Canadian TV producers: We don't really hate America
US diplomatic cables suggested Canadian TV seeks to “twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the US." Not really, say Canadian producers and officials.
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Foreign relations experts on both sides of the border have for years been scrutinizing evidence for a downturn in the Canadian public’s attitude toward the US since the two countries parted ways over the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Tightened border security and travel document requirements have reduced cross-border travel, while a March 7 poll suggested Canadians have a more favorable opinion of Australia, Great Britain, and Germany than they do of the US.Skip to next paragraph
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US diplomats have obviously taken the situation seriously, going so far as to monitor Canadian television for signs of a shift in the national mood. According to the 2008 cable, CBC programs served to “twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the US" and “the Canadian public seems willing to indulge in the feast."
Newspaper headlines leaped to the leaked cable. "US warned of 'insidious' stereotypes on Canadian TV," exclaimed the Toronto Globe and Mail. "CBC stereotypes a drag on Canada-US ties," read the Toronto Star.
The cable highlighted three CBC shows as demonstrative of an upsurge in anti-American sentiment in the Canadian zeitgeist. Together they were said to “offer Canadian viewers their fill of nefarious American officials carrying out equally nefarious deeds in Canada while Canadian officials either oppose them or fall trying.”
The charge came as a complete surprise to the executive producer of one of the programs, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” an internationally acclaimed sitcom about a group of Muslims trying to live in harmony with the residents of a rural town in Saskatchewan.
“It’s a show that’s been credited with addressing hatred with comedy and building bridges between communities, so I thought, oh, man, how ironic to be called out for this one episode that happened to have a border issue in it,” says Mary Darling, the American-born CEO of Westwind Pictures, which made the series.
Embassy officials told Washington an episode of the show “portrayed a Muslim economics professor trying to remove his name from the no-fly list at a US consulate” where he encounters “a rude and eccentric US consular officer” who worked hard to “avoid being helpful.”
The cable didn’t mention that the curmudgeonly professor had actually lied to his family about being on the no-fly list in order to hide the fact he was afraid of flying. The consular official – played by the always-eccentric David Foley of “Kids in the Hall” fame – first gives them a hard time for showing up without an appointment, but then helps them out when the professor politely says “thank you.”
“At the end of the day the US official is the only sane person in the group,” says Ms. Darling.