Culture Club is Torontoist’s (brand new) Canadian pop culture column. We’ll be waxing philosophical about the trivial, the titillating, and the mundane on a bi-weekly basis.
Illustration by Kyra Kendall/Torontoist.
“Us? Really? Here? Really?” It’s true, Toronto, isn’t it? We often react to mentions of our city—and our city’s current or former residents—in non-Canadian contexts (that is, media) with equal parts pleasure and disbelief. “Little old me?” we seem to say, whenever Toronto gets a shout-out from abroad.
Remember that time “our” boy Duncan Davies found himself in a liplock with The City‘s (now ex-) cast member Erin Lucas? No? Well, apparently we do. While Davies, then twenty-one, was experiencing his first fifteen minutes of American reality TV fame, we—as a city and as members of a Canadian media outlet—were revelling in his small-screen PDAs.
“It was a bit of a shock to see the response from Canadian media,” says Davies, a year older and a year wiser than he was when we first saw him on The City. “I was flattered to see how supportive my fellow Canadians were…[but] there seemed to be a great deal of confusion as to how some Canadian boy ended up the show.”
Davies, a self-described country/rock ‘n’ roll musician (you can check out Davies’s band here and listen to some of his solo stuff here), said his band’s manager was contacted by MTV Canada after his first episode of The City aired; evidently, MTV had received more than fifteen hundred emails from individuals wondering, as Davies puts it, “who the hell Duncan Davies from Toronto was.”
From MuchMusic to MTV to, yes, Torontoist, interest in Davies’s public/personal life seemed to fructify overnight. “A lot of people said, ‘Don’t do it—your reputation will be tarnished, and you’ll always be labelled as That Guy From Reality TV. Nobody will ever take you seriously.’”
But Davies’s reputation was never really sullied—quite the opposite, in truth. Even after Davies and Lucas broke up (translation: Davies was dumped), “our” boy still, somehow, managed to extend his shelf life beyond that fifteenth minute:
“Some Canadians were interested in what was going on in my life beyond what was shown on The City. Luckily some of The City’s viewers were music-lovers, so the [media] attention spurred a small tour of Eastern Canada with my band.”
That’s the nature of the beast. That is, that’s the nature of our beast. Eye Weekly‘s Kate Carraway once wrote that the “social world of Toronto’s media is boring,” and scolded Torontoist, Spacing, and BlogTO for being too “safe” and too “earnest.” While we disagreed with much of what Carraway had to say, we will admit that Carraway wasn’t completely wrong (big of us, we know). We do, more often than not, play the rah-rah role than the let-me-take-a-dump-on-you one. But is that really, truly, so bad?
Maybe we haven’t cultivated a taste for mass-mediated schadenfreude. Or maybe we just can’t spell it. Either way, we—Toronto, or perhaps simply Canadian media—tend to shy away from burning “our” boys and girls. We’d rather give ’em a hand up than a kick in the pants. Sure, it’s a little bit boring. But then again, so are our “celebs.” And we mean this in the nicest way possible. We don’t have Brangelinas, we don’t have Snookies, and we don’t even have loose-lipped musicians who liken their ex-girlfriends to “sexual napalm.” (Although some might claim that we do have our very own Tiger Woods…) Perhaps we don’t have the same material to work with—or maybe, just maybe, it’s not in our nature, or repertoire, to dwell on the less-than-savoury aspects of our celebs’ (and pseudo-celebs’) lives.
“Some may see it as bizarre or egotistical that so many people were interested in a Torontonian being on international television, but I don’t think it’s wrong or unusual to be interested in fellow Canadians…and it’s certainly better than being apathetic,” says Davies. “The world can be a pretty alienating place, so anything that makes us connected is a good thing.”