Sunday, February 28, 2010

Will the Last Person to Leave the Fortress of Solitude Please Turn Off the Lights?

Clad in a long dark coat and wide parson's hat, Neil Young sang an end to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics tonight with his classic "Long May You Run" as the flames were extinguished on the tops of the gigantic cauldron pillars above him (well... at least until the Paralympics get under way in a couple of weeks). Now the thing looks even more like a chunk of Superman's Fortress of Solitude.

I found myself waiting for General Zod and his cohorts, bedecked in black disco jumpsuits, to breeze in and dump a whining Gene Hackman on the stage before demanding, with a level of satisfaction bordering on the sexual, for the son of Jor'El to kneel.

Instead we got The Shat.

Canada's very own king of the ridiculous, William Shatner, kicked off a prolonged and playful segment highlighting the jokes and myths about the country and Canadians, like our legendary prowess at coitus in canoes. And it was fitting. Who better than the over-the-top actor who played Captain Kirk, who, despite his enormous ego, can withstand and participate in decades of jokes at his expense, to MC the ultimate self-deprecating in-joke. How utterly, wonderfully Canadian! To put on a glitzy show in front of the whole world, an event where most countries would aim to show themselves in utter flawlessness, and then do so something quintessentially Canadian like make fun of ourselves for half an hour. For that, only the Shat would do to get things started.

There was one ultra-geeky moment during Shatner's performance that had me wondering though... At one point, he referred (and was answered with a roar of approval from the audience) to Canada as "the undiscovered country". Clearly, with this being Captain Kirk at the mic, there's a direct reference to Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country. In it, the members of the Federation and the Klingon Empire, quoting Shakespeare, come to the conclusion that the undiscovered country is the future - and, given the end of the film, a future of hope. In tapping into this, Shatner, or the nerdishly savvy VANOC writers who put his script together, are implying that Canada is the future, and a bright one at that.

Now, I'll be the first to support that sentiment, but there's something not quite right about that reading. Granted, it's been a few years since the last time I reread Hamlet, but from what I remember of that soliloque, the undiscovered country mentioned by the tormented Danish prince refers to death. Granted, it represents peace and an end to struggle, betrayal, fear and doubt, but it's death none-the-less. Something that the Star Trek writers either didn't pick up on or chose to ignore, and, it would seem, the VANOC crew has done the same. Was this then supposed to be the last word in super-subtle in-jokes? A superbly quiet and coy acknowledgement and thus jab at those who would wrongly make fun of Vancouver, Canada, and Canadians as provincial and uninteresting to the point of being boring-to-death? Something to say "we know what you think of us and we're throwing back in your face because we've just proven you wrong, fuck you very much"? I'd like to think the intent was on that level of genius, but admittedly, it probably wasn't. No, it was undoubtedly just a happy-go-lucky straight Trek 6 interpretation.

But you know what? That's good enough.
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