Ten Canadians that Canadians are reluctant to admit are Canadian…
As a proud Canadian, I’ve often heard Americans exclaim surprise upon learning of an actor or musician being from Canada, especially if the actor or musician in question has received considerable American exposure. Jim Carrey and Mike Myers get this all the time, but Brendan Fraser, Ryan Gosling, Victor Garber, Rachel McAdams, and Tricia Helfer (for all the “Battlestar Galactica” fans out there), are also notable for appearing “American” but harbouring the deep secret of Canadian citizenry.
This doesn’t surprise Canadians, though. And it shouldn’t – Canada is a cesspool of untapped talent. After all, we’ve got almost ten million square kilometres of land (although that means nothing to Microsoft Word, which still tried to change my spelling of “kilometres” to “kilometers”), not to mention over 33 million people.
But for every Mike Myers we’ve exported, we’ve also produced a Tom Green. Here are some other notable actors and musicians that we apologize for unleashing to the world.
Once revered as the young ingénue of Hollywood, Campbell has come a long way since her days as the bright but naïve Julia Salinger in “Party of Five.” Nothing could make us prouder. But when the show disbanded in 2000, Cambpell found herself out of a job and scrambling to get work, much like the rest of the cast (who were, for the most part, successful). But the ails of shady agents and bad movie choices saw this bright young star go from Scream to The Company in just seven years, and then we were happy not so much. The Company didn’t do so well in drawing audiences, but Campbell didn’t care about her vanity project’s actual quality, she just wanted to dance! (In case you didn’t already hear in her hundred or so interviews, Campbell is a classically trained ballet dancer.) Now, Cambpell’s got to erase Wild Things, Three to Tango, Investigating Sex, When Will I Be Loved, and Partition (which also stars another not-so-great Canadian actress, Kristin Kreuk) from her resume before anyone will be able to take her seriously again.
When Hayden Christensen was announced as the new Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, everyone was scrambling to point out that he’s a homegrown talent. With intense good looks and a lauded performance in Life As A House, Christensen looked like he was poised to be the next Leonardo DiCaprio. Unfortunately, the new Star Wars trilogy wasn’t especially revered for its acting, and Christensen was right up there with Jar Jar Binks in terms of on-screen likeability. Certainly, Darth Vader is a bad guy that shouldn’t be liked, but the issue doesn’t really come up until the third installment of the prequel anyway – which begs the question: So what was that “acting” all about in Episode II? Christensen went from “intense” to “unintentionally stalkerish and creepy” in the first twenty minutes of film, and then we had to sit through that for another two hours. Shattered Glass and Factory Girl were his next forays into the drama genre, and were also two films that no one saw. When a young star gets more attention for his dating life than his juicy roles, it’s time to consider a new five-year plan.
Being blessed with good looks doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be blessed with common sense, as exhibited by Elisha Cuthbert. Cuthbert has been fortunate to get a jumpstart on her career by landing a spot on “24” (when “24” was good, that is). She also ended up on Old School and starred in The Girl Next Door, which became cult hits. But for every success, Cuthbert has been cut down a notch, first by reports that she’s an on-set diva and difficult to work with, and then by speculation that Justin Timberlake’s smash hit, “What Goes Around…/…Comes Around,” was written about her – or more specifically, her relationship and subsequent break-up with Trace Ayala, who happens to be Justin Timberlake’s best friend. And if you’ve heard “What Goes Around…/…Comes Around,” then you’ll agree that no one would ever want to be the subject of a song like that. Maybe the Hollywood pressure is getting to her – how else would you explain House of Wax, The Quiet (which pretends to be a thriller but is really a modern-day Poison Ivy), and one of summer’s worst movies, Captivity? Did Cuthbert really wake up one day and think to herself, “Wow, I really think that once casting agents see The Quiet, I’ll be fending them off with my Manolo Blahniks. And yeah, my ass will look really great in that cheerleading uniform I’ll be wearing for the better part of the movie.”
There’s really no need to explain why this petulant man-child is on the list, but here’s a couple anyway: “Shook,” “Spread My Wings,” the ridiculous side Mohawk, “Get Ready,” the ridiculous music videos, and “Red Hair.” To add insult to injury, “Spread My Wings” was also part of the soundtrack for the 2003 film Kangaroo Jack (talking kangaroos!), thereby ruining it for all the Kangaroo Jack fans out there.
Céline Dion is one of the greatest divas in the world with a voice to match, and for that we are pleased. Dion is also charitable, actively participating in disaster relief as well as the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (Yes, it’s true that Canadians are nice, though this article isn’t so much). Even her music, as adult contemporary as it is, is enjoyable to hear when coming from someone who knows what they are doing. What we are not so proud of are her fashion choices, particularly in the latter years of her career, and especially in her multi-million Las Vegas show. However, she’s made gazillions of dollars, so a little indulgence in sequins is excusable. But then there’s the errant behaviour and haphazard hand fluttering that are often the source of mockery on skit shows, both Canadian and worldwide (one to watch is “Saturday Night Live,” where Ana Gasteyer plays Dion with much gusto). This probably leads many non-Canadians to believe that French-Canadians are crazy – but not crazy-crazy, just crazy in that fun, kooky way that your Aunt Maude is crazy after ingesting half a bottle of wine.
Avril Lavigne appearing on this list is a given, because any list that features overrated talent or spoiled brats automatically includes Avril Lavigne. When she released “Complicated” and was favourably dubbed the anti-Britney Spears, Canadians were thrilled. But now, years later, Lavigne has been accused of plagiarism twice, completely changed her image, and put out crappy music. Now Canadians are not so thrilled, and probably deny her Canadian heritage when asked. But it’s no so much her poseur persona or lack of talent that’s offensive, it’s the things that come out of her mouth (this includes singing and speaking). In an interview with Q Magazine, Lavigne acts as her own agent and says, “Someone like Kelly Clarkson is beautiful and has a pretty voice, but with me you get a much stronger image. I’m tough, I have a look that girls want to copy, and I sound a particular way.” She also lets us know how generous she is by adding, “I am a very giving person. When the hurricane thing happened, I went to my closet, filled six boxes of stuff and said to my assistant, ‘Take it to Katrina!’ I also like to give stuff to people who are my ‘workers,’ especially if they don’t make much money.” She also has a warning for potential haters: “If you do hate me, you’re the loser, not me.” If Lavigne were the sole representative of Canada, other parts of the world would automatically assume that all Canadians are ignorant. Luckily, Lavigne now makes her home in the United States of America.
Fellow Canadian Suzie McNeil was a “Rock Star: INXS” contestant in 2005, and earned the distinction of being the last woman standing before being eliminated in fourth place. McNeil had tons of potential post-reality show and was poised to show the world that a woman can rock with the best of them. So it’s natural that someone who chooses rock staples like "Start Me Up" (The Rolling Stones), "Losing My Religion" (R.E.M.) and "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Queen) week after week would end up collaborating with Clay Aiken (as a guest on Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” no less), appear in a musical (We Will Rock You, which is kind of rock’n’roll, if you look past it being musical theatre), and release a song called “Believe.” “Believe” features a chorus that goes something like an inspirational poster: “If you just believe, you can move mountains with dreams – the higher you climb, the better it gets.” Thank you, Suzie. Her second single, “Hung Up,” premiered on MuchMoreMusic, a television station built on adult contemporary, easy rock alternatives, and The Counting Crows. Sadly, the hope we held for a female influence in Canadian rock music has fell by the wayside as Suzie next tries her hand at crocheting, canasta, and timeshares in Florida.
Not only is McDermott an adulterer, but he’s also risen to notoriety because of it. This Canadian “actor” had a pretty cozy life with wife Mary-Jo Eustace, also a Canadian entertainer, which soured when McDermott met and fell in love with Tori Spelling on the set of a made-for-television film. From the last part of the sentence, guess which one is more disturbing: the fact that McDermott fell in love with Tori Spelling, or the fact that he starred in a made-for-television film with her. As the scandal broke, McDermott allowed Spelling to become his personal mouthpiece, speaking on his behalf in numerous interviews and at the Much Music Video Awards. In fact, I’m hard pressed to find a time when I actually heard him speak. Then, to capitalize on his new wife’s middling fame, he agreed to co-star in a highly unentertaining reality show with her. But McDermott doesn’t seem to be content with just mooching from her when he could also be using this to land more work. Not only is he co-starring in Mind Over Murder with her, but he’s also appearing in Housesitter and Kiss The Bride, which sound as sucky as their titles imply, and happen to star Tori Spelling. Unfortunately, marrying an ex-“90210” star can only get you so far – in Kiss The Bride, McDermott is billed as “The Plumber.”
For a band that’s reached much success where many Canadian bands have failed, it’s hard to trust the amount of backlash that Nickelback has received. But it’s all true: Nickelback is the only band in the world who has managed to release a full-length album that actually contains one original track, repeated over and over again. “Feelin’ Too Damn Good,” “Someday,” “Rockstar” – they’re all the same song; in fact, there’s a strong chance that All The Right Reasons is really The Long Road, repackaged and given a new title for the consumer masses to devour. It seems that even lead singer Chad Kroeger is not very well liked. I’m not sure why, but it might have something to do with the fact that he often looks like he’s trying too hard. And maybe he writes all of the band’s material, hence the lack of originality (and very gimmicky, Barenaked Ladies-type lyrics, if you ask me). “Into the Night,” a Chad Kroeger/Carlos Santana collaboration, also sounds like every other Nickelback song out there, which is hard to fathom because Carlos Santana isn’t part of Nickelback. Perhaps working with Kroeger has finally zapped all the creativity from him.
This 2004 “Canadian Idol” winner looks like a cross between a cherub and Ellen DeGeneres, but sounds like a forty-year-old man. It’s no surprise that his first single, “Awake in a Dream,” was wildly successful, since every debut single from an “Idol” winner does generally well, even if it sucks. But what is puzzling is how “Awake in a Dream” also became the best-selling debut single for a Canadian artist, because this sadly implies that other Canadian artists are even worse than Kalan Porter. His first album, 219, was also up for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Pop Album of the Year at the Juno Awards, again suggesting that this is the best we’ve got in terms of music. Wake Up Living, his second album, is supposed to be an indication of the type of music that Porter actually wants to do – which would be dull adult contemporary, if “Down In Heaven” is any indication. (Admittedly, “Down In Heaven” isn’t a bad song, but then again, it’s not something that can withstand many repeats on an iPod, and the video, innocent as it is, creeps me out a little.) Kalan Porter isn’t offensive, but he is kind of boring, which is strange considering that he’s only twenty-one. At least he can say that he’s not Ryan Malcolm.
But not all Canadians are talentless hacks. For true star power, see Sarah Slean, Daniel Powter, Michael Cera, Sarah Chalke, Will Arnett, and Nathan Fillion, just to name a few. These may not be big names yet, but with their high talent, low drama, and passion for their crafts, they’ve managed to make Canadians swell with pride. ¤ C.Ho.