China takes over world, starts with 2010 Olympic mascots, exacerbates Canadian identity crisis

Hear that? That pitiful, high-pitched whimpering from a lonely corner in some far off accessories store? That’s Hello Kitty, upset because she’s been conspicuously left out.

Unlike China, for whom hosting the 2008 Olympics signifies an historical milestone in China’s long march from self-perceived humiliated victim of foreign imperialism to top-tier, face-gaining global big-shot, Vancouverites aren’t sure exactly what to make of the 2010 Olympics, or how to present themselves to the world. Enter 2008’s Fuwa rejectsthe 2010 Olympic mascots: Miga the mutating, surfing “sea-bear,” Quatchi the hockey-playing sasquatch, Sumi (really, he’s not Japanese) the Orca-hat-wearing black-bear-legged thunderbird guardian spirit (we’re spiritual in British Columbia), and Mukmuk the virtual (yes, virtual) marmot:

It doesn’t bother me that they’re aimed at kids. And sasquatches, bears, orcas, thunderbirds all have potential for Vancouver, especially hockey-playing sasquatches (Vancouver Island marmots?… not so much). I’m not sure if Sumi, Quatchi, or Miga can speak English, but neither could half of my neighbours, growing up in North Delta. And I actually like the Fuwas, which are so Chinese in so many ways, including, rumour has it, having to have five instead of one because they allegedly didn’t want to make people lose face.

But apparently no one informed Vancouver that China already has five Fuwas and doesn’t need three more. If you doubt me, here are two cute and conspicuously similar Olympic mascot intro cartoons, first for the Fuwas, then for the spiritual mutants, or whatever they’re called:

Now, I know that out on the West Coast we don’t have much distinctive cultural identity – especially if you take the Americans out of the equation and leave no one for us to turn up our noses at – but why more Fuwas? The Fuwas are so Chinese; they just ooze China-ness. But you look at Vancouver’s mascots and it’s like, what, hairy anime? And where’s Hello Kitty? Apparently I’m not the only Canuck who’s not all that impressed.

I suppose this is what happens when a city on the west coast of the New World needs to fabricatedisplay some cultural distinctiveness: we “borrow” from the First Nations cultures that we bulldozed on our way in, yet mysteriously somehow end up Asia-ified anyway. And to be fair, Mainland Chinese understand their relationship to their nation (and therefore the Olympics) differently than Canadians do (that’s for the next post!), and it’s hardly fair to expect the west coast of the New World to have a deep, distinctive cultural identity. Who knows, maybe part of the reason a lot of people are less than thrilled with the 2010 mascots is because they’re uncomfortable with the amount of Asian/foreign influence in Vancouver/Canadian culture already, and these mascots merely reflect that. Or, put another way, maybe the white, English-speaking Vancouverites are having a hard time connecting to Olympic mascots that seem so… foreign.

I felt the hockey-playing sasquatch had potential. You can see more of the spiritual mutantsVancouver 2010 Olympic mascots at their official site.

The next post will explore what hosting the Olympics means to Mainland Chinese (answer: a whole heck of lot more than it does to Canadians!).

3 thoughts on “China takes over world, starts with 2010 Olympic mascots, exacerbates Canadian identity crisis”

  1. They’re embarassing to anyone who has actually grown up in BC. At least it won’t be as fruity as Georgia’s ‘Spirit of the South’ they pulled a few years ago.

  2. Say what you will about their design, the Vancouver animation is 100 times better than the Chinese, it was almost depressing how terrible the movements were keyed out in that short.

    Of course, Canada has a long history of being one of the best countries in animation and many of us remember growing up watching the National Film Board shorts on the CBC. It’s little known that Vancouver is the hotbed of animation in the western world. If you’re watching an animated tv show, chances are it was made in Vancouver. My husband is current finishing his animation program at Capilano University, an he’s studying with several overseas Chinese peers that came to Vancouver specifically to study with the best.

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