Canucks and Beyond

The "C" Word

02/02/2008 at 3:19pm EST

imageIt’s not been a good week (errr… month) to be a Vancouver Canucks fan. So, in response to a mildly-whining rant I emailed to an American friend the other day, I expected sympathy. Compassion. An appreciation for my suffering.

What I got instead was…

Do try to remember, even though I know you’ve had a severe trauma to the head, that I don’t care nor will I ever go on a hunger strike for anything that has to do with the “latest canuck drama”. I’m sorry your team sucks, but perhaps you should recognize that it is named after a semi-derogatory name for citizens of your country, and take the emotional cue as to how it will ultimately succeed from that.

Blah, blah, blah…. But it made me wonder, why is poor Johnny C so misunderstood?

Now for the record, I never said my team “sucks”... I was just ranting on a loose collection of irritations (i.e. the defense’s propensity for injury; the seemingly-clueless misdirection of Alain Vigneault sometimes this season; the conspiracy of God to destroy my hopes; etc…). But what caught my attention was my friend’s comment about that “semi-derogatory name for the citizens” of my country.

The “C” Word.

For as long as I can remember, “Canuck” has been simply a slang reference to a Canadian, similar to how non-Americans tend to use “Yankee” as a broad general reference to American citizens (whether they live above or below the Mason-Dixon line). Neither is meant to be inherently derogatory, it all just depends how the speaker uses the words.

(For instance, if I call my American friends “pain-in-the-ass Yankees” then yeah, I’m being derogatory. But if I just say “How’s it goin’, Yankee” I mean it sincerely and sweetly from the bottom of my heart. No hidden meanings…)

So what is a “Canuck”? A brief history lesson from Wiki:

imageJohnny Canuck was a Canadian cartoon hero and superhero who was created as a political cartoon in 1869 and was later re-invented, first in 1942, then in 1975.

Johnny Canuck was created as a lumber jack national personification of Canada. He first appeared in early political cartoons dating to 1869 where he was portrayed as a younger cousin of the United States’ Uncle Sam and Britain’s John Bull. Depicted as a wholesome, if simple-minded, fellow in the garb of a habitant, farmer, logger, rancher or soldier, he often resisted the bullying of John Bull or Uncle Sam. For thirty years, he was a staple of editorial cartoonists. Then, in the early twentieth century, he faded from view.

The character re-emerged during World War II in the February 1942 issue of Bell’s Dime Comics No.1. Cartoonist Leo Bachle created the character as a teenager, apparently on a challenge from a Bell executive. [...]

Johnny Canuck’s cartoon exploits helped Canada fight against Nazism. Like Captain America, he met Adolf Hitler and almost single-handedly ended the war.

A war hero. That’s a good thing! Definitely not derogatory.

But then in the last few years, Johnny Canuck has taken on even greater super-powers, discovering he has a talent for stripping and an affinity for burlesque theatre.

imageThat’s how he came to star in the show “Johnny Canuck and the Last Burlesque.”

“I’m a big comics fan,” admits Goddard, who recently returned from studying with renowned physical theatre teacher Philippe Gaulier to work on Last Burlesque. “I had this idea that we would take this character Johnny Canuck, and where did he go after his comic book was cancelled in 1947? I thought it would be really funny to end up in Montreal. And then as Jeremy and I started talking about him, and what would he do, who would he talk to, and who were these other characters, the show just kept expanding and expanding and expanding, until now, we’ve got nine actors and a four-piece band, and this huge set, and…”

So Johnny Canuck is a star of everything from war films to burlesque theatre. I dare say, he always gets the girl.

So I, for one, embrace The “C” Word.


As for how the Vancouver Canucks as a team conceive dear Johnny in art…? Well, that leaves something to be desired:


*image found via

note: other images found here

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