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The Poll That Shocked (#2)

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“Who is Mari-Mai?” This is the name of an article published in October, 2013 in Le Journal de Montréal (one of the main Montréal daily newspapers).   Le Journal de Montréal conducted a survey of Anglophones living in Montreal, asking them to identify the following francophone celebrities and cultural icons:

  • Marie-Mai
  • Guy A. Lepage
  • Jean-René Dufort
  • Rémy Girard
  • Ron Fournier
  • Pierre Bruneau.

These six people are among the best known francophone icons and pop-culture personalities, but the survey found that most Anglophones living in Montréal couldn’t say who they were (in some cases, almost no anglophones knew who they were).  Because someone like Marie-Mai is as popular to francophone youth as Justin Bieber would be to Anglophones, the article came with shock-and-horror for many francophones (or at least it was made to be such by many influential people in the media).  Unsurprisingly, it became ammunition for people to score political points.

But much of the hoopla died down when a reverse survey was conducted several days later, again by Le Journal de Montréal, asking Quebec francophones to identify the following Anglophone Canadian celebrities and cultural icons:  Gordon Lightfoot, Alice Munroe, Robertson Davies, Peters Mansbridge, Farley Mowat, Peter Gzowski, Billy Bishop, and Blue Rodeo.   The results showed that francophones were just as likely not to know anglophone Canadian celebrities.   After the latter survey, the ruckus quickly died down (a good number of people had to eat some pretty big mouthfuls of humble pie), but the point was made that the Two Solitudes continue to exist.

Ironically, this is not the year 1945 (the year Hugh MacLellan published his book Two Solitudes) when the two linguistic groups lived physically apart.  Modern technology, mass movements of people, and a much more equal society makes it so that we’re interacting together, across Canada, on a daily basis.  Despite the fact that cultural solitudes continue to exist for large segments of the populations, there are still many who have become culturally dualistic (seamlessly weaving themselves in and out of the two linguistic cultures – all-the-while considering both linguistic cultures to be their part of their own daily culture).   Being culturally dualistic was a situation that rarely existed in 1945, and with the likes of the internet, online radio, Youtube, etc., tearing down the notion of Two Solitudes should be easier than ever.

The one area where the article seemed to find bridges between the two linguistic cultures was that both sides knew US pop-culture icons relatively well (go figure).  But hey, if anglos and francos can become enthralled with a 3rd country’s pop-culture, then it should be all the more encouraging to know that tearing down cultural walls within our own country shouldn’t be so difficult.  It’s simply a question of exposure.

A similar poll taken by L’actualité 18 months earlier, in April 2012, again showed that a majority of anglophones couldn’t identify a different list of several larger-than-life celebrities (L’actualité is a weekly news magazine in French Canada — the closest equivalent would likely be what Maclean’s is to English speaking Canada).  The celebrities mentioned were:

  • Julie Snyder
  • Véronique Cloutier
  • Normand Brathwaite
  • Janette Bertrand
  • Gregory Charles
  • Ginette Reno

(As a side note, the latter poll also found that a large majority,  83%, of anglophone respondents in Quebec wanted their chidren to be fully bilingual – beyond just an intermediate level).

With the above two polls in mind, the next 12 entries will cover the above celebrities and how they fit into the Franco-Pop scene.


(I’m not sure why, but I have a strange feeling this is going to come as quite a story, and an eye-opener for many people).


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