Some islanders have never accepted the result, and interestingly, Newfoundland could have become an American state if local businessman Chesley A. Crosbie had had his way. (Crosbie’s grandson, who is also his namesake, might be elected the province’s 14th Premier in the election taking place the week this post will go up.)

Even so, it’s not difficult to become an honourary Newfoundlander, so long as you don’t mind a bit of public humiliation. Wearing a fisherman’s hat known as the sou’wester, standing in a bucket of cold Atlantic water, knocking back a shot of “screech” (basically 80 proof bathtub moonshine), and kissing a dead fish could be part of your initiation ceremony. But it’s all in good fun, and meant in good hospitality, for which Newfoundland is famous.

And that famous hospitality came to the fore on September 11th, 2001, when travellers diverted to the airport in Gander were welcomed by the island folk. Years later, the musical “Come From Away” was made from their stories. It is one of the few Canadian responses to 9/11, and as you’d expect, it focuses on friendship and breaking down barriers in response to the worst terrorist attack in modern history. Some will of course find this appallingly naïve, but since it’s honest-to-God Canadian culture on Broadway, you won’t hear any criticism from me:

For those of you seeking lighter fare, check out Brendan Gleeson’s absolutely marvellous performance in 2013’s The Grand Seduction. A remake of a French-Canadian film of the same name, the excuse-for-a-plot centres around conning a city-dwelling doctor to stay in a rural Newfoundland town for a month so a company will build a petrochemical plant nearby and bring jobs and economic prosperity.

Not only is Gleeson’s Newfoundland accent terrifyingly accurate, he actually outshines islanders Mark Critch, Gordon Pinsent, and Mary Walsh in their supporting roles. (Critch and Walsh will get their due in our post on Government Comedy in a few weeks.)

And before there was Mumford and Sons and their banjo-soaked brand of Top 40, there was, of course, Great Big Sea, purveyors of Newfoundland traditional ballads and the undisputed kings of “aggressive folk.”

And I say way-hey-hey, it’s just an ordinary day
and it’s all your state of mind
At the end of the day,
you’ve just got to say… it’s all right.

Relentless positivity and sunny optimism in the face of generational poverty and constantly being screwed by the bigwigs in Central Canada- that’s Newfoundland for you, b’ys… long as you don’t call them “Newfies”.

But I think we’re all in the mood for something a bit more substantial, so check back next week when I tap into the dark energy behind Mike Myers and Jim Carrey’s reality-distorting humour.


See the previous installments in the series:

Part 1 on Heroes: ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’ Vs Terrance Denby and ‘Sidequest’

Part 2 on “Humour”: The Libertarian Fantasy of ‘Letterkenny’

Part 3 on Graphic Novel Nihilism: The Harsh Truths of ‘Essex County’

Part 4 on Spawn and Wolverine: Banished From The Promised Land: A Tale of Two Canadian Anti-Heroes

Part 5 on Science Fiction Dystopias: Inside Quebec’s – and Canada’s – Replicant Culture

Part 6 on Animation: The Garrison Mentality: More Than Meets The Eye

Part 7 on Pop Music: How To Build A Successful Canadian Musical Act

Part 8 on Anne of Green Gables and The Traumatized Artist: Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Treacherous Alpine Path

Part 9 on Avoiding the Serious: Mordecai Richler, Montreal, And Gritty Realism

Part 10 on Southern Ontario Gothic: The Marriage of the Mundane and the Fantastic

Part 11 on Margaret Atwood’s Reign of Terror: Literary Tyranny and The Handmaid’s Tale

Part 12 on the First Nations Fraud: Whitewashing Genocide: Truth, Lies, and Joseph Boyden

Part 13 on the inventive Esi Edugyan: A Novel I Cannot Recommend Enough

Part 14 on Generation X Origins: Douglas Coupland And The Hopeful (?) Future Of Canadian (?) Culture

Part 15 on Jordan Peterson Rising: Canadian Culture Creators And The Intellectual Dark Web

Part 16 on The Awkward Quiet: David Cronenberg’s Silent Hell

Part 17 on The Saddest Music In The WorldGuy Maddin’s Surrealist Madness

Part 18 on Ararat: Atom Egoyan’s Stammering Grief

Part 19 on Paul Haggis’ Superficial Gloss: Promising More Than He Delivers

Part 20 on the Reitman Family’s Blissful Ignorance: Space to Laugh an Easy Laugh

Part 21 on Mary Pickford: The Archetypal (Canadian) Actress

Part 22 on the Modern Prospero Christopher Plummer: As Blue-Blooded and Upper Canadian as They Come

Part 23 on Donald Sutherland: Grit Personified

Part 24 on Leslie Nielsen: The Funniest Thing in a Movie Where Jokes are Delivered Almost Every Minute

Part 25 on William Shatner: Faking It Until He Made It

Part 26 on The Trouble of “Story”: Story Wars: Canadians and the Star Trek vs. Star Wars Battle

Part 27 on Norm MacDonald’s Controlled Chaos: The Holy Fool Personified

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