American Diplomats Analyze Canadian TV

One of the most instantly-famous of the Wiki-leaked cables was this analyis of the CBC’s The Border and Little Mosque on the Prairie and more in terms of Canadian “anti-Americanism.” The breezy tone of the cable kind of suggests someone who was assigned to write about this show but doesn’t exactly take it seriously. At the very least, the writer has a future as a television blogger if he ever wants to go in for that sort of thing, with memorable, pithy descriptions of episodes and characters: “the arrival of an arrogant, albeit stunningly attractive female DHS officer, sort of a cross between Salma Hayek and CruellaDe Vil.”

But what the cable mostly suggests is someone who is using these TV examples to back up the point he really wants to make, which is that the U.S. should be shoveling more money into his department so they can combat the anti-American tide. At the end of the cable it pushes back against people “who may rate the need for USG public-diplomacy programs as less vital in Canada than in other nations because our societies are so much alike.” In other words, it’s a fundraising pitch: give us as much money as you give our embassies in countries where anti-Americanism is seen as a bigger threat. So it barely matters whether the writer seriously believes that The Border was more ferociously anti-American than 24, where high authority figures turned out to be evil every year. Criticizing portrayals of America in American shows is not going to get more dough for his department or their projects. And that’s what it’s all about.

(And imagine: someone getting paid to watch TV shows and write about them! I don’t know about you, but that sounds strange to me.)

The strangest response I’ve seen to the leak is from John Doyle in the Globe and Mail, who spends much of his column arguing that the “anti-American” messages in The Border come from Denis McGrath (though he was only one of several writers) and that because he’s originally American it means that “an American was stoking the anti-Americanism of The Border.” That doesn’t really address the point of the cable, to the extent that there is a point, and it’s a weird perspective in any case. Do U.S. critics write that the Australian showrunner of the NCIS franchise is bringing in insidious foreign messages?

Speaking of Denis McGrath, I want to thank him for pointing me to the Youtub’d version of the cult classic mid-’80s TV movie The Canadian Conspiracy, an HBO/CBC co-production where we learn about the “conspiracy of Canadian entertainers working in America.” That’s what the embassy people should be writing cables about — or maybe they are, and it’ll come out in the next Wikileaks dump.


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