French language militants fail to realize that the organizers are not the enemy of the French language, certainly not front men, doing the bidding of Anglo imperialists whose only quest is to subjugate Francophones and assimilate then into the Anglo community.
If organizers can be accused of anything, it is of practical realism. If the Festival is to remain profitable, top English artists are a necessity. It seems that Quebec City residents, even unilingual ones, are not the rubes that militants pretend, to be fobbed off with second and third class talent. Quebeckers, as well as just about everyone else in the civilized world (regardless of language) recognize talent and expect to get the most for their money when shelling out hard earned dollars on concerts.
As the famous old New York Yankee manager, Yogi Berra said, "It's a question of déjà vu, all over again."
The very same debate took place back in the summer of 2008 when language militants complained that it was inappropriate to have Paul McCartney give a free concert celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the City of Quebec.
Over 250,000 people attended and were treated to an entertaining set of old Beatles classics as well as some post-Beatles tunes, all of course sung in English. Considering that the population of Quebec city is only about 500,000 people, the concert obviously drew people from far and wide.
Today militants are again making a play to impose their views on a reluctant majority, invoking the 'Father Knows Best" argument, the one that holds that they alone should be the arbiters of what may be seen or heard by Quebeckers, despite what the public wants.
« Let free people do whatever they want to do »
(« Laissez donc les gens libres de faire ce qu’ils ont envie de faire » )
It's the type of attitude found in North Korea or some other tin pot country where the local "Dear Leader" imposes his musical preferences on a captive nation, where books are banned according to political agenda and television is controlled to promote 'clean thinking' and where the public must be protected from itself.
French language militants see themselves as waging the good fight, one where they alone understand what is best for the nation, displaying an attitude no different than Muslim radical clerics who demand that women be covered up in public because it is "God's will"
Perhaps our very own language ayatollahs would be shocked to be compared to religious zealots, but the comparison is valid and if the shoe fits... well, there's little difference in the imposition of a language or culture by decree than there is in the imposition of a state religion, one to which all must adhere to by force. Just like the radical mullahs, our language ayatollahs wish to ban what they do not like.
Too harsh a comparison? I don't think so.
No longer satisfied with forcing students into French language school against their will, they now want to control what people choose as entertainment. It may not be long before we face the dreaded 'thought police' who will be charged with rooting out English everywhere. Perhaps we can add the term 'languagecrime' to the dictionary, to go along with the famous Orwellian term of 'thoughtcrime.'
Life imitates art.
Now the issue of English artists at the Quebec Summer Festival is rather interesting and begs the question as to why Francophones prefer English music.
They do so because English music is better. Sorry.
Don't get me wrong, Francophones are a talented lot and have some very good musical groups. The problem is that there are not enough and the good ones are not as good as the Paul McCartneys or the Black-eyed Peas. It is a fact that Quebec concert goers understand all too well.
The reality that militants don't want to face, is the fact that internationally, music is English. No artist that sings exclusively in any other language but English can expect fame and fortune on the international scene.
Just ask Celine Dion who removed the accent from her name to appear more like an Anglophone and learned to sing in English in order to seek her fame and fortune.
I mentioned in a recent column how on the talk show Tous le Monde en Parle French chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg was cruelly realistic when she was asked why she chose to sing in English. 'It's just easier..."
Quebec is a small nation of just seven million Francophones. To believe that they can compete in French against the entire world that sings in English is absurd. While one or two artists can be considered world class, that's about it. Everyone else is, well, second or third rate. And so any concert that is exclusively French is by definition, inferior.
The lack of depth is the real reason that people don't want to hear more than a few French songs at the Bell Centre or go to concerts in Quebec City without international talent (English.)
When the students of UQAM, a Montreal French language university made a innovative one-shot video to the Black-Eyed Peas monster hit "I got a Feeling," our intrepid language ayatollah, Louis Prefontaine complained that they should have sung in French. Had they done so, do you think six million people would have watched the video? Not a chance!
SEE THE VIDEO....... READ MY POST ABOUT IT
Many years ago, I attended a French musical, Notre Dame de Paris which was then the talk of the town in Montreal. While the audience was enthralled, I was shocked at how amateurish the production was. Although the price of admission was close to a $100 (12 odd years ago) the music was canned and the staging rather minimalist to be kind, something one would expect in a high school production. The real disappointment were the voices of the leads, none of whom would make understudy on Broadway.
The same of course goes for French television, which is inferior to Canadian television, which is inferior to American television and so both Anglos and Francophones choose to watch US shows (even dubbed.) Could you imagine being forced to watch CBC and CTV exclusively (minus the American content) your whole life? Bah!!!!
Before somebody comments on how good Quebec television is, let me tell you that it is a tedious collection of low budget soap operas and bad imitations of American game shows. The rest of the schedule consists of badly dubbed American shows, with the occasional provincial talk-show thrown into the mix, where local Quebec artists regale the audience with fabulous stories of their 'breakthrough' in France and Belgium.
Julie Snyder's imitation of Howie Mandel on the Quebec version of "Deal or No Deal" is so bad that it makes Pamella Wallin's Canadian version of "'Who Wants to be a Millionaire" seem almost riveting. Errr, maybe not.... LINK.
To sum up, Americans like to go to shows that feature Celine Dion because she is talented. Quebeckers like to see Paul McCartney or the Black-Eyed Peas for the same reason.
Having language shoved down one's throat in school is an outrage. Demanding that one's personal entertainment dollars be spent according to someone else's politically correct selection is beyond the pale.
Perhaps Mr. Prefontaine can write a code à la Herouxville that would describe how we should all dress, act, speak, eat, think and vote.
Maybe then he and the other French language ayatollahs will finally live in the Quebec of their dreams.