Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vancouver 2010 Mascots, or How THIS is How First Nations Anime Looks Like

Meet the Mascots for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics!

As if the simplified (smiling and primary-coloured) Inukshuk that the Canadian/Olympic authorities branded as the Vancouver 2010 symbol hadn't sparked enough 'is this Politically-correct?' conversations - most of them directed at the potentially misappropriation of what is so obviously a First Nations symbol to denote "Canadianness" to the (albeit touristy) world Olympic watcher/audience; the Winter Olympic Mascots were unveiled earlier this week.

Let's meet them:
[the following descriptions were taken from the official website]

Miga: Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, out past Vancouver Island near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.

Sumi: Sumi is an animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia. Like many Canadians, Sumi's background is drawn from many places. He wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the strong furry legs of the black bear.

Quatchi: Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends. Although Quatchi loves all winter sports, he’s especially fond of hockey. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie.

One need not be a doctoral candidate to see the ways in which National symbols lend themselves easily to be analysed and explored as cultural artifacts that instead of creating a sense of National Unity more often than not show us the process through which 'Nation' is a cultural construct...
But before I get carried away in academic discourse I want to just isolate a couple of things in a more direct manner:
- Each mascot tries to evoke 'Canadiana' (Hockey? Check! First Nations totemic art? Check! West Coast mythology? Check! Totemic iconography? Check! - Seriously it's as if they just walked by Granville Island and Gastown and pre-packaged what we portray to tourists what the 'West Coast' is all about, I'm actually surprised Salmons didn't garner any mention...)
- Just as with the Inukshuk, First Nations (if only commodified for the rest of the world) are represented mainly in Sumi (Token FN mascot) who functions as a totem-mascot, who 'just like many Canadians' comes from many places and is a mish-mash of West Coast First Nations iconography - mainly the Haida art in his 'killer whale hat' and his Thunderbird wings.
- The artwork (or cartoon-work) is anime in style: an acknowledgment of the increasingly Asian community in the West Coast? an appeal to 'younger, hipper, manga-reading' audiences?

They are quite adorable, and I'm just sad I don't get to see the media reactions out West which I'm sure will range from 'Where's the political correctness?!' to 'OMG! So Canadian!'
And yet with all their (albeit artificially constructed) 'Canadianness' they manage to epitomize what Vancouver was for me: can't you just see these mascots plastic wrapped in Hello Kitty stores in Metrotown as well as in T-shirts sold at the Bay for them Robson-loving tourists?


Heather said...

Wow, that's really fucking lame. Why are there 3? Last Olympics in 88 there were only 2: white bears, Heidi and Howdy, who were rodeo "cowbears". I have them at home. What the fucking is a whalebear? They made that shit up.

Vance said...

I kinda like the Van2010 logo. Then again, I like the Beijing Execution blotter one (have you seen that? Hilarious and probably true. I can send it if you haven't). At least it's all WAY better than the London logo.

I'm sort of horrified by the anime but that's probably because I'm scared of Richmond and all the plastic wrap Hello Kitty dolls. It's cute and I like the ones on the site where they are doing the winter sports but as mascots? Really?

Manuel B said...

I have not seen nor heard anything about this alleged Execution blotter Beijing Logo, though that description alone has me imagining all sorts of things.
Re: Richmond. It's okay to be scared, you're not alone.

Vance said...

hmm.. do you have an email? or email me at thehues @ gmail if you wish unless you like the anonminity. I do but only for work purposes. In case I disparage someone on my blog I end up working with. ha!

medeens said...

interesting...very interesting

POP COLONY said...

Where is YayYay the young, shy, and debt-drenched cub from Yaletown???

BTW:Sumi is totally wearing a Molly hat!!!!!