Monday, February 18, 2013

Take off, eh?





Crown Royal, Canadian Club, two of Canada's proudest exports (and two of ginger ale's best friends), are in the news on the back of an advertisement that is "misleading", "confusing", and "decieving" while "tarnishing" their good names.


Texas Crown Club (couldn't squeeze a Royal in there?) from Houston-based drinks company Mexcor Inc. is accused of unlicensed use of Crown Royal's image to attack it in an advertising campaign. What concerns me, however, is the fear of what lurks beneath the surface: a resurgence of American anti-Canadianism. 


In Canada, it is a sad phenomenon that visible minorities still suffer from racism and discrimination from the playground to the burial ground. In fact, the very term "visible minority" was found by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be offensive and racist. Worse still, however, is that outside of Canada in North America (ie. anywhere on the same landmass but further south), Canadians are marginalised as an audible minority. Finally, this unspoken subject might now come to light with Canadian identity itself now suffering in the bars and liquor shops of America following the old journalism idiom: if it's booze, it's news.

I know. I, too, suffered anti-Canadian slurs and slander in my two years as a legal alien living in the USA.

The current controversy stems from an advertisement which features a barmaid in an Old West saloon ordering a round of Mexcor's Texas Crown Club whisky for a group of grizzled cowboys. When a "strange cowboy" ambles into the bar brandishing an unmarked bottle in a purple, drawstring pouch, the barmaid jeers, "We don't drink that poison in this neck of the woods," Diageo, owners of Crown Royal, reports.
Tossed out of the saloon, this Alberta cowboy being unwelcome as implied by the barmaid, the camera pans to a bottle of Texas Crown Club and shows a second bottle, in a pouch that resembles the Texas state flag, slammed down on the bar next to the first bottle. Red, white, and blue. Not purple like that silly Canadian flag. 

"[I]n light of the fact that defendant is selling and advertising a directly competitive Canadian whiskey, it is obvious that defendant intended to literally communicate to consumers that the cowboy is carrying Crown Royal whiskey, and that Crown Royal whiskey is the "poison" that the defendant denigrates and tarnishes in its commercial," the complaint said.
While the Texas spirit makes no claims about its origin, it is implied to be "local", ie from Texas, it is clear that this outsider elixir, this "poison" is drippings from the north. In it's Texas guise enjoyed "round here", the Canadian Crown Royal whisky and the cowboy it rode in on is washed of its cultural identity. This message, the one that many of my countrymen face daily living under American rule, is "assimilate or get out"... or in the lyrics of Neil Peart, sung in a register achieved only from an upbringing in -30C winters, "conform or be cast out
photo courtesy of JShapiro, steaks courtesy of heaven 
While rumours continue to swirl around the potential source of the leather that decorates their website background (human? Canadian? Canadian human?), the fact remains that Diageo says it never agreed to let Mexcor mimic Crown Royal's look for the commercial, which it says dilutes the value of its trademarks, and wants the court to bring a stop to it. But there is much more that must be stopped here.

Civil and human rights organisations agree that "discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the United States, and extends to all communities of color." Discrimination against African Americans, Latin Americans, and Muslims is widely acknowledged. Members of every major American ethnic and religious minority have perceived discrimination in their dealings with other minority racial and religious groups. 

Canadians, stay strong: your plight has finally come to light. The achievement of liberation begins with achievement!

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