Rediscovering cultural imprints

The power and pride of Canadian broadcasting nostalgia

Nostalgia does not only exist in the Canadian consciousness. A person from any cultural upbringing will have an imprint of the TV they watched, the music, and the shows they heard on the radio. These memories can remain untouched for years,  but they still flood back when reintroduced to the object of one’s nostalgia. As a resident of Canada, a country that exists on the periphery of the United States physically and culturally, I have come to appreciate the importance of Canada’s unique forms of broadcasting media and the distinct ways they burrow deep into the Canadian mind.

It has been the culmination of passing moments that brought this topic to mind, and these very moments exemplify the cultural importance of nostalgia. If you are a Canadian resident, you may have had similar encounters. In one instance, a friend shows the group a quick compilation of Canadian cartoon intros, and through the night, we go deeper down the rabbit hole with an inspired passion. In another, I attend a university lecture and, finding the speaker similar in cadence to the late Stuart McLean, I spend the next week listening to old recordings of Vinyl Café. Here is one that helps me make a crucial point. On a drive with a friend, I tell her I will put on an Alanis Morissette album (Jagged Little Pill, of course). Despite initially expressing that she does not recognize the artist, she realizes that she knows the words to every song; she knows Alanis, but she does not know she knows Alanis. 

This phenomenon is what makes our media so extraordinary. Why does it hide so deep within our memories? Do, for example, American children have this same inhibition on their cultural recollections? What are the comparatives in American media…SpongeBob, Britney Spears, etc? Suddenly, the difference becomes clear: their popular culture becomes ours. 

We have consumed the dominant Western media alongside our national media, and even if we split our consumption levels down the middle, American media, unfortunately, has an impossibly more significant cultural impact. As we aged and technology advanced, we turned from broadcasting to social media. American culture is hegemonic on the internet. Memes use the American media we grew up with; streaming services prioritize trendy television and movies. Pop culture could not be pop if it were to reference niche Canadian broadcasting. As a result of our passive, FOMO-guided internet usage, popular media crystallizes in our consciousness while our cultural media recedes deeper into memory. 

If this seems framed as a tragedy, it is anything but. It might be criminal that The Tragically Hip’s most famous song has only thirty-four million Spotify streams, and I wish memes would reference Big Comfy Couch over Sesame Street. I wish popular references to Canada could include more of our cultural products and not be restricted to uninspired stereotypes. However, something must be said about having our little corner of media to point at. It is the classic feeling of being in the know. Our broadcasting is not intentionally gatekept, but we can still reap the satisfaction of gatekeeping because of popular culture’s natural aversion to our outputs. 

They might as well not exist on the internet; they are not referenced, so we are not reminded of them regularly. Instead, they get pulled back into our consciousness during the unpredictably intimate moments of our lives in Canada. This allows for exceedingly stronger connections with identity and experience for Canadians. Making passing reference to a band and finding that a friend grew up listening to them too has a significantly more substantial impact if the band is Hey Rosetta! and not Imagine Dragons. 

We must subliminally understand how far-removed Canadian broadcasting is from the cultural zeitgeist because any way to recall or relate to it gives us an indescribably yet automatic rush of cultural pride. I encourage readers of any background to dive deeper into their subconscious and re-discover the media that shaped their development. Text a parent and ask about the music you would listen to together. Search the top ten kids shows from your country and be surprised by which ones you remember. Use these memories to reconnect with friends or to make new ones. I have been writing about this nostalgia from a Canadian perspective, but as I said, nostalgia does not only exist in the Canadian consciousness, it is universal.

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