RBO et al need to understand anglos better

Patrick Lagacé put this video up on his blog (so if you read his blog, don’t bother watching it again). He didn’t add much commentary, so I guess he just found it funny.

It’s an old sketch from RBO, which makes fun of anglo TV news, specifically Pulse News (what CFCF’s newscast used to be called before CTV decided local brands were a bad thing).

But much as I admire RBO, I don’t find it funny. Instead, it seems ignorant, bitter and sad.

Part of being able to do a good caricature is knowing your subject well. They got the logo right, and that joke about people in Ottawa going to bed at 8:30 was funny, but that’s about it.

There is plenty of stuff about anglo TV newscasts in Montreal that is very worthy of caricature: Ron Reusch’s pronunciation skills (though they won’t be an issue soon), Todd van der Heyden’s over-the-top gravitas, Lori Graham’s wardrobe, Frank Cavallaro’s zucchinis, Tim Sargeant, Global Quebec’s green-screen studio-in-a-box are just a few examples. A lot of these references are contemporary, but I’m sure there are plenty of similar examples from back when this sketch was made.

And sure, the anglo media is predominantly federalist, fears sovereignty and many people have trouble pronouncing French names. And, as a commenter on Lagacé’s blog points out, it does tend to discount most of Montreal east of St. Laurent.

But instead of understanding the target and eviscerating it where it is most vulnerable, RBO made the same mistake that Culture en péril did: put anglo Montrealers in the same boat as anti-French Albertans, franco-incompetent Ontarians and gun-toting southern U.S. rednecks (it even calls one of its reporters “John Redneck” as if this is somehow funny). It’s insulting name-calling (“Brian Britt” becomes “Brian Twit” – oh, how my sides are splitting).

And yet, it was a hit (a “classic”, even) among other uninformed unilingual anti-English francophones which form their target audience, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

When I watch these sketches from RBO and Prenez Garde Aux Chiens (another group I greatly admire when it does media criticism right), and I see people with incredibly thick francophone accents pretend to be anglos who can’t (and don’t want to) speak French, it seems painfully obvious that they are completely unfamiliar with what they’re targetting, beyond the ill-informed caricature that makes no sense in the first place.

I find it somewhat ironic, at the same time, reading another post from Lagacé in which he says the government shouldn’t be teaching francophones English. I’m fine with that. I’m more than happy to take the job of a unilingual francophone whose government put ideology over proper education in an unavoidably globalized world.

But I just wish some francophones would learn to understand the anglos a bit better. We might find some stuff in common. For example, we both know what it’s like to be a linguistic minority. And they might find we agree on a lot of non-sovereignty-related economic and social issues.

More importantly, anglo TV news is in desperate need of really good satire.

11 thoughts on “RBO et al need to understand anglos better

  1. BruB

    I’ll tell you my background before I start. Born and raise in the sud-ouest, in mostly english part of Verdun, separatist with a reason that is NOT language, and now, working in the West Island in a mostly english industry. Point is, I love english Montrealers. I love when I see someone from Toronto coming to Montreal and deciding to move here after all. I really believe that English Montrealers, dislike as much the rest of Canada as most Quebécois. English Montrealers like the Auf Der Mar, Richler, Cohen are more Québécois than some that are here and claiming the language difference.

    That being said. As a french speaking, Plateau snob, watching Radio-Canada news and hipsters reading mostly blogs and watching podcast I always felt weird watching CTV or, back then, CFCF news, it always felt exactly like this caricature from RBO. I always felt that it was condescending and that most of the reporters were in Montreal hoping to get transfer to Calgary or Toronto.

    Keep in mind that this RBO skits was made back in the early 90’s and it was a bit of a different time 15-20 years ago. I travel a lot and I’m certain that a lot of the readers do also and ROC doesn’t understand what’s happening here and most of them don’t want to and the fun poked at french-canadian is sometime funny but most of time is done by people that actually never came here and are using guidelines from other parodies and stereotypes.

    Example of Funny: The “I am not canadian” parody by edge 102 in T.O.

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  2. Neil

    It’s sad when some francophone makes fun of anglophones and hides behind “artistic licence.” (For example, check out the subtle discrimination in this video by Quebec artist Michel Rivard of Beau Dommage on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhgv85m852Q)
    I hope more anglos are willing to call this what it is: mean-spirited prejudice. The people behind this so-called parody are racists, pure and simple. There’s a difference between dialect humour and venal prejudice. These guys obviously hate anglos.

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  3. Fagstein Post author

    I agree that caricatures of franco Québécois can be much worse than this (and that “I am not Canadian” is a damn funny exception).

    Perhaps we need to send cultural ambassadors between English Canada and French Quebec, so that we can learn to understand each other better. Anglos can be forced to watch Tout le monde en parle instead of just Bleu Nuit, while francos will have to sit through a taping of This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

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  4. Fagstein Post author

    Neil, this isn’t racism. Let’s keep this in perspective. It was a mean-spirited parody in a time when the province was very divided. But their goal was still humour, even if I think they failed at that objective beyond preaching to the choir.

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  5. James Lawlor

    Fagstein:

    You could write the very same thing and reverse the words ‘French’ with ‘English’. You don’t even have too look very far to see recent examples in the English media of what you are complaining about in the French media.

    This weeks 22 minutes:
    http://www.cbc.ca/22minutes/videoplayer2.html#Scene_1
    Click on the ‘Quebec Election’ video at the bottom of the window

    As an anglophone Quebecer since 15 years (I moved here from B.C.), I found this sketch wrong in two ways.
    1) The jokes fell flat.
    2) Unfunny stereotypes

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  6. Corinthian Rick

    I’m a hard ass anglo and I found it sorta funny mostly. The business about Damphousse scoring nine goals was misdirected but the rest had its moments.

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  7. karine

    I agree with your point but the opposite can be said also. In fact, this isn’t just a French/anglo thing, it is true whenever someone of a particular culture makes fun or just portrays another culture. I’ve complained for years whenever I see Americans try to do a Québécois but with a French from France accent, not to mention that they seem to think that they have the same idiosyncrasies. Same thing with Haitians, they just go for a generic portrayal of Caribeans. And if I may say so, I have rarely seen a TV sketch Canadian military that I’ve found funny, for exactly the same reasons, especially in the Québécois media.

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  8. Pingback: Macleans.ca - Bad satire, meet good satire

  9. Pierre Phaneuf

    Can’t find any link to it, but RBO’s “Le Quatrième Reich” was a much better treatment on the general subject of anglo/franco relationships, back in the day, pissing all over Godwin in the process, of course. And most of my anglo friends found it hilarious…

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  10. JR

    Let me start with saying that I am an out-of-Quebec francophone. This sketch of RBO really resonated with me. It simply made the statement that english radio, tv and newspaper., especially in Quebec, will belittle francophones on a regular basis. Of course that is not the standard throughout Canada and the majority respect francophones. But you will find this type of biased reporting in a number of radio stations and newspapers.

    Somehow, on stations like these, francos are always at fault and their achievements always undermined. And the most frustrating thing about it is that they never say it outloud, but is always implied, so francos can’t get upset over it. If you listen to a station like TSN 690 in Montreal, they rarely have francophone guests, and french-speaking athletes’ achievements are rarely talked about or undermined.

    Reply

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