"Quebec society is extremely turned in on itself" - Macleans.ca

“Quebec society is extremely turned in on itself”

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I suspect Jacob Tierney will regret giving this interview to La Presse, if only because he’ll have to spend six months answering questions about it. Here are the juiciy bits:

“Quebec society is extremely turned in on itself. Our art and our culture shows only white francophones. Anglophones and immigrants are ignored. They have no place in the québécois dream. It’s shameful.”

“I was born in Quebec, I speak French, but for the people, that doesn’t change anything: I will always be perceived as the Outsider. Some people tell me I can always move to Toronto, but I don’t want to go to Toronto! Montreal is home!”

I’ve always found the mostly anglo-Canadian/Quebecker compulsion to criticize francophone Quebec culture as insular to be peculiar. (The politics, mind you, are a whole other matter.) That a mostly francophone society has mostly francophone cultural pillars is hardly “shameful”; expected is probably more like it.

Moreover, I’m not entirely convinced Tierney is even correct in saying the chief tendency is to navel-gaze. In fact, the most successful examples of francophone Québécois cinema had pretty universal themes. I’m thinking here of Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (sex and gender roles, among others) and Les invasions barbares (growing old and disillusioned), C.R.A.Z.Y. (growing up gay), La grande séduction (the challenges of small-town life), etc.

But the strangest implication in Tierney’s argument is that the general aesthetic of Quebec culture is insufficiently multiculturalist. It’s as if a society that has never embraced Canadian multicultural dogma should have artistic traditions that do. If anything, what Tierney’s appeal amounts to is a call for more parochialism—that Quebec cinema should be even more beholden to identity politics, not less. Tierney’s problem with Quebec filmmakers, in other words, is that they don’t make sufficiently Canadian films.