The essays collected in offer close analysis of an array of cultural representations of the Canada-US border, in both site-specificity and in the ways in which they reveal and conceal cultural similarities and differences. Contributors focus on a range of regional sites along the border and examine a rich variety of expressive forms, including poetry, fiction, drama, visual art, television, and cinema produced on both sides of the 49th parallel.The field of border studies has hitherto neglected the Canada-US border as a site of cultural interest, tending to examine only its role in transnational policy, economic cycles, and legal and political frameworks. Border studies has long been rooted in the US-Mexico divide; shifting the locus of that discussion north to the 49th parallel, the contributors ask what added complications a site-specific analysis of culture at the Canada-US border can bring to the conversation. In so doing, this collection responds to the demands of Hemispheric American Studies to broaden considerations of the significance of American culture to the Americas as a whole-bringing Canadian Studies into dialogue with the dominantly US-centric critical theory in questions of citizenship, globalization, Indigenous mobilization, hemispheric exchange, and transnationalism.
Reading Fashion Television's Border Crossings
The beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl) was of dominant importance in the beginning of the Canadian fur trade.
Harold Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada, 3
The Beaver renamed . to end porn mix-up.1
Headline, Agence France Presse, 12 January 2010
FUR HAS HAD A LONG AND complex relationship with Canada, shaping the country's economic, political, and even sexual identity. Concurrently, fur remains an important part of the North American and indeed global fashion industry, symbolizing luxury and warmth. Julia Emberley reveals some of the intricacies of fur's cultural significance within the fashion industry, noting that the fur coat in the twentieth century operates primarily as a "feminine fashion commodity worn by women to display the twin signs of wealth and prestige" (16). But as Emberley argues in her persuasive study, The Cultural Politics of Fur, the fur coat also operates as a sign of "female sexuality and its libidinal profits of exchange" (16). And while Canada has been a crucial source for fur pelts, it remains a traditionally marginalized (and symbolically feminized) nation with respect to fashion innovation. Yet Canada was the birthplace and home of Fashion Television, a half-hour television fashion show hosted by Toronto-based journalist Jeanne Beker that ran for a remarkable twenty-seven years. First broadcast in 1985, FT was the longest continually running program of its kind. The show became internationally acclaimed and extremely popular with viewers around the globe; its final episode aired on 22 April 2012. Reruns of the show remain central to the programming schedule of FashionTelevisionChannel, a Canadian-based subscription channel devoted exclusively to fashion, art, and design, which was launched in 2001 and strategically renamed Fashion Television in the summer of 2012; this name change attests to the sustained popularity of the original FT and its potential to attract new subscribers. When asked in 2010 about what makes Fashion Television unique, Beker stated that the show's strength lay in the fact that "Canadians have always made for great observers" and that FT "tell[s] [compelling] fashion stories" from a uniquely Canadian perspective (personal interview 3). If, as John Hartley argues in Television Truths, "nations themselves are the outcome of 'narrative accrual,' and citizenship is bound up with story" (75), what do explorations of Canada and Canadian identity through fur on a program like Fashion Television convey about the nation and its identity, especially in relation to its traditional colonial allies and trading partners-the United States and Britain? How might (re)fashioning or (re)thinking fur's myriad connotations in the context of FT-a show that itself crossed multiple borders, literally and figuratively-enable a different understanding of Canada on the world stage, particularly in terms of sexuality?
Fur trading-particularly of the much-coveted beaver pelt-was pivotal to Canada's pre-Confederation development. The fur trade also fundamentally shaped Canada's interactions with Britain, Europe, and the United States and its birth as a postcolonial nation with its own history of internal oppression and exploitation of Native peoples (many of whom were fur trappers).2 The recent renaming of The Beaver-the second-oldest magazine in Canada, "launched in 1920 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Hudson's Bay Co. and the fur trade that led to the early exploration of Canada"-serves as a pointed reminder of the sexual connotations of fur in the contemporary world ("Canada's The Beaver"). According to publisher Deborah Morrison, "there was only one interpretation for the word [beaver]" when the magazine began. The fact that "in modern times" the term has become "slang for women's genitalia" made it very difficult for The Beaver to circulate online without having its readers plagued by spam filters or unable to access the magazine at all. This crudely sexualized rendering of the beaver when paired with Canada's colonial history provides a provocative context for examining fur's border crossings. This chapter couples close readings of Canada's nineteenth-century depictions of itself as a youthful and resolutely feminized source of New World natural resources, especially as represented by fur, with Jeanne Beker's efforts to complicate this clichéd vision of the nation through her work as a fashion journalist and long-standing host of Fashion Television. Not only did she reposition Canada (and specifically Toronto) in relation to the world of fashion, but she also used the show to explore and champion alterna(rra)tive sexual identities, particularly through her sustained support of Dean and Dan Caten, gay Canadian-born twin brothers who are the creators of the highly successfully label DSquared2.
Canada has long been located on the periphery of the global fashion industry; its closest neighbour, the United States, often overshadows it. This perception of Canada as a New World source of natural resources, particularly fur, to be exported to and exploited by other imperializing nations-including America-was pointedly articulated nearly 120 years before the inception of Fashion Television in British-born, Toronto-based satirist J.W. Bengough's "A Pertinent Question." Bengough's cartoon first appeared in the Diogenes, a popular Canadian humour magazine, on 18 June 1869 [see Figure 1]. Published only two years after Canadian Confederation, the cartoon portrays a young Miss Canada sitting on a bench, turned away from the American dandy, Cousin Jonathan-attired in his sartorial version of the American flag-and leaning into Mrs. Britannia. In the caption that appears below, Mrs. Britannia queries the new nation about her conduct, asking, "Is it possible, my dear, that you have ever given your cousin Jonathan any encouragement?", to which the Miss Canada responds: "Encouragement! Certainly not, Mamma. I have told him we can never be united."
Fig. 2.1 J.W. Bengough, "A Pertinent Question," 1869.
While Mrs. Britannia places both hands demurely on her lap, Miss Canada offers only one, propping herself up on Mrs. Britannia's shoulder with the other, and looking away from her mother country's face as she articulates her apparently unwavering commitment to the monarchy, suggesting that the young woman's mind may be elsewhere. The cartoon sets up a resolutely heterosexist paradigm, with Mrs. Britannia attempting to ensure her daughter's loyalty and aversion to her potential male suitor, Cousin Jonathan, whose geographic proximity and economic clout make him a compelling husband and New World protector. In this case, Mrs. Britannia is expressing a genuine fear that her colonial offspring-who is an abundant source of cheap natural resources-may stray. Bengough's choice of image and caption emphasizes the importance of this neighbourly relationship between Canada and the United States, cemented by the shared border, in sexual and financial terms. His cartoon anticipates that Miss Canada will soon be enticed into forging alliances with and even producing children with Jonathan, who, as a symbol of the United States, has already demonstrated his revolutionary and imperialistic tendencies. Bengough's depiction of Canada-US relations also evokes the powerful rhetoric of "Manifest Destiny," a term coined by American journalist John O'Sullivan in 1845 to justify the new nation's efforts to annex the Republic of Texas.3 Canada soon became another target for the United States, which aimed to spread republican democracy and to liberate colonies all over the world from British and European bondage. Not surprisingly, then, Bengough's cartoon couples the overbearing nature of Mrs. Britannia's rule with the slickly alluring aspects of American exceptionalism, as embodied by Cousin Jonathan. The 49th parallel becomes a slippery space, open to manipulation by Canada's southern neighbour as part of the fulfilment of a broader, American-authored narrative of Manifest Destiny.
In Bengough's cartoon, apparel conveys key assumptions about each nation. Cousin Jonathan wears stovepipe-striped trousers, a dark jacket with tails, a waistcoat patterned with stars, and a top hat, garments that literalize the flag-waving Yankee's loyalty to his New World nation. His dishevelled and lanky hair, his beard, and his hardened facial features are coupled with the phallic cigar he holds in his mouth, offering the promise of unrefined Freudian masculine seduction to the young Miss Canada. Jonathan's body may be physically angled away from Miss Canada, but his right hand, which leans on an adjacent pillar, is in proximity to his female neighbour's shoulder. Such a stance suggests that he could easily reach out and touch her, visually echoing the geographical immediacy of the shared Canada-US border and anticipating the close economic ties between the two nations-ties that continue to this day in the form of agreements such...