Canadians don’t care about Canada
Top Google searches of 2020 paint an interesting picture.
I like to think of Google’s “Year in Search” as a crystal ball.
But instead of peering into the future, I get to look back. What was on the minds of my fellow Canadians as we googled our way through this bonkers year? Personally, the questions I googled the most in 2020 were: “When is a vaccine coming to Canada?” “Can I avoid the coronavirus by not mowing the lawn — please say yes?” “How do I convert my home office into a classroom … also is day-drinking wrong?”
But, surprisingly, “Coronavirus” was not the top search of 2020.
It was No. 2, behind “US Election.” Spoiler alert: Joe Biden won in a landslide.
COVID-19 did dominate the “How to …” queries we Canadians pondered into the ether this year. The Top 5 questions sadly reflected the bewildering past 12 months: “How to apply for EI,” “How to make hand sanitizer,” “How to apply for CERB,” “How to make a mask” and “How to cut your own hair.”
I learned the hard way that Google is no help with that last one.
The company released its annual list on Wednesday. And you know what’s weird? We Canadians do not seem to spend a lot of time searching for info about our country. In overall searches this year, the Top 10 has only two Canadian items: “Raptors” and “CERB.”
And both generated less search traffic than “Kobe Bryant” and “Zoom.”
Similarly, in the “People” category, there are zero Canadians in the Top 10. In order, that list includes: Kim Jong Un, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Boris Johnson, Jacob Blake, Tom Hanks, Shakira, Kanye West, Aaron Hernandez and Ghislaine Maxwell.
Somewhere, Justin Trudeau is rolling up a fancy sock and throwing it against a wall while googling, “Why don’t Canadians care about me anymore?”
The most searched movies of 2020 did have global representation — “Parasite,” “Papillon,” “The Gentleman” — but zilch on the domestic front. Ditto for television: 1. “Tiger King.” 2. “The Queen’s Gambit.” 3. “Ozark.” 4. “Cobra Kai.” 5. “Money Heist.”
It’s almost as if we have no pop culture to call our own.
Even the top “What …” questions of 2020 were overrun with entertainment and the socio-political flashpoints of our southern neighbours: “What is Antifa?” “What is Juneteenth?” “What is Blackout Tuesday?” and the NSFW, “What does WAP mean?”
The only distinctly Canadian “What …” logs in at No. 10: “What happened with Jessica Mulroney?” My guess is she
won’t be humble-bragging about this distinction on social media.
When Canadians wondered “Why …” the No. 1 question of 2020 was, “Why are people buying toilet paper?” But beyond the demented run on bathroom tissue this spring — at one point, I was prepared to trade my Wayne Gretzky rookie card with anyone who had a stash of Charmin — this category was also dominated by concerns beyond our border:
“Why was George Floyd stopped?” “Why did Kobe have 2 numbers?” “Why did Alex leave Grey’s?” “Why did 69 go to jail?” “Why is TikTok being banned?” “Why is Australia on fire?”
The top memes of 2020 included “Tiger King,” “Baby Yoda” and “Love Is Blind,” but nothing on, say, “Leafs Suck” or “Yonge-Dundas Ghost Square.” We searched for “booty workout” and the definition
of “furlough,” but not for proof Andrew Scheer was a time traveller sent from the future to destroy the Conservative Party of Canada.
I still can’t believe he blew that election.
Stuck at home and forced to cook for ourselves, this year we also frantically searched for methods and recipes that covered “whipped coffee,” “easy cookie,” “buttermilk,” “butternut squash,” “sourdough,” “scalloped potatoes,” “bread” and “coleslaw.”
This is one category in which I feel nothing about the lack of Cancon, mostly because after all these years I still don’t know what qualifies as “Canadian cuisine.” Ketchup chips? Nanaimo bars? Poutine? BeaverTails garnished with maple syrup?
But as I sit here on Wednesday afternoon and gaze deep into this crystal ball of the 2020 Canadian hivemind, I’m
wondering if this pandemic is not a good opportunity to slip our cultural identity under a microscope. Will there ever be a year in which the categories for film or television on Google Trends includes at least a few homegrown productions? Why don’t we have our own late night talk shows and comedies? How do we keep our top musicians from laying down roots in America as soon as they become superstars?
I have no doubt 2021 is going to be a much better year. It certainly can’t be any worse. But after the vaccines arrive and the economy powers up, after we are no longer under house arrest and emerge from the darkness of this pandemic squinting into the light of a return to normal, there is one question we should all type into Google.
What is Canada’s place in the world?