AngryFrenchGuy

English Montreal Hates Celine Dion

with 130 comments

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In her entire career, Céline Dion has has produced one and only one acceptable recording:  1992’s Je danse dans ma tête, 4 minutes 14 seconds of unintentional pop pleasure which has finally been properly recognized and covered by Orange Orange.


The rest of her music should be banned like hip hop in Iran (Iranian hip hop actually is the bomb and shouldn’t be banned, but sadly is… You know what I meant…)


I remember clearly sitting on my bed in the late 80’s, looking for pictures of cute girls in one of sisters Québec celebrity magazines and finding instead this article about this very ordinary looking Jesus Freak who was confidently informing us that she was going to be as big a Micheal Jackson.  I laughed.

Look who’s laughing now.

I have tremendous respect for Céline Dion and her manager/husband René Angelil for an impeccable commercial carreer. I especially appreciate how she has been as loyal to her fans.  She goes on Oprah and talks to America as if she’s in her living room talking to her sisters.  Even as she became one of the biggest selling artists in the United States she kept on appearing on local Québec TV, hosting l’ADISQ, Québec’s music awards and participating in Québec’s cultural scene.

Others, like Roch Voisine (who actually was a bigger star than Céline for a while) tried to follow her footsteps down the middle of the road, but failed because he did not understand the need to consolidate what he had built.  He used the Québec market as a stepping stone to France, and French success as a springboard to the English-speaking market.  Focused on the Holy Grail of the best selling English album, he ignored his first public for years and years.  When he came back, defeated, for a consolation prize French career, his fans had moved on.

Céline has one career.  She is an international star who sings in French and English.  Céline brought all her fans along with her to the top.

Except English Montreal, apparently.

Brendan Kelly, a reporter covering the French-language showbiz beat at the Montreal Gazette posted a couple of lines a few weeks ago about Céline Dion’s pregnancy.  The story triggered a deluge of, in Kelly’s onw words, “not just negative, but bitterly negative” comments.

The comments are apparently not only about Céline’s crimes against music, which would certainly be justified, but about her being Franco, about the old story of her infamous “I am not an anglophone, I am a Québécoise” quote and about how she really is a separatist mole…

“I’m actually not sure but it underlies once again that Céline is something of a lightining rod for feelings of discontent amoungst anglo Montrealers”, speculated Kelly.  “Like I said, weird.”

Yesterday Kelly expanded his theory on his blog:  “Could it be that this anger is a kind of odd manifestation of the discontent felt by some in the anglo community as francophones here gain more and more power (politically, socially, in business)? Céline rose to the top at the same time that we anglos were slipping far from our previous dominance and, to add salt to the wound, Céline was becoming the most famous franco Québecoise in the universe by singing in English, the language on the downswing chez nous.”

I would say that Brendan is correct.

I would add that Céline’s success also shatters two important Angryphone myths:

Myth one: Francophones need the benevolent unilingual Anglos to take them by the hand and  guide and and protect them in the wider English-speaking world.

Myth two: Once you have made it in the real (i.e. English-speaking) world, you do not go back.

Céline’s success brought home the fact that the English-speaking world is only a part of Céline’s world.  Céline Dion, Québec, the French language and the world go on beyond English.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

130 Responses

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  1. Allophone : «…For kicking people off the bus and calling the cops.»

    That kind of reaction seems to be on the rise these days.
    I find more and more places where you’ll be forewarned, by way of a poster or otherwise, that «The staff will not tolerate any form of verbal abuse or threats».

    Although perfectly legitimate, it seems to embolden some people to deal with any (sometimes very legitimately) frustrated customer as if they were potential terrorists.

    Recently, I went to the medical clinic. There was a sign on the counter specifying that the secretary would not answer any questions regarding waiting times.

    -Nevertheless, I dared ask. She pointed to the sign and read it out for me. I started to try again, wanting to specify that I was only asking for a very rough estimate… I couldn’t even finish my sentence before she raised her voice and repeated what the sign said again, shoving it into my face.
    At that point, I clearly feared she was about to call security if I said anything more.


    For another very good example, see this youtube video where Jean-François Mercier gets screwed by Bell over a cellular phone plan, complains and gets refused any service because he’s told that he’s harassing the employee on the phone:

    Raman

    September 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm

  2. “If it was up to me, split the sheets, assing the debt and get on with it.”

    That should be assess the debt and assign liability and get on with it. Was late for a lunch appointment :)

    ABP

    ABP

    September 10, 2009 at 3:03 pm

  3. “Tell “your own folks” that we should be left to decide for our destiny, and “tell them” that they should refrain from mingling; that they should feel secure enough: We won’t “destroy their country”.”

    No, Quebec wont’t destroy the country, quite to the contrary, Canada would be a stronger country and certainly more united without Quebec. Read Scowen’s book It’s Time to Say Goodbye, if you havent already. I think within reason Scowen is pretty well right on with his analysis. East being cut off from the West…no issue and could be solved with a simple right of way through Quebec. Aboriginal lands might, in fact, be the largest issue to get by.

    But, alas mon Quebecois ami, Raman, this will never likely happen at least in my life time so we both have to in the interim, represent our own interests which is why I am critical of political policy in Canada which is flawed and unfair.

    ABP

    September 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm

  4. No doubt and expertly coached to turn a blind eye to the situation so as not to produce anxienty in Quebec. The United Nations, however, has other views on this subject.

    ABP

    September 10, 2009 at 3:59 pm

  5. Pure Laine

    September 10, 2009 at 6:01 pm

  6. In fairness here, according to the Gazette article, the guy who got thrown off the bus was a visiting graduate student from Pakistan who had only been in QC for a few months. He may not have been familiar with local laws and customs.

    In my experience, QC francos generally cannot tell the difference–based on accent alone–between a local anglo and a non-QC anglo; this appears to me to be the case whether we speak French or English. So I suspect that the busdriver thought that the guy was local and knew the rules of the game, and that when the guy didn’t play by them, she got offended.

    Works the other way too. Most Americans–even those with some familiarity with the languages–can’t tell the difference between North American French and European French, or any of the various varieties of Latin American Spanish from European Spanish.

    littlerob

    September 10, 2009 at 8:01 pm

  7. Raman I am really disappointed.

    You claim a 65% vote by one fraction (albeit the largest one) of the population which failed to amount to 50% of the total population is ” a clear majority”.

    Are you so dismissive of all your non-pure laine neighbours?

    You know that Steven Harper is the favorite candidate for Canadian PM for a majority of Quebeckers (or at least for a majority of Quebec conservatives). I guess Quebec is really pro-Harper!

    Edward

    September 10, 2009 at 8:18 pm

  8. Edward : «Raman I am really disappointed.»

    Well, geez, sorry to disappoint you. I’ll try harder next time.

    Now, there was a rather clear context to my declaration.
    -ABP telling me about an incompatibility between Anglo and French Canadian cultures, and lecturing me about how we should separate.
    I just meant to tell him a majority of us tried really hard.

    Raman

    September 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  9. From the comments section:

    3 septembre 2009 – 20 h 03

    Une millionième manifestation de racisme venant des canadiens envers les québécois, et sérieusement, ça vous surprend encore ?

    Envoyé par Benjamin Trottier, Montréal

    Quick, someone write a piece outlining how Radio-Canada’s reader comments are proof that francophones think anglos are all violent racists!

    RoryBellows

    September 10, 2009 at 10:56 pm

  10. And Brendan Kelly should stick to covering the arts.

    RoryBellows

    September 10, 2009 at 10:57 pm

  11. No, it’s not called assimilation because it isn’t assimilation. No kidding.

    Assimilation is what’s happening to French Canadians outside Québec, who are losing the use of their language at a rate of over 30% per generation. Or what happened to the Irish under British rule who almost entirely lost their native language.

    That’s assimilation. Compare and contrast.

    James

    September 10, 2009 at 11:47 pm

  12. By no less an authority than Dr. Wikipedia, a doctorate-free fraudster with an internet account.

    James

    September 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm

  13. rory – if it’s art that needs covering: try this –

    agf’s headline “English Montreal Hates Celine Dion” is nothing more than a hyperbolic turd travelling faster than the speed of sound. (curtain down – exit stage left)

    the sound you hear is that turd going over my head.

    if you admit that you didn’t hear a sound – i’ll admit that i made it up; the sound NOT the turd.

    at the risk of boring everyone – the term racism did not exist prior to 1905 and the word was invented (coined) by leon trotsky as political rhetoric to foment revolution.

    anyone got revolution? how about an agenda? how about a dacha? who thinks it would be a good idea to starve and murder 10 million ukranians for the good of the collectivity? who thinks that the suppression of individuals and their inalienable freeborn rights is small potatoes when implementing social justice?

    savvy?

    johnnyonline

    September 11, 2009 at 8:35 pm

  14. Actually, I thought Brendan Kelly made a good point at about 2:30 of the interview when he speaks about Céline Dion’s award refusal at the 1990 ADISQ gala. He underlines that Céline’s words were: “I can’t accept the award because I’m not an Anglophone, I’m Québécoise.” He submits that she probably meant that she’s a Francophone and simply made a mistake by inferring that being Anglophone and being Québécoise are mutually exclusive.

    This distinction is very obvious for the Anglo-Québécois, but not so easily understood by Francophones. Christiane Charette didn’t catch on to it.

    Pure Laine

    September 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  15. «Oui, au Québec, la première langue, c’est le français. Mais ne pas donner aux immigrants et à nos enfants la possibilité d’apprendre l’anglais est une hérésie! C’est se refermer sur nous-mêmes… Arrêtons de nous mettre la tête dans le sable, nous allons finir dans un ghetto. L’anglais est essentiel, c’est la langue des affaires, de la science et de la culture. Louise Harel ne représente pas cela. Je trouve bien qu’elle apprenne l’anglais à 60 ans, mais, pour moi, elle est loin de cette idéologie du biculturalisme»

    Gilbert Rozon

    http://www.canoe.com/infos/quebeccanada/archives/2009/09/20090912-074001.html

    allophone

    September 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

  16. «elle est loin de cette idéologie du biculturalisme»

    Tant mieux pour elle.

    Selon M. Rozon, il faudrait célébrer et renforcer le côté bilingue et biculturel de Montréal. Chouette ! Comme si la minorisation de la langue française sur l’île n’arriverait pas déjà assez vite…

    Plus sérieusement, M. Rozon semble confondre bilinguisme individuel et biculturalisme, qu’il soit individuel ou collectif. Primo : dans les faits, très peu de Montréalais sont véritablement biculturels. Secundo : Montréal n’est pas une ville biculturelle. C’est une ville où deux cultures et deux langues vivent en parallèle et se disputent l’intégration des nouveaux arrivants. Leur rapport en est donc un de compétition.

    Bref, dans le contexte fortement minoritaire de la langue française au Canada et Amérique, ne pas favoriser et protéger la langue française mène à sa fragilisation.

    http://www.voir.ca/blogs/jose_legault/archive/2009/05/08/plamondon-amp-rozon.aspx

    James

    September 12, 2009 at 2:45 pm

  17. Well, I for one, and probably all the other nationalists on this board, are firmly against learning English.

    Raman

    September 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm

  18. Perhaps Rozon’s affirmation about Québec committing the “heresy” of not giving immigrants the possibility of learning English was « Juste pour faire rire. »

    Perhaps he’s a better show biz entrepreneur than sociologist. When he plays sociologist, the effect is like when allophone’s playing doctor.

    James

    September 12, 2009 at 3:19 pm

  19. Odd, you seem to be fairly well versed in english!!!So, you wish others to be only unilingually french? Pour quoi.

    ABP

    September 12, 2009 at 4:02 pm

  20. James

    September 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm

  21. ABP: «Odd, you seem to be fairly well versed in english!!!So, you wish others to be only unilingually french? Pour quoi.»

    Strictly speaking, I believe it was irony rather than sarcasm. But I sense I’ll have to explain anyway:

    Wanting to promote French to minorities as the normal language of communication in Quebec — since it’s the majority’s language — means in no way being against individuals learning English as an international language.
    AFG, me, this blog and its participants, bilingual nationalist leaders in the PQ and the Bloc, bilingual nationalist intellectuals and citizens… are all examples of that. Nobody, not even the most hardcore separatist, would claim that learning a second language — especially English — for individual purposes is harmful.

    Quebec’s language laws are not against that: They are against English becoming, again*, the normal language of communication in the province. They are against the French-speaking majority having to learn a second language in order to conduct their daily business (shop, work, live…) at home, only so they can conform to a minority’s lack of will to learn the majority’s language, and its de facto insistence on imposing it everywhere.

    Only base dishonesty or ideological bias can make some people claim that the promotion of French really means trying to keep Quebeckers from learning English, or means trying to keep anglo-Quebeckers from speaking it among themselves. Yet that’s the main discourse you’ll hear against Quebec’s language laws (ABP’s, TK’s, the Gazettes’s, the Liberal’s…).
    In fact, that discourse is a peculiar case of projection: It is (parts of) the English minority who is fighting against its own bilingualism, who is fighting against having to learn and use French at all.


    *I believe I already mentioned my perfectly bilingual dad being told: «Sorry, we don’t hire French-Canadians» when applying for a job in a Montreal engineering firm in 1969. As in «Sorry, we don’t hire your race»…

    Here’s another anecdote that he retold me recently.
    After getting a job for a different firm, in 1971, he recalled how he had to make an engineering report for a new patent. His boss was French-speaking, so were my dad and the other engineers working on the report, and so was the company that had requested the report. My dad was in charge of writing the final draft. And — against what was then normal procedure — he wrote it in French, which caused some stir!

    And here’s another anecdote, which is more relevant to the present:
    This time I, a few years back, was hired as an office boy on a construction project for another engineering firm: SNC-Lavalin.
    One of the engineers on the project was a Westmount native who spoke no French. The other dozen or so engineers on the project were French-speaking.
    -Guess what language the meetings had to be in…

    This illustrates what Quebec’s language laws fight against.

    Raman

    September 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm

  22. raman,

    let’s not confuse quebec’s culture and the political movement for quebec’s secession. the former is alive and well, while the latter is moribund.

    and quebec’s language laws do not fight against anything – they are in place to support one of the pillars of quebec society – the french language. that’s it – that’s all. 101 wasn’t an elegant measure by any stretch of the imagination and in fact, brutalised the sensibilities of a significant portion of the very society it was intended to improve. ooops.

    the way i see it, just because the quiet revolution was hijacked by a group steeped in the irrational poison of “cultural marxism” calling for secession, this does not mean it is necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater. but hey, revolutions are historically like that – often veering off into territory worse than the previous regime.

    my fave pop ballad from celine is from 1988: “Ne partez pas sans moi”

    no.2 is 1991: “Somewhere Out There” – if you have ever been separated from someone you love – roll that tape and you’re bound to feel less sorry for yourself.

    johnnyonline

    September 13, 2009 at 12:21 am

  23. let’s not confuse quebec’s culture and the political movement for quebec’s secession. the former is alive and well, while the latter is moribund.

    I love the way federalists have rosy spectacles… The above could very well be a quote from Pierre Elliott Trudeau:

    “Separatism is dead [in Québec]”,
          — PET, august 1976.

    Remember what happenned on monday, november 15, 1976???
    Do not put the “secessionist” movement for dead. It wll be revived when the english (and their french lackeys) will embolden themselves enough to dismiss Québec…

    101 wasn’t an elegant measure by any stretch of the imagination and in fact, brutalised the sensibilities of a significant portion of the very society it was intended to improve. ooops.

    Like if we care about the sensibilities of those who have been working hard to get rid of us for the last quarter millenium…

    Јеаn Nаimаrd

    September 13, 2009 at 4:03 am

  24. > let’s not confuse quebec’s culture and the political movement for quebec’s
    > secession. the former is alive and well, while the latter is moribund.

    I happen to think that the wish of a large majority of Quebecers is not for Quebec to separate from Canada and become an independent country, but rather for Canadians to recognize the binational nature of Canada. To stop viewing Canada as a nation-state with a common culture, or conversely as a “multicultural” nation — which is true, but mostly meaningless, and raises the unpleasant question of why those French-Canadians in Quebec don’t act like the other ethnics — but recognize that it’s a country made of two main parts, each of which functions mostly independently of each other and with its own customs. But the thing to remember is that Quebec’s sovereignty movement was born because of English Canadians’ unwillingness to recognize this. They don’t want to view their side of the country (nine provinces, it should be remembered, plus a not insignificant part of Quebec, making around 75% of Canada’s population) as merely equal to ours (a single province, 25% of Canada’s population; with parts of Ontario and New Brunswick whose identity lies somewhere between the two nations). I guess I can see their point.

    And also remember when calling Quebec’s sovereignty movement “moribund” that it was this way in the late 80s. The Parti québécois under Pierre-Marc Johnson had actually even officially dropped the idea of independence. But less than 10 years later the Yes side almost won a referendum. A lot can change really fast in politics.

    Marc

    September 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

  25. But the revolution fomented by Trotsky was badly needed.
    The outcome, which you mention as well, occurred after the revolutionary Trotsky was gone and the Fascist Stalin had stepped in. Anyone got Fascism?

    Rabble rousing as a means to achieve social justice is not criminal if the rabble go along of free will. But the status quo Right always likes to pretend that Socialism = Stalinism just like the Left always pretends that Conservatism = Nazism.

    If there’s any common agenda out there it is to ignore the value in what the other side has to say because it is easier to demonize than to compromise.

    Edward

    September 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

  26. I guess separatism is double dead in Quebec. About 2 million Quebec immigrants don’t want to be poisoned with the FLQ and PQ/BQ separatist ideas. Very hard to convince us to be a loyal part of the super nano French society in North America in order to help some of you to cut it from the ROC. What’s the point for us? Let’s talk about economy in Quebec, how to improve it and how to be independent from billions of equalization money. Arret to be an all canadian beggar and let the dead bury the dead.

    Geck

    September 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm

  27. “Wanting to promote French to minorities as the normal language of communication in Quebec — since it’s the majority’s language — means in no way being against individuals learning English as an international language”
    “Quebec’s language laws are not against that: They are against English becoming, again*, the normal language of communication in the province”

    Not entirely true. Everybody knows that if you’re not French, once you learn both English and French, you tend to stick with English. It’s easier, more practical, and firmly established as the universal language. Once you go English, you never go back. So when Marois suggests that Quebecois children should be taught more English in schools, Quebec nationalists shit their pants and torpedo the initiative right away. She has to turn tail the very next day, retract her statements and beat around the bush as to what she really meant and didn’t mean. Gee, I wonder why?

    So how do you promote French without discouraging English amongst immigrants? You know it and I know it that that’s not possible. For non-Francophones, learning both French and English means that English becomes their default language. Unbearable for you, but true.

    allophone

    September 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm

  28. allophone, johnnyonline, Geck

    Thanks for confirming my points.
    Keep up the good work.

    Raman

    September 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

  29. allophone:
    > So how do you promote French without discouraging English amongst
    > immigrants? You know it and I know it that that’s not possible. For
    > non-Francophones, learning both French and English means that
    > English becomes their default language. Unbearable for you, but true.

    That’s definitely not automatic. My thesis advisor, for one, is allophone, but working in a French-language university, and having a francophone wife and francophone kids, I suppose that French is his default language in Quebec. Even though English is the language he uses with most of his foreign colleagues (which I don’t mind in the slightest).

    I don’t know if his experience is typical of allophones, but I don’t think it’s especially atypical. And I’d certainly define it as the “normal” thing in Quebec.

    Marc

    September 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm

  30. “Not entirely true. Everybody knows that if you’re not French, once you learn both English and French, you tend to stick with English. It’s easier, more practical, and firmly established as the universal language. Once you go English, you never go back. So when Marois suggests that Quebecois children should be taught more English in schools, Quebec nationalists shit their pants and torpedo the initiative right away. She has to turn tail the very next day, retract her statements and beat around the bush as to what she really meant and didn’t mean. Gee, I wonder why?
    So how do you promote French without discouraging English amongst immigrants? You know it and I know it that that’s not possible. For non-Francophones, learning both French and English means that English becomes their default language. Unbearable for you, but true.”

    Contrary to what allophone and some others might think, the English language does not in and of itself possess any more magical qualities than any other language.

    I live in Gatineau right on the border with Ontario and the allophones I know who know both languages but who learned French first are perfectly happy to use just French.

    English only starts making inroads with them when they experience the same things that also limit the ability of native-born francophones to live and prosper in their own language: working for the federal public service or other “national” organizations, for instance, where the language of work is almost always English.

    In that sense, they are just like us: they’ll generally use French as far as they can, until the socio-linguistic situation of the country prevents them from doing so.

    Acajack

    September 13, 2009 at 9:23 pm


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