The Americanization of me

In The Americanization of Emily, the 1964 classic film about D-Day, the storyline is not about how the English motor pool driver played by Julie Andrews becomes more like a Yank so much as it’s about how James Garner, American aide to an Admiral, becomes more British. The movie is a preachy tale about the virtues of war, or the lack thereof, focused on Garner’s altered state as he touts his lack of courage in battle. It’s also a witty look at the American propaganda machine, something that we Canadians like to think we’re immune to.

I’m just back from a few days in Boston, amazed not at the Americanization of Canada, but how easy it is to want to be just like them. What’s not to like? In Boston it was a five-minute walk from the hotel to Saks and Neiman Marcus where there were items for sale that are simply not available in Canada. Newbury Street was equally close with more than half a dozen blocks of art galleries and high-end shops that made Toronto’s Yorkville look like Punkydoodle’s Corners.

A night game at Fenway Park was a reminder of the kind of historic stadium and dedicated fans that baseball is meant to have. And the newly developed Seaport district, a combination of seafood restaurants, the classy Institute of Contemporary Art and office towers for the likes of Fidelity Investments demonstrates what a waterfront could look like if someone knows what they’re doing.

Somehow Canada has managed to embrace the easy elements of Americanization with the recent influx of U.S. retailers such as Starbucks and The Home Depot, but not the more difficult aspects, such as urban planning and interesting destinations. “Don’t show me how profitable it will be to fall in love with you. Don’t Americanize me,” says Andrews at one point as she turns down two boxes of Hershey bars proffered by Garner. The plea by Andrews does not work; she soon falls in love. What will it take for Canada to reach its promise? Bring on those Hershey bars, I say.

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