In his 1985 landmark Amusing Ourselves To Death, American media critic Neil Postman argued the North American public had become addicted to entertainment, thanks to dumbed-down TV programming, vapid radio and declining print journalism.
Needless to say, it’s a good thing Postman isn’t around today. Pop culture and celebrity gossip trumps actual news in the modern media environment, where reality TV boasts better ratings than political leaders’ debates, sports tickers are more important than headlines and traditional news-gathering outlets struggle to compete with Twitter and Facebook.
Reporters often lament this. But sometimes, we just go with the flow.
To that end, the leaders of Manitoba’s four mainstream political parties agreed to subject themselves to a quiz about pop culture, sports and their personal entertainment and lifestyle preferences. In the 2011 provincial version of our semi-annual election-campaign exercise, here’s how four smart politicians responded to a bunch of really stupid questions:
Which AMC television series best describes your party: The Walking Dead, Mad Men or Breaking Bad?
James Beddome (Green Party): I’m going to have to say Mad Men, because we’re pretty clever with our marketing techniques.
Jon Gerrard (Liberals): Breaking Bad? It’s the best of the three choices.
Hugh McFadyen (Progressive Conservatives): It’s gotta be Mad Men, for no apparent reason other than the fact that I’ve never heard of the two other shows. And apparently I wear nice suits, according to the NDP.
Greg Selinger (NDP): God, let’s go with Mad Men for what the heck. It’s the only one I know really well, it’s a pretty good series and it’s got a little depth to it as well.
How would you handle Snooki?
Beddome: Ooh, that’s a tough one. Moratorium?
Gerrard: I would take things as they come and just do the best I can.
McFadyen: Well, clearly this is the main ratings driver for Jersey Shore and I think you just let Snooki be Snooki.
Selinger: Who is Snooki?
Where does your party stand on the Kardashians?
Beddome: You know, I’ve never actually watched the show.
Gerrard: I can’t help you on this one.
McFadyen: We would want to take a balanced approach with the Kardashians and ensure the appropriate measure of fiscal restraint with protecting frontline services.
Selinger: Let’s put it this way – they know how to get media headlines.
Say you’re a vampire. Who’d be better company – Bella Swan, Sookie Stackhouse or Buffy Summers?
Beddome: Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Is that who you’re talking about? It’s the only one I’ve watched. I’m not a big TV guy.
Gerrard: Buffy Summers? Just seems like a good idea.
McFadyen: All of the above?
Selinger: Buffy Summers. She has a vampire-like first name.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Beddome: Who would be up for the role? James Brolin.
Gerrard: Robert Redford. He stands up for little people and I believe standing up for the ordinary Manitoban is important.
McFadyen: Betty White. No, I would be flattered if we could get Vince Vaughan to do it.
Selinger: How about Gregory Peck. You want to know why? Same first name.
What’s the last book you read?
Beddome: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.
Gerrard: The last book that I read is one which talks about the art of persuasion. It’s Split-Second Persuasion.
McFadyen: This is just going to put people to sleep: Yalta. I’d have to check the guy’s name. He’s a Ukrainian historian. It’s about the Yalta peace negotiations and post-World War Two Europe division of powers.
Selinger: Joseph Boyden, Through Black Spruce. And a little one called Skufty, by a guy named Bruce Benson, up around Gimli. And I’m working through Stieg Larsson right now.
What’s the first album you ever purchased?
Beddome: Nirvana, Nevermind.
Gerrard: Good question. I suspect it was a Beatles album. I can’t remember which one. It was love songs, like the Yellow Submarine.
McFadyen: I think it was Boney M, Night Flight To Venus.
Selinger: That would have been a long time ago. Maybe, Beatles album, probably, back in the day?
What was the last concert you attended?
Beddome: Shotgun Jimmie, at the Lo Pub.
Gerrard: I was at the performance by Keith & Renee. Keith is a River Heights performing artist.
McFadyen: It’s got to be Coldplay, a couple of years ago. It’s been a while.
Selinger: It’s been a while since I’ve been at a concert.
What band should perform at NHL FaceOff, the concert before the Jets’ home opener?
Beddome: I think we should find something local. I think The Weakerthans are a good choice. Another might be Greg MacPherson or you could even do The Liptonians. All three, good Winnipeg bands who could kick off the Jets.
Gerrard: Neil Young.
McFadyen: I’d love to see The Guess Who.
Selinger: How about The Weakerthans?
Who is your favourite Winnipeg Jet from the original era?
Beddome: When I grew up, Teemu Selanne, man. As a little kid, Teemu, Teemu, Teemu had it going on there. He almost took us to the playoffs a few times.
Gerrard: Bobby Hull.
McFadyen: Veli Pekka-Ketola. He lived in St. James and I met him when I was a kid. I got his autograph. Obviously Bobby Hull and Anders Hedberg would be obvious candidates.
Selinger: He’s still playing. You know who I’m talking about, down in California there? Aaaand ... give me his name. Come on, he’s a really good player. Help me out guys. My favourite player was the guy who got the 70 goals in his first year.
What about your favourite new Jet?
Beddome: I haven’t really had a good chance to take a look at the roster. I gotta wait to see a couple of games to see who the starters are.
Gerrard: [After a long pause, handler David Shorr whispers "Kane."] There are a lot of good Jets, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.
McFadyen: Andrew Ladd. Byfuglien. One of those two guys.
Selinger: I think Dustin Byfuglien’s very popular in spite of the current challenges he’s got. He’s a very popular guy.
Who is the Mayor of Swaggerville?
Beddome: The Mayor of Swaggerville? It’s something off Family Guy, maybe?
Gerrard: Right now it’s Sam Katz. The swagger is not as good as it was but we hope it’s going to get better.
McFadyen: It is O-...? The mayor is not be confused with the CEO of Swaggerville. I was just reading about it this morning. Hasn’t Swaggerville been discontinued?
Selinger: Oh, gosh. I’m not sure who it is. The whole defensive corps themselves, they all play together. They’re really quite good.
What would you rather do to blow off steam: Play a round of golf, hike 15 kilometres, spend the day fishing or fire off several rounds of ammunition?
Beddome: Hike 15 kilometres. It takes me back to (being) a kid. I grew up in the Little Saskatchewan River valley. From a young age, literally three or four years old, I used to love hiking around the bush in the river valley.
Gerrard: Hike 15 kilometres. I enjoy getting outdoors.
McFadyen: I would have to say hike 15 kilometres. Golf raised my blood pressure.
Selinger: Hiking would be more fun.
What brand of beer must be in your fridge?
Beddome: Half Pints. I’m partial to St. James pale ale but I also like Bulldog amber.
Gerrard: Fort Garry dark ale.
McFadyen: MGD and probably a Labatt’s product of some kind, which goes back to curling days, when they were our big sponsor. I’m loyal to that brand.
Selinger: I had a little pale ale from St. James last night. That was quite nice. That would be a nice beer to have. That’s a local beer.
Favourite variety of wine?
Beddome: I really like Cuma Malbec and another one that I like is Birchwood Estate Merlot-Gamay.
Gerrard: The wine produced by Rigby Orchards in Manitoba, near Killarney.
McFadyen: I don’t drink a lot of wine. I really don’t. Anything in a box.
Selinger: I like a light white. Something fruity. Something you can eat with fish. It’s a nice light wine.
Where do you stand on the decriminalization of quinoa?
Beddome: We have so many vegetarians in the party, they need their quinoa. Come on, don’t mess around with them.
Gerrard: Quinoa is a drug, I presume? ["It’s a grain," handler Nancy Chippendale interjects.]
McFadyen: Clearly, the war on quinoa raises all kinds of public policy issues we need to be mindful of.
Selinger: What is quinoa?
Food-wise, what’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Beddome: Sweets. I like ice cream, and baked goods.
Gerrard: Cake. Cheesecake. I like the taste of it. When I get the chance, I eat cheesecake.
McFadyen: Peanut M&Ms, the official food of campaign 2011.
Selinger: Peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Say you have a night off. What would be your favourite thing to do in Winnipeg?
Beddome: I’d just go down to Osborne or Sherbrook and hit a few of the local pubs – the Standard, Cousin’s or the Toad up in Osborne Village, just to have a beer with some good friends and some good conversation.
Gerrard: I like to spend it with my wife. Sometimes we go to a movie. Sometimes we play tennis. We just get out and do something together.
McFadyen: In Winnipeg, it would be got to a movie or maybe listen to a band play somewhere. But you know what, I haven’t had a night off in a couple of months, so I’m starting to get rusty at these things. Pizzeria Gusto would be a good place to go for dinner.
Selinger: I went for a bicycle ride last night down to that new tapas bar, Segovia, with my son. We had a lot of fun down there.
Where did you meet your wife/girlfriend?
Beddome: I met my girlfriend on the Greyhound bus. We were both on our way to write the LSAT, the law-school admission test. We couldn’t get into Winnipeg, either of us. So we went to Brandon.
Gerrard: I met my wife in Newfoundland. Naomi was nursing and I was a medical student at that point. We happened to meet in northern Newfoundland, in St. Anthony, and the rest is history. We met in the emergency room.
McFadyen: I met her at a Boxing Day party. You’re thinking to yourself ‘Who has Boxing Day parties?’ but there was a Boxing Day party at a friend’s house in St. James, and that’s where we met.
Selinger: The University of Manitoba. Undergrad. We were in the same classes together.
What’s the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
Beddome: I’m more approachable than anyone realizes. I don’t care who you are, from someone who’s having a tough time on the streets and someone that can be in a three-piece suit who has a lot money. I can sit down and relate to anyone.
Gerrard: For vacations, I often climb trees and band eagles.
McFadyen: That I am probably really a geek at heart and kind of shy, which normally don’t get associated with people in politics.
Selinger: Probably that I used to drive an English minivan. You know the Austin Mini? A right-hand drive, English minivan, in Winnipeg.
Please name the make and model of any vehicles you own.
Beddome: I recently acquired a Buick Century from my recently deceased grandmother’s estate. It’s a 1996.
Gerrard: We have a Toyota Prius, 2007. And we’ve got a Toyota Corolla, from about 2000.
McFadyen: A Mazda MPV van and I’m fortunate in my job to have a fleet vehicle, so I don’t own it. Currently, it’s a Ford Escape.
Selinger: An Escape hybrid. It’s a lease.
Please name all your pets.
Beddome: It’s just sad. I had a another pet that just deceased. She was my little cat, Candy. I had her since I was about eight years old. She was 18, 19. I had to lose her. But I have another cat who’s more my girlfriend’s than mine, but now it’s mine. He’s a lovely orange cat named Charlie. He’s very furry. You can go on my Facebook page. I have pictures of them.
Gerrard: We don’t have any pets at the moment, but we’ve had lots of them.
McFadyen: Meika the dog. Eight-month-old cross between a shih tzu and a spaniel.
Selinger: Don’t have any pets, just passions.
Please name the brand, country of origin and approximate retail value of the suit you’re wearing.
Beddome: What I like to do is go second hand. I buy suits and take them into a tailor. This is Bellissimo. I got it at I’m not sure what second-hand store. I would have taken it in to get tailored. It’s a good way for people to be green and save money.
Gerrard: This is a suit I purchased at Moore’s. JBH, I guess. It would have an approximate value of about $500.
McFadyen: The brand is a J.P. Tilford. I think it was made in Canada, actually. This one would have been on sale for about $500, which would be at the expensive end of the range.
Selinger: Oh god, $400. I have no idea where it’s made. I’ll have to check out the brand. There is no obvious brand on it. Let’s put it this way – I got it in a basement at a good price.
Say one genuinely nice thing about one of the other party leaders.
Beddome: I can say something nice about them all. Everyone who puts their name on the ballot does it because they want to make Manitoba better.
Gerrard: I’ve known Greg Selinger for a number of years in the Legislature. I think he tries hard.
McFadyen: Knows a lot about birds, Dr. Jon Gerrard. I have a soft spot for Dr. Jon.
Selinger: They’re all very committed to what they do. They’re all working like heck right now.
Finally, which marsupial best describes your party?
Beddome: A kangaroo, because we can jump across really fast and we have a lot of things hiding in our pockets, namely some extra pocket change from our free-fare bus policy.
Gerrard: Maybe a duck-billed platypus? The marsupials would be possums, things like that.
McFadyen: (Emerson MLA) Cliff Graydon.
Selinger: The kangaroo. It has a lot of bounce.