My prior post on country music serves to highlight that there are aspects of pop-culture that do not necessarily revolve around traditional poles of culture, such as Hollywood. So what is Québec’s traditional pole of pop-culture? It’s definately Montréal – but in this sense I prefer to call it “Montréwood”
Montréwood (I pronounce the English “T”, rather than a silent French “T”) is not a word you’ll find in the dictionary or online. I don’t know that Montréal has ever been given a specific Hollywood meme-like name before. But just as Bollywood incarnates what the pop-culture and film industry is to India (as well as its influence in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), Montréwood is probably a perfect term for Montréal’s role, not only in Québec pop-culture, but also what it stands for to Francophones elsewhere in Canada, and even outside of Canada (it exports significant amounts of pop-culture to France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the rest of the Francophone world through various media platforms).
Los Angeles attracts and cultivates large numbers of Anglophone comedians, actors, playwrights, singers, television and film personalities not only from the United States, but also from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and a host of other nations. There, people from all over the world work together to collectively bring ideas and creations to life. Its film, television, tabloid, and playwright/theatre industries, as well as its star-culture is simply termed “Hollywood”. Hollywood provides its finished ensemble of work back to these originating nations, and beyond.
Mumbai and its concept of “Bollywood” very much operates in the same mould. Bollywood has become synonymous with Indian, and Indian Sub-Continent pop-culture – and the notion that it has been packaged into one tidy, easy-to-understand term focuses attention on what it is, and its attraction power.
Montréal essentially is another version of Hollywood and Bollywood, with similar star systems, industries, and cultural soft power (and never forget that cultural soft power also equals political soft power – something we, as Canadian Anglophones, understand very well in terms of Hollywood – and something I witnessed during my years working and travelling elsewhere in the world).
Montréwood is ground zero in Québec for Francophone movies, theatre, television, comedy, literary arts, and more. It attracts Francophones to these industries from all over Québec, from all over Canada, from Francophone Europe, Haiti, and French parts of Africa — and conversely, like Hollywood and Bollywood, it projects its finished works nationally and internationally. If you’re going to make it big in North America’s Francophone pop-culture industry, it’s nearly impossible to do so from Québec City, Rimouski, Moncton, or Winnipeg – you pretty much have to focus on Montréal (you’ll recall from the post on Marie-Mai that she had to leave Francophone Northern Ontario for her career to succeed).
Just like Hollywood and Bollywood, Montréwood has an intricate social network of celebrities and behind the scenes players who continue to cross paths, work together, and weave in and out of the various media and cultural platforms. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that everybody knows everybody — and because so many projects are collaborative efforts between very successful and talented individuals, some fairly grand projects are produced.
But like Hollywood and Bollywood, such an environment also has a dirty side. Montréwood has an invasive tabloid industry and other issues surrounding invasive media sensationalism of its celebrities. Its celebrities are put under the microscope, and the slightest scandal or controversy becomes prime fodder for the press (out of respect for individuals, the personal lives of celebrities is something I’m trying to avoid writing about in my blogs). Go to any supermarket in Québec and you’ll see tabloid publications at the checkout counters spilling the latest details on someone’s relationship or family troubles, missteps, faults, and most intimate activities. Television’s morning, evening, and late night talk shows cover celebrities in detail, and headline news regularly features some celebrity’s association with a scandal or political matter. It’s not always pretty, and you can’t help but feel for certain individuals. But one of strongest emotions we have as humans have is the feeling of empathy. When we see someone being dragged under the bus, we can empathize with them – it gives them a more human face. This serves to garner even more attention on the sensational side of Montréwood (we like to pay attention to people who we think we can relate to), and the vicious circle continues.
But all is not bad in Montréwood, and it’s still a place full of wonder, dreams, positive energy, and amazing feats of accomplishment.
In the next few blogs, we’ll take a closer look at what makes Montréwood tick.