In the face of powers-that-be, they strive for something new
DOING IT THEIR WAY
100 CANADIANS TO WATCH
In the face of powers-that-be, they strive for something new
Canada has not suffered rebels gladly. A year after the failed 1837 rebellions, led in Upper Canada by William Lyon Mackenzie and in Lower Canada by Louis-Joseph Papineau, a song of loyalty to peace, order and good government became popular in the towns of what is now Ontario:
And now that the rebellion’s o’er/Let each true Briton sing,/Long live the Queen in health and peace,/And may
each rebel swing.
The noose is gone, but much of that sentiment remains. In the 1990s, those who go
against the grain face a complex host of powers-thatbe—on the right and left—seeking to stifle individual speech and action. As comedian Scott Thompson noted, ‘When it comes to censorship, I don’t know where the enemy is.” The battlefields, too, have shifted: the Rebels fight the Establishment in art, in movies, on the small screen and in sport, in universities and in the realm of sexual politics. But the impulse for truth and justice remains. In fighting against the perceived evils of narrowmindedness, ignorance and overweening morality, the Rebels—with or without a cause—strive to create something new from the ashes of the old. Something, perhaps, of greater value.
DON McKELLAR and VALERIE BUHAGIAR
Best known as the co-stars of director Bruce McDonald’s road movies Roadkill (1989) and the 1991 hit Highway 61, Don McKellar and Valerie Buhagiar are making their own inroads into filmmaking. McKellar’s recently released Blue is an explicit and controversial examination of a man’s obsession with pornography. “I definitely have angered people,” says the Toronto native, 30.
“But I wanted to put those images up there and look at them in the context that they’re not scary, they’re not forbidden. Like, what’s the big deal?” Meanwhile, The Passion of Rita Camilleri marked Buhagiar’s film-making debut when it opened in Toronto recently. “It’s my story, a little exaggerated,” says Maltese-born Buhagiar, 30. A fantastical look at a young girl’s confrontation with death and religion, the short film is touching stuff from a woman who played a pistol-packing mama in Highway 61. Buhagiar clearly enjoys that bad-girl persona—but is it her? “I’m a girl from hell,” she replies with a devilish grin, “who wants to take over heaven.”
He is the only openly gay man on North American network TV. And that is all part of the program for Scott Thompson of the five-man Toronto cast of Kids in the Hall, whose onehour show runs weekly on CBC and CBS. “I wanted to have a career where people look at me and know I’m gay,” Thompson says. “I can build comedy on that. I want them to know, that’s the fag.” With creations like the effeminate lounge singer Buddy Cole, he has achieved that notoriety—but not without raising hackles. “My characters are people and people are flawed,” says Thompson, 35.
‘Those fags in the 1980s in all those AIDS movies, who looked straight, acted straight, were straight—they’re offensive,” he adds. “They don’t exist.” His long-term goal: to be a gay action hero in “a Harrison Ford-type movie—lots of world adventure, and at the end I get the man.”
As a Saskatchewan Young Liberal, Jason Kenney was what he calls “a consummate young political hack.” But at age 25, Kenney has become a consummate thorn in the side of Alberta’s politicians. As head of the Edmontonbased Association of Alberta Taxpayers, he and his organization’s 20,000 supporters have pressured the provincial government to adopt freedom-of-information legislation and to reform its MLA pension plan. Kenney works up to 18 hours a day to fight for reduced government spending and against public debt, which he says is “immoral.” Adds Kenney: “It’s taxing Canadians yet to be born, without their consent, to pay for our current standard of living.”
As editor of the alternative Montreal weekly newspaper Voir, Richard Martineau has cut his own path through the jungle of Quebec culture and politics. ‘We’re separatists,” says Martineau, 31, of his paper’s editorial stance, “but a new kind.” The new outlook, the Verdun, Que.-bom Martineau says, includes accepting English and other nonFrench communities as a vital part of Quebec culture. Martineau has worked at Voir as a writer since it started up seven years ago, and now the paper has a circulation of 80,000. “I want Quebec to be independent so it will be responsible,” adds the editor. “It’s a new generation, more open, less afraid. We don’t need enemies to do our thing.”
Mixing sex, violence and dark humor, Brad Fraser creates characters at odds with the world—and themselves.
“I’m not into reassuring people,” says Fraser, 34. Indeed, his 1989 tale of murder and sexual mayhem, Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, drew howls of protest from the politically correct. “If you have a woman hit onstage, all those people see is that a woman is being hit,” adds the Edmonton playwright. “They’re not willing to read that the point is, This is horrible.’ I don’t want to talk about how horrible this is—it’s so much easier to show how horrible it is.” He is now adapting for the stage a 1977 cult hit movie. Its title, fittingly: Outrageous!
The images, appliquée! on finely tailored dresses, told of repression: a burning totem pole, a man’s head on a whisky bottle labelled “Good Trade.” At his fall show in Toronto last year, D’Arcy Moses, a Gitksan native who grew up in Camrose, Alta., rocked the fashion world. “I spell out issues—alcoholism, the loss of land,” says Moses, 27.
“We’re living in a society where, unless the message is screamed, people just don’t get it.” Now based in Montreal, Moses, whose outerwear and casual lines are becoming increasingly popular, says that his fall and upcoming spring collections take a “positive approach” to addressing aboriginal issues. “But I still have a few surprises up my sleeve,” he adds.
The plot lines create a familiar triangle—older man loses lover to younger rival. But in Halifax playwright Bryden MacDonald’s hit 1992 play, Whale Riding Weather, there is a twist: the lovers are gay men. “I wanted people to know I was gay, that these were gay characters,” says MacDonald, 32. “But the important thing was what I was trying to say—that there really isn’t a lot of difference.” That theme has drawn its share of criticism. “It’s been criticized as sort of whitewashed gay theatre, and I say, well, too bad,” says MacDonald. His next play, Weekend Healer, will deal with child sexual abuse, but he is chary of issue-oriented drama. “I prefer to allow the issue to grow from the characters,” he says. “I’m a playwright, not a journalist.”
Seanna Connell’s commitment began at 21, when she returned to her affluent Toronto neighborhood from a work program in poverty-stricken Honduras. “I asked myself what I could do to apply my feelings, my anger, about the injustice,” recalls Connell, 28. Two years ago, she put her feelings to work in Regent Park, one of Toronto’s poorest districts. From a community-centre basement, Connell runs A Home for Creative Opportunity, where she leads clients, from children to drug addicts and prostitutes, in art activities to foster an atmosphere of creativity—and has helped several people get jobs. “People ask, ‘How is art going to save anybody that’s on the street?’ ” she says. “Its more than that. Art is the vehicle.”
In art galleries in the U.S. Northwest, Montreal and Calgary over the past two years, Steffani Frideres’s innovative creations have prompted shock, as well as thought and laughter, from viewers. Calgary-raised Frideres, 27, combines photography with sculpture, printing photo images of the naked bodies of women on canvas, then exhibiting them on hangers—the way dresses hang for sale in fashion boutiques. The point to encourage more realistic expectations of the socalled perfect body and to satirize society’s obsession with body image. Says Frideres:
“In Sports Illustrated!s swimsuit issue—none of those women actually exist. I think men’s and women’s misconception of that is really harming society as a whole.”
Some things do change. Last summer, Edmonton-born Melissa Franklin became the first tenured female professor in the physics department at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. That was a loss to the University of Toronto, where the outspoken Franklin said that she encountered discriminatory treatment from some male faculty who “didn’t want me there because I’m female and because I’m aggressive.” Besides teaching at Harvard, Franklin, 36, is researching subatomic physics at the Fermilab particle-collider facility in Chicago. And she says that the bar-
riers for women academics are slowly eroding. “Things are good,” she adds. “Things are changing.”
One gauge of how things are changing can be seen at Carleton University in Ottawa, where Farhana Sheikh graduated at the top of her class in the traditionally male domain of engineering. “Carleton was a very positive experience,” says Pakistaniborn Sheikh, who scored an overall grade point average of 11.6 out of a possible 12 and this year won a $21,000 federal scholarship for graduate school (she plans to postpone graduate studies for a year to work at Bell Northern Research in Ottawa). “As more kids see women coming out of engineering schools, they get more role models,” says Sheikh, 22. “I’ve seen the numbers increase even in the years since I’ve been at school.”
BRETT and ERIC LINDROS
He stared the National Hockey League in the eye and the other sic blinked. I oronto s Eric Lindros did not believe players should ha\ to go where they were drafted—to the Quebec Nordiques, in h case—and sat out a season of professional hockey as the price. He making up for it now. As a Philadelphia Flyer, Lindros amassed 41 goals and 34 assists in 60 games last year, and earned a salary of $3 million. He is expected to only get better. ‘You’ve got to just keep tiying % to go higher,” says Lindros, 20. Meanwhile, % f
six-foot, four-inch Brett Lindros will join ^^ËÈÊ Canada’s Olympic team in September. Are there similarities in the brothers’ style of play? “Eric has better hands than I do,” says Brett, 17. But like his brother,
Brett plays aggressively, racking up 162 penalty minutes in 31 junior f|R|j^S|pr games last year. “A lot of times I g^^^r get called for hitting too hard
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