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Further Details on "A True Northern Romance"
Series, 2010-2012
Oil on Canadian Birch Panel, 76cm x 91cm (30" x 36")


The idea of campy pulp, kitschy references to the Mountie have been around for over 100 years by now.  Artist and writer, Douglas Coupland, once quipped "Mounties are dead". I think he meant they have been used up and over exposed.  Done to death. But screw that, Mounties are too awesome for that. They're maybe our strongest and most recognized symbol.  I've talked to people in many far away places and they all say Canada  = mounties more often than not.

The Mountie is what Canada is often known for outside our boarders. Quite possibly the most recognized symbol of our country.

They are a bit corny, I'll admit.  An outrageous hat, crazy bright red jackets, weird ballooning, yellow striped pants, that weird rope around their necks connected to their guns. Flamboyant, sure maybe, badass definitely. They're fantastic. I understand the world's fascination with them.  There is a prevailing idea of the Mounties being idealic, almost perfect even. A super hero of sorts, really the only true figure like that we in Canada have. I don't mind those out there that think of mounties as the first thing they recognized about Canada. It could be a way worse of a thing than those unique looking mounties I'd figure.  I'm proud of their identifier to us. They are strong, romantic, wild striking figures.  They represent a opposite to the rough talking American cowboy figure.  They are polite, always nice, ask questions first before shooting, always appear as stand up, tough and honest.  Mounties are class! People believe that. And by association we, all of us Canadians, are in turn seen the in a way as the same. Which is a nice place to be.

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Preliminary Sketches
"A Mountie Never Cries Wolf"
Graphite with Ink, Pastel, Acrylic on Paper
A series of Drawings are completed in the development of each piece in the series. The above represent a cross-section of the sketches made for the aforementioned piece. Design, composition, colour notes are made, and corrections/changes made from these early foundations to formulate the final finished oil painting.


Beginning in about the early 1930's or so The Canadian Mountie had become an extremely popular image. They were a hit.  They're image has since been licensed and used in hundreds of films, serials, advertisements and as toys. The Mounties had entered a global popular culture idiom where they have ever since remained.

It was some of these early wide spread depictions and beliefs that have lead to and inspired this series. I wanted to reinvigorate the ideal of perfection and adventure, to explore within their lore and legends, to play on their fictionalized identity, and to address the icon that could be seen to stand for us, in a world wide sense. A modern recontexualization of history painting of sorts.  I took the "subjective non-fictional" approach to engaging with the symbol and idea of the Mountie, and played on and with their wonderful image because I didn't want them to be dead quite yet.



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TITLES for works found in A True Northern Romance series



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"A Mountie always get their man".

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"A Mountie is never above a little criticism".

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"A Mountie would never cry wolf".

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"A Mountie listens when nature calls".

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"A Mountie takes charge".

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"A Mountie is often stuck between a rock and a hard place".

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"A Mountie draws only when necessary".

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"A Mountie always arrives just in time".

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"A Mountie constantly gets lucky".

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"A Mountie sometimes gets scorned".




Development Stages for the Final Series

The below 4 images are examples of how the work progresses and develops. A small overview, a depiction of one of the works in progress. Noting that numerous preliminary stages/sketches are gone through and created prior to and specifically used for and in the development of the final complete piece. Small compositional and colour changes are broken down over and over, worked and played with for use in the development of the final larger scale oil.

(TOP LEFT- original sketch, acrylic. TOP RIGHT- compositional secondary sketch and re-design attempt #4, acrylic and ink. BOTTOM LEFT- Final sketch stage prior to first paint layer, Graphite and Charcoal. BOTTOM RIGHT- Grayscale Painting, Oil.)


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Sketches develop over many renditions until the final appearance is decided upon

Sketches for series are done in gradients of pencil, loosely, to develop composition and overall design near the end of the artistic process. The drawings are then utilized in the process as a means of breaking down the work into elements to concentrate on in the final painting. These drawings serve as a piecea of art on their own, though in the form of digital prints they are often played with digitally to correct any areas of mistakes or desired changes before transferring/redrawing into the foundations of the final work.

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Sketch

"A Mountie always gets their man"
Graphite on Paper
30" x 36"

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Sketch

"A Mountie is always on time"
Graphite on Paper
30" x 36"




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3-D Aspect in Final Work

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Prismatic 3-D glasses
were intended to be used while viewing the works in the "Northern Romance" series. Though it is not necessary to do so, if the paintings are viewed in the 3D format the stereoscopic glasses affect the viewing experience and cause a three-dimensionalization affect, according to differences in the diffraction of the individual colours.

The colours of the spectrum are essentially pushed and pulled, out and in, through a special prism-like holographic film fitted into glasses making the picture seem as though you are no longer looking at a flat plane, but rather a fully realized 3D image with the appearance of actual depth.


The "chroma depth" 3D glasses help to purposely exacerbate chromatic aberration and give the illusion of
colours taking up different positions in actual space.

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The painting colours within in the visible light spectrum are adjusted for the glasses ability to place each colour of the spectrum seemingly a certain distance in space. Paintings usually being of a single flat image it isn't really possible to portray true depth.

Most things that can be perceived in third dimension require a concept employing a strategy using two images, moved slightly askew one another, and then superimposed on top of each other in a process of steropsis (meaning "solid" or "three-dimensional", and
opsis meaning appearance or sight) in which the impression of depth is only perceived when a scene is viewed with one image separate for each eye. This is different in this series.


The "Northern Romance" Series requires only a single image rather than the more common 3-D Techniques like the stereopsis-based schemes that require two images combined. These paintings based on 'chromatic depth' contain the depth information within the piece itself, which eliminates the ghostly double image seen when attempting to view them without the use of 3D glasses seen usually when viewing 3-D type pictures. The paintings in "A Northern Romance" series appear as though they are the 'normal' single image type image without the glasses and with the glasses on, the paintings, simply said, become deeper in dimension and further alive.

Thus, this series of paintings can be viewed comfortably and legibly without the glasses, though the 3D effect will not be perceivable in its entirety without them
.




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Example of Reference Material used in the development of the series.
A multitude of material was complied from numerous resources including the National Archives of Canada, the Archives of the RCMP (which includes the collection of the forerunner North West Mounted Police), as well as an un-countable amount of books, articles and artifacts related to the past, present and future of the"Mounties".
Included below are a few of the very inspiring images from which I set out from.


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Reference Photo used in background research for series development.
Photograph (Photographer Unknown) early 1900's.
Fort Macleod, Alberta.
"Constable John Charles Edgar, age 17 of the Royal North West Mounted Police
"

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Reference Photo used in background research for series development.
Photograph (Photographer Unknown) early 1900's.
Location unknown
"Constable heading out on Patrol"

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Reference Photo used in background research for series development.
Photograph (Photographer Unknown) early 1900's.
Location unknown
"Northwest Mounted Police, play fighting with one another, inside their Fort"



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Examples of Pulp Magazine and Movie Covers and Posters from about the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
These examples served as an inspiration in what was to become the desired design of the series.
Though not a direct influence in the appearance of the final series, these and others, do form the foundation of the final overall collection.

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(Poster Designs, Promotional Images, Character story and Logo hold varying Copyright titles
© circa 1925 - 1955)



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Other Pulpy Popular Culture Ephemera used as inspiration and source material,
and has had an influence on the final complete series.


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Collectable Trading Card
Item from childhood, circa 1987
Card depicting WWF Professional Wrestler
"The Mountie"
Not sure how they got away with it, but the character was portrayed as one of the "Bad" Guys, counter the usual portrayal of the Mounites.

(Image, Character and Logo
Copyright
© World Wrestling Federation Ltd.)

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Mountie Barbie Doll
issued with permission
and in conjunction with the RCMP
As strange as it may sound this particular doll, The Mountie Barbie, is one of the most collectable, rare and expensive Barbie dolls there is to be found. Also a bit offside I think.

(Image, Character and Logo
Copyright
© Matel Corporation, Barbie Ltd.)

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Pulp Novel
Written by L. Ron Hubbard
circa mid 1930's
before creating and becoming the leader of Scientology Hubbard made his living writing adventure novels, one of his favourite subjects were none other than the Mounties.

(Book Cover Design / Image
Copyright
© Mystery Adventures Publishing 1935)



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Mass-Media Outlet supplied image, example of the appropriation of the
Symbol and Imagery of the Mountie found in Popular Culture


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Close up Stock-Photograph
Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
(A rather bizarre choice of direction, and if you were to ask me… it was almost a live action version of the above mentioned Barbie Mountie, except with tighter and less clothing and even more objectified. And I'd say a very ill advised use and offensive depiction of one of our National Symbols really.
Simultaneously both sexist and embarrassing all in one foul swoop. Not the nicest of showcases for our country to say the least…
and remember the torch didn't work properly either. Rough.
The use of one of our most beloved symbols in this way, which normally could represent ideas of fairness and righteousness unlike the depiction here, has in a sense turned this icon into a disappointingly and shocking step backwards).



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RCMP Official Recruitment Advertisements
2008-2009
A series of Recruitment Advertisements (a group 5+ individual Advertisement images
[with a pair/set for each of the 5], one version male oriented, one female oriented design)
Found in numerous Canadian popular magazines, most notably on multiple pages within the Famous MovieMagazine
you get provided at the movie theatres. Connecting the imagery even further with connotations of action and excitement.
Ads were apparently designed each individually, to represent the sexes in opposites, though unequally in position of each.
These Unique Ads have since become almost impossible to find any information regarding the Ad campaign itself.


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(Promotional Images Copyright
© RCMP / Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Federal Government of Canada)




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Video Clips of Popular Culture images of The Mounties
found within the early film serial programs of the 1920s -1950s (some other examples can be found on Youtube)



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Heroes of Northern "fiction"

No one else has been able to capture our imaginations the way the Mountie in their red tunics have, for good or for ill, the Mountie is always going to be the image that people take away of Canada. 'The Northern' was mainly a genre in literature, art and film made popular by creators Arthur Heming, Rex Woods, Zane Grey, Jack London and many others. It is similar to the Western genre but the action occurs in the Canadian North and typically features Mounties instead of, for example, cowboys or sheriffs. The genre was extremely popular in the inter-war years of the 20th century, from which I drew inspiration from for this series.

It’s the Mountie, of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), who really stood out. From the late 19th century, the Mounties appeared in dime novels, pulp magazines and radio shows. But they finally made it big in the Hollywood pictures of the 1930's and 1940's as a chivalrous and self-sacrificing hero. Movies such as Susannah of the Mounties with Shirley Temple, painted a romantic — and often unrealistic — portrait of the NWMP’s ushering in law and order to the untamed Canadian West. Hollywood taught us that the earnest and righteous Mountie always gets his man. More than a century later, he’s still capturing our imaginations. Dr. Michael Dawson, a history professor at St. Thomas University, wrote his Master’s thesis on the RCMP image, which he then later expanded into a book, The Mountie: From Dime Novel to Disney. He recalls stumbling upon internal memos from the 1960's in his research, expressing concerns about the impact of these films. “There were all these interesting internal grumblings,” says Dawson. “You’d have the Commissioner saying, look, it’s all fine that we’ve got this romantic image but I’ve got to sit down with J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI and I need to be taken seriously.” The late 1960's brought a makeover for the Mountie in popular culture. American popular culture brought us hapless Dudley Do Right, the eponymous star of the Rocky and Bullwinkle segment, while British comedy troupe Monty Python gave us Mounties singing about wearing ladies underwear.

Thirty years later, when Due South rode onto the scene, the show, starring Canadian actor Paul Gross as the charmingly naïve and chivalrous Cst. Benton Fraser, fans across the world bought in. Almost 2 decade since the finale, it’s common for Canadians travelling abroad to still meet fans who associate the show with Canada.And that excitement surrounding the force is clear through its commercial success.In the late 1980s, Mattel unveiled its Canadian Barbie, decked out in red serge and topped off with a Stetson. In 1995, the RCMP signed a five-year contract with Walt Disney Co. to help package and sell their image. Since then, each year, roughly $5.5 million retail dollars of officially licensed RCMP products are sold per year in Canada.

The North-West Mounted Police were formed in 1873 and were intended to serve as the "Mounted Police Force for the Northwest Territories". Now seen as an icon of Canada, for over 100 years the Mounties have played an important role in Canada’s history. Their role as a representative of the country is enormous and while some of their stories are famous, many are not yet told. In some cases the mythology and the reality are far removed from one another.

Many myths have grown up around these figures and this series intends to illustrate the importance that myth exercises in popular culture from the radio stories of the depression to Hollywood heroes to television and advertising icons into modern culture.

For a long period of time, the Mounties were the only agent of government in many northern communities. Judge, mining recorder, mailman, doctor, etc. the Mounties played all the roles, for real. While their lives were adventurous, they were also arduous and dangerous. With few amenities and distant from help, the Mounties explored, protected and developed the North, it should be noted assisted often by local First Nations.

The American West and the Canadian North became romantic constructions in the hands of the media makers. The North-West Mounted Police were ready-made larger- than-life heroes and could be plopped right into the western story line with hardly a script change. If the program or movie was trying for Canadian realism, then the mission of peace, order and justice, would be achieved with conservative politeness. Which may be the beginnings of the stereotype in which all Canadians are apologetic and polite.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their predecessors were portrayed, first in novels and magazines, and then in film, on the radio and television, and in advertising. Radio and television dramas about the Canadian Mounted Police had an interesting way of building on the truth to create a fantastical image using a mixture of events from Canadian and American history without regard to historical chronology or geography.

The early radio programs were serialized versions of long dramas with cliff-hanger breaks between segments to keep the listener returning. This format affected the type of drama. During the late 1940s, the serialized dramas gave way to a more popular complete-in-one-episode program and the dramas became more complicated, if not more thoughtful. (It is the images from this period, including that of pulp magazine covers, comics and b-movie poster that directly inspired this series of painting). The Canadian Mountie continued to be a favourite character in the movies, and elsewhere although, instead of moral drama or action-packed thrillers that become inadvertently funny, the modern movie Mountie more often stars in comedy that parodies the hard working and long-suffering Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I was interested in reviving the romance of adventure with an under current in some cases of humour rather than the reverse which has seemed in recent decades rather too popular.In the first half of the twentieth century, and perhaps still today, one of Canada’s most recognizable cultural exports was the Mountie, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer, wearing the signature red coat of his dress uniform and sitting astride his trusty steed. From its founding as the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873, to its 1920 re-formation as the RCMP, and through to the present, the Canadian federal police force has assumed in literary and popular culture the symbolic weight of national icon and the image has circulated widely, across media and around the world. Starting with the late nineteenth-century colonial press and continuing through the turn-of-the- century fiction market, interwar radio and film, and postwar television and commodity culture, the Mountie has appeared, both earnestly and satirically, at the centre of national mythologies about Canadian liberal democracy. At his most typical, the Mountie is an officer of the law who is part of a rational organization but also a refined gentleman and a unique, special individual. He represents a physically, intellectually, and morally upright and seductive, yet civilized, a hero distinct from the wilder masculinities of American popular culture heroes. Indeed, the fictional Mountie is at the centre of some persistent English-Canadian nationalist mythologies, notably that the West was conquered by a central authority whose decency and paternalism is also registered in Canada’s careful and fair treatment of Aboriginal peoples, particularly in comparison with the treatment meted out by the law and order forces of the United States. Across a range of twentieth-century cultural forms, from novels to radio to film and television, the Mountie therefore functioned at home and abroad as a metonym for the narrativization of Canada as the “Great White North” settler colony: they are at the vanguard of civility, in the sense of both a pan-British set of “manners and behaviours that must be learned and performed in the settler territory and a trans-imperial masculinity disseminated throughout the empire, much like late nineteenth-century immigration handbooks. This romanticization of invader-settler colonialism and the violent annexation of indigenous territories achieved widespread dissemination in early twentieth-century popular and pulp Northwesterns, adventure stories of a frozen northern territory in which Mounties replace the heroic sheriffs of American Westerns, and exoticised locales such as the Yukon offer the local colour of canoeing, mad trappers, drunk gamblers, and foolish gold prospectors.

The trajectory of the Mountie as an authoritarian and authenticating sign in narratives of Canada may be organized around at least three categories: the material history of the Mountie as an agent of a globally British and locally Canadian imperialism, the celebratory romanticization of that history, and parodic interventions into this myth making. Viewers responses delineate tensions between a Canada iconified by the image of a Mountie in snowy forests or a frozen tundra that could be a part of the U.S., and the image of a sovereign, multicultural, bilingual Canada.1 Similar tensions are provoked when Hollywood's cinematic renderings of Canada are read against the diverse lived experience of Canada's multicultural population. The genealogy of these images of the Canadian Mountie in the "Great White North" can be traced, via literary antecedents, to Hollywood cinema's production of 575 films set in Canada between 1907 and 1956. Pierre Berton (1975) provides an informative survey of these films in Hollywood's Canada: The Americanization of Our National Image, a work to which this essay owes a great deal. Before discussing the variant, yet interrelated, formations of the Mountie as a cinematic commodity of corporate America, as British comedy sketch material, as the star of a U.K. advertising campaign for the Canadian brewer Labatt's, and as characterized in recent Canadian television, it is necessary to chart the historic and contemporary roles the Mountie has contributed to narratives of Canadian nation.

Why does the traditional and homogenizing image of the Mountie as Canada have such resonance in the late twentieth century globally? As Pierre Berton (1975) and Manjunath Pendakur (1990) argue, the American film industry's appropriation of Canada's national narrative and the U.S. monopoly of worldwide distribution have ensured that the American other's commodified Canada is predominant in the global imagination. And the most pervasive image in these films is the Mountie, a cultural figure the Canadian state has been complicit in creating. The film Western is a narrative of American expansion, a representation of the ever-shifting American frontier, and a potent form of an identity predicated upon the erasure of Native Americans or whoever is in the path of the frontier. Margaret Atwood is very much aware of this when she figures the Hollywood film Western as a vehicle for American cultural imperialism in her poem "Backdrop Addresses Cowboy." In Atwood's allegory, Canada is personified as the female backdrop to the American cowboy. The cowboy signifies American popular culture as an invasive discourse that displaces indigenous cultural forms and "litters" the Canadian imagination. As the backdrop informs the cowboy: "I am the space you desecrate / as you pass through" (Atwood 1991, 71).

Over time, a genre such as the Mountie film exhausts itself and becomes cliché as ever genre does, one possible reason for the virtual disappearance of the Mountie film after 1956. Moving images of the Mountie resurface, however, in popular culture as parody Conceptualizes parody as an oppositional dialogue between two texts in which "a critical distance is implied between the backgrounded text being parodied and the new incorporating work, a distance usually signalled by irony. This kind of intertextual relationship is a central device in the famous Monty Python Mountie sketch. A 1969 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus makes references back to the Victorian music- hall operettas that served as precursors for films like Rose Marie. The operettas, produced at the height of British imperialism, celebrated the reach of empire and the Mountie as agent of British rule. The Python troupe's parodic dialogue with Rose Marie and its genre constructs the all-male Mountie Chorus in the "Lumberjack Song" as a marker of the status quo, a sign of authority censuring difference and imposing a clearly delineated binary code for gender identification. When the lumberjack's performance begins to deviate from the prescribed lyrics of a piece valourizing settlement virtues of a rugged and macho existence in the forests of northern British Columbia to discuss a penchant for cross dressing, the incredulous Mounties discipline him. The Mountie's historic role as social and national prophylactic is posited and interrogated by the comedy troupe. The Python troupe interrupts the very codes of order the Mounties are attempting to preserve by depicting the Mounties' response to difference as ridiculous. The irony of the skit is emphasized by its performance in the context of the troupe's regular use of cross dressing to deflate authority figures and transgress society's disciplining codes of gender fixity. In the performance of the skit the Mounties walk off stage in disgust, and in the scripted version they throw rotten fruit at the target of their censure.

A more recent parodic echo of Rose Marie surfaced in David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990) where Canada figures as a land of brothels, mad French-Canadian trappers, and a cocaine-snorting, drug-dealing, killer Mountie who resembles the blond, air-brushed stereotype of the Hollywood leading man. In Lynch's ironic scenario, the Canadian Mountie and the French-Canadian lumberjacks -- self-consciously cast as cartoon-like celluloid inventions of Hollywood cinema -- become agents of disorder who bring crime and death to innocent small-town America. Lynch's parodic triggers of the Mountie and the French-Canadian lumberjacks signal a self-reflexive dialogue between his text and the Hollywood Mountie genre, a dialogue that troubles the romantic code of chivalric hero established for the Mountie in popular novels and characters like Sgt. Malone in Rose Marie and even more recent, more ridiculous depiction of Mounties in the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, complete with female Mounties dancing in mini skirts.

Given the global resonance of the Mountie as an image for Canada in popular culture, it is not surprising that a Canadian corporation, such as Labatt's U.K., became dependent on the Hollywood singing Mountie film genre as a marketing strategy identifying its product as distinctly Canadian for a foreign market. In its Malcolm the Mountie campaign, Labatt's U.K. appropriates the anterior text of Rose Marie and similar films from the neo-imperial United States to sell Canadian beer to the former mother country. The Labatt's advertisements share with Lynch's signs for Canada a self-conscious and ironic play with Rose Marie. British actor Tony Slattery played Malcolm the Mountie in the first series of advertisements, singing call and response to a self-consciously ersatz and life-size moose puppet. The brewer makes no attempt at realism here but points to the artifice of this image of Canada in cartoon-like sets -- and the singing moose and Mountie -- yet simultaneously the ad plays on the resonance of Canada as a frozen land of ice and snow made secure by the Mountie. In one promotional spot, Malcolm thwarts a criminal gang by dumping ice cubes in their path in the slapstick tradition. And, although these spots are obviously parodic to anyone with knowledge of the anterior texts, others might not appreciate the full ironic destabilization of these hackneyed images for Canada. Furthermore, as a source text for the parody, Rose Marie is a racially and gender-freighted narrative that risks reinscription in advertisements that are dependent on the viewer recognizing and consuming irony as a part of commodity. Granted, these are commodified images of Canada designed solely for the purpose of selling beer in a British market; however, we cannot escape the fact that they also constitute signs for the nation.

Although film production started in Canada as early as 1897, Canadian producers and directors took an early backseat to Hollywood. By 1914, Americans had already made about 100 films in or about Canada, establishing themselves as the largest producer of Canadian culture at the time. They were eager to take advantage of Canada's "exotic" landscape as the backdrop to their melodramas, which gave birth to a series of films called "North Woods Dramas." These films, with names like Flower of the North, The Flame of the Yukon and The Lodge in the Wilderness featured stereotypically Canadian elements including French-Canadian trappers, Native Canadians, lumberjacks, trading posts, and a wide range of dangerous wildlife, from wolves to rabid beavers. Not surprisingly, plots typically revolved around logging camps, forest fires and avalanches. Far from being a byproduct of only American ignorance, North Woods Dramas were also a specialty of many of the Canadian film production companies that appeared throughout the silent era as well.

The hero of many of these North Woods Dramas was what Hollywood felt was the very embodiment of everything Canadian, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. Although the Mountie had already earned a revered place in American popular fiction and radio drama, on film they were an impressively authoritative sight with their commanding uniforms and a tradition of honour that an audience immediately recognized. Here was a rugged hero who struggled not only against evil smugglers and Communists, but also against the harsh Canadian elements. Recognizing the Mountie as a novel variation on the g-men, cops and cowboys that usually stood for all that was right and good in low budget films, Hollywood was quick to reshape the melodramatic North Woods Drama into the Mountie film. Although Americans were guilty of presenting a skewered image of Canada to Canadians and the rest of the world, the blame does not lie only with Hollywood. Just as Canadians made North Woods Melodramas, they also made Mountie films. Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police (1912) was one of the earliest and most popular Mountie films, and was made by Canadian film entrepreneur Ernest Shipman. Mounties and other elements of North Woods Drama also appear in Shipman's most celebrated film, Back to God's Country. As B-westerns thrived in the 1930s, so did the Mountie films. So much so that Canadian industrial filmmaker Budge Crawley referred to Canadian feature films as "Northerns," since the Mountie films of the 1930s were almost identical to the American Western genre, substituting dusty sheriffs for clean cut RCMP officers. Further blurring the lines was the fact that heroic Mounties were often played by the same matinee stars associated with the Western genre, including Ken Maynard and Tom Mix. Hollywood was simply transplanting traditional western stories into Canadian settings in an attempt to offer their hungry audience a new variation on a genre over-saturated with product.


In the 1930s, Britain unknowingly helped perpetuate the Mountie film in an attempt to protect their own films. After recognizing that imported American films were hurting their own struggling film industry, Britain decided to take legislative action. They established a quota system which restricted the number of foreign made films that could be shown in their theatres. To qualify under the British quota, a film had to be produced in the British Empire and the majority of the people working on the film had to be British subjects. Hollywood took advantage of this loose definition of "British" by establishing film companies in Britain and its colonies that fronted for American financial interests. This way, they could maintain their share of the foreign market by making essentially American films locally in these countries. Canada did not follow Britain's lead. Since we were still part of the British empire, our film production in the 1930s was largely shaped by the British quota system, and Hollywood looked north as a convenient spot to make films that would qualify for preferential treatment in Britain. There were 21 low budget quota films made in Canada from 1933 to 1938, which came to be known as "quota quickies." The biggest player in these b-movies was British producer Kenneth Bishop, who put together about 14 of these films in Victoria, British Columbia. Because they were hastily made with minuscule budgets, these films did not do well at the box office. Bishop's films were closer to American noir films than Westerns, but they continued to exploit the Mountie as an icon of law and order and still portrayed Canada in stereotypical ways.

Not to be outdone, the National Film Board offered up their own interpretation of the RCMP myth in documentaries released throughout the 1940s and 50s, including The Mounties' Crime Lab (1953). Like the title of this film suggests, these shorts did little to enhance the reputation of the Mounties, and focused on investigative procedures and crime fighting technology. Only Budge Crawley's The Musical Ride (1954) showed the Mounties outside of drab office buildings by focusing on the legendary pageantry and horsemanship of the RCMP.

American-made Mountie films continued to appear throughout this time, but by 1956, both the Western and his Canadian cousin the Northern were in trouble. The glut of B- western films made over the last 25 years had overstayed their welcome, and big- budget horror and science fiction films were all the rage. This eventually led to bizarre crossovers like Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders, a spy film which features "typically Canadian" occurrences like reindeer stampedes. A lack of interest at the box office proved that the writers were just as bored with the subject as the audience. Mounties made only occasional appearances after the 1950's in both American and Canadian films. Gone, however, were the days when the stoic Mountie could command a title role. As a popular hero, the Mountie was considered a relic. Proving just this, Bill Scott and Jay Ward created 39 four-and-a-half-minute episodes of Dudley Do-Right, an animated parody of North Woods Dramas and Mountie films. These segments found in 1961's The Bullwinkle Show satirized the melodramatic conventions of Mountie films through Dudley's over-the-top heroism and virtue. Not until the 1990's did the Mountie regain some footing on the screen. Paul Gross shot to fame in Due South, a mildly popular TV show that appeared in 1994. Just as the Mountie originally brought a new twist to the Western, producers offered up a slight variation on a popular genre by grafting a Canadian element to a formulaic hour-long crime drama. However, Dudley had done damage to the reputation of the redcoats, and as a popular icon the Mountie could no longer be taken seriously. Instead of biting satire however, Due South focused on bland generalities about Canadian and American cultures for it's laughs. Putting the final nail in the coffin was a live action film version of Dudley Do-Right. Brendan Fraser may have had success starring as the live version of another dimwitted Jay Ward character, George of the Jungle, but Dudley Do-Right tanked at the box office by betraying the original humour of the animated series.

From the hero of the logging camp to just plain camp, the diminished figure of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer in popular culture today makes it difficult to believe the importance that this Canadian icon once played. Now licensed to Disney by the RCMP, the image of the Mountie may never retain the authoritative clout it once had, but it continues to fascinate as a symbol of Canada. Mountie: Canada's Mightiest Myth, a 1998 NFB documentary and Michael Dawson's 1999 book.

The Mountie from Dime Novel to Disney, proved that in a country that has few mythical heroes, some still want to believe that the Mounties always get their man.









All images (Unless unknown or otherwise stated) Copyright © Andrew R. Hutchison 2000 - 2014