I have not been to Canada this whole year because of the pandemic. This is not only extraordinary but very hard on the form of my soul. Like millions of US citizens, I unashamedly use Canada to take a quick break from these crazy United States. In my order of things, Canadians are the bonobos of North Americans. The US citizens are the chimpanzees of North Americans. Bonobos use sex to solve problems. Chimpanzees, violence. Bonobos are matriarchal; chimpanzees patriarchal. (As for Mexicans, I do not have enough experience with that culture to identify what kind of Great Ape they fulfill.)
In the course of an average year, I easily spend about a month in Canada, and particularly in Vancouver BC, my second city, and Seattle's more beautiful and erotic twin. During these visits, I connect with Canada's form of American culture and totally forget the one that I call home. The TVs that cover the walls of almost all Vancouver bars have nothing but games from a hockey season that appears to have no end—the pleasure of watching this sport is completely lost to me because its core object, the puck itself, is totally invisible (all I see are men rushing here, then there, then a serial-killer-helmeted man in front of a small goal falling on his thickly padded knees). During the Trump years, Canada offered a legit way to break from a president whose entire purpose in office was keeping all US eyes and thoughts glued on him. Canada's cultural barrier was high enough to block much of Trump's nonsense from its public ambiance.
Then the border closed in March. And I was locked in the cage of America's chimpanzees. What made this time durable? In part, Canada's sitcom Kim's Convenience.
The show is about a Korean Canadian middle-aged couple, Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Umma (Jean Yoon), who run a convenience store in Toronto I visited by accident in 2019, Moss Park. The couple have a daughter, Janet (Andrea Bang), and son, Jung (Simu Liu). The son was a bit rough as a teen and disgraced the family. But Canadian roughnecks are not the same as US ones. Jung was not involved in a drive-by shooting or anything like that. From what I understand of his youth, it seems to take much less to disappoint a Canadian family than a US one.
Almost all of the characters in the show are working class. They work either for a corporate car rental company, or for the government, or for a small business, or own one. The only person who can be described as traditionally middle class is the pastor of Appa's and Umma's church, Pastor Nina (Amanda Brugel). And she is black. And this point is important.
Kim's Convenience is multiculturalism on steroids. No US melting pot here; just a diversity of races and ethnicities and religions swirling in a society that obviously has normalized such vivid swirling. And it is this and other aspects of the show that make it clear that it could never have been imagined or made by the writers and producers of US TV programs. US Americans strive for the homogeneity of the melting pot and mostly have none of that bonobo feeling. For example, "Umma" (Jean Yoon) is not just a mother; she doesn't play the "behind-the great-man-there-has-to-be-great-woman" role. She is herself a person and even has an erotic life outside of her marriage. Her sexuality is not totalized by her marriage but, instead, is fragmented by her own life, dreams, and past experiences. Erotic Umma is still a work in progress.
My point is the show is about Canadians. And they have problems that seem to give a US American like myself the sense that their reality, their troubles, their form of sociality is as close as North American capitalism can ever get to a utopia.