HOME HEARTSTRING 15: KITSCHY TASTE

The kitsch culture has made a nice comfortable home for itself here in Quebec. But don’t think for a minute we’re the only ones who’ve adopted it. We share our Kitschy Taste Heartstring with many others, including the ten-gallon-hat-wearing Albertans and the Pink-Cadillac-loving folk down in Miami.

The “pink flamingo standing next to an old tire painted white in Auntie Rosie’s flowerbeds” style is all the rage across North America. And in the case of Quebecers, our Minority Root only compounds the problem.

We’ve already discussed how minorities are always working hard to get noticed. Blacks, Jews and Quebecers each have their attention-grabbing quirks, like chromed-out cars complete with scented air fresheners, flashy threads and Star-of-David pendants. Outremont Jewesses who spend their afternoons shopping at Holt Renfrew have a habit of wearing too much jewelry. And the wives of small-town doctors would never be caught dead at a Habs game without their mink stoles. As for blacks, they love wearing loud-coloured outfits. And it’s usually the men, not the women, who go for the brightest and boldest garments on the rack.

Tastelessness has nothing to do with disposable income in North America. Look closely and you’ll find tacky plaster art, fake Florentine chandeliers and replicas of gilded frames in the home sweet homes of our wealthy elite and most successful professionals. The only difference between them and the rest of us is they pay a little more to get their kitsch on.

Our true national colours are primary colours, red and green in particular. Add to that a variety of faded Steinberg Supermarket-inspired pastels and you’ve got our complete national colour scheme covered.

The cynical Serge Grenier in Le Québec, mur à mur (Wall-to-Wall Quebec) published some 200 photos of our own Mondo Cane with typical Quebecers in starring roles. You’ll see the grease monkeys from the local service station really fill ’er up at Ben’s delicatessen, the techs at Paul Electrics charging up with a pogo at Balette’s, the infamous Zézette getting her hair done up Parisian style, the ladies in waiting at Le Roi de la Robe raising a glass or two at the Arque-O-Bar, where the house speciality is the Mister Crankshaft, and the staff at Laurette Furs dressing up at the Ace of Clothing and the King of Suits, while Carpet Georgette is not insensitive to the big wheels at Giant Tire or the silent treatment she’s getting from Mr. Muffler! Frère Untel delivers the final blow when he declares that our entire civilization is guilty of poor taste.

Unfortunately, the Panet Street-style sets we use in our soap operas, the getups some of our TV hosts wear and the sequined, sprayed-on outfits our female performers parade in have all somehow become part of our heritage.

So can advertising help fix our sense of style (or lack thereof)?

Any adman looking to educate the Quebec masses in the style department would be well-advised to appeal to our tackiness – even if only a little – when trying to sell us something. Because if he chooses to ignore it, it might just be our style to ignore him.

Lucky for us, kitsch comes back in fashion every 30 years or so. And for however long the fad lasts, North America is hip and trendy once again.

HOME
© 2014 – English translation and website by Lawrence Creaghan. Published online with the permission of Guérin Éditeur Ltée and the Fondation Jacques-Bouchard.