“We’re all special snowflakes, so no one is,” she said, in that sing-song voice, loaded with sarcasm, that always cracks me up.
This year’s stint in Ucluelet has brought me face to face with the backlash against political correctness. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard, “I guess we’re supposed to call them ‘First Nations’ now”, accompanied by an eyeroll, in less than three months.
Take off the shirt of this town and you will see the collar is a bold, unmistakable blue. Ukee was built on logging and fishing. Long after neighbouring Tofino became a hippie paradise and the two industries that once supported this peninsula were already in rapid decline, Ukee held onto its roots. Coffee shops and eco-tours are only beginning to sprout in this rocky ground. And while I appreciate the availability of coconut milk and Zevia cola at the local grocery store, it’s exactly Ukee’s no nonsense vibe that has always appealed to me over the more popular, and gentler, Tofino.
While I know my right wing friends consider me a dyed-in-the-organic-fair-trade-wool tree hugger, on the grand spectrum of liberal vs conservative thinking, I actually fall just left of center. Trust me, in the Kootenays I am about one offshore shell company away from being a Republican.
So how do I feel about political correctness?
Equity, equality, sustainability, respect, empathy, these are all words I associate with political correctness. Good words. Words that make our world a better place.
There’s something repellant to me about the idea of a world where all the rough edges have been filed off and humans walk around in psychological bubble wrap.
My first stunt job was on a horrible and short-lived TV show called University Hospital. When I got the call, I was asked if I could do a dive roll. Of course I could do a dive roll! Pffft, easy-peasy. The job was mine and all I needed to do was bring myself and some elbow and knee pads (neither of which I owned), to set with me.
Cut to take number Oh My Cod Not Again: The stunt coordinator is standing about two inches from my face shouting at me. “YOU ARE FUCKING UP THE SHOT!” I am terrified. Not of the car I must narrowly avoid getting mashed by, but of the man in my face who is so angry he is spraying me with saliva.
My perfectly executed dive roll looked ridiculous. I had to make it look messy—like how a real woman would look if she was out jogging and the guy stalking her tried to run her down with his car and she had to dive out of the way at the last second. I was fucking up the shot.
Seriously shaken by the verbal flogging, I did the gag again and this time I made it messy.
At the end of the day, the frothing-at-the-mouth stunt coordinator slapped his arm around my shoulders and said, “Great job! I’m giving you six hundred bucks.” (That was just my adjustment AKA “danger pay”).
He could have given me ten dollars. All I cared about was that I had done my first stunt. I had overcome my fear, I hadn’t cracked under pressure, I’d learned how to fix mistakes on the fly, and I was not in the hospital or the morgue. I may have hated and feared Frothing-At-The-Mouth in the moment but he pushed me hard enough to get the job done and, in the bigger picture, that was probably the perfect introduction to a career where weakness could be fatal.
Years later, I would find out that the stuntman driving the car that day had written “HAS GUTS!” on the top of my 8 x 10 head shot. Yay, self-esteem!
In a perfectly politically correct world, Frothing-At-The-Mouth would have been forced to attend anger management classes. The production company would have offered me some kind of compensation for my emotional trauma, both in dollars and in some form of therapy. We could have all gone home happy that justice prevailed and the victim was being cared for.
I’m glad that world does not exist. I am not a victim. This does not mean that everything that happened to me during my time in the film business was acceptable and should have been tolerated. (To this day I regret not speaking up about some of the abuse I put up with simply out of fear of rocking the boat and getting myself blacklisted). But I came out of that time with a lot of assets that have served me well in all facets of my life.
Another woman may have cracked under Frothing-At-The-Mouth’s tirade. You know what? That would have been okay. Not everyone is cut out for everything. Not everyone is good at everything. We aren’t all special little snowflakes in everything we do.
Sometimes there are real victims and what they suffer ripples out across generations.
I know just a little of what happened to the native people of BC right up to a very short time ago. The systematic abuse—sexual, physical, psychological—that went on is horrific and a black mark on Canadian history. There’s a lot of controversy about what is owed, or not, to the native people of BC, and lots of grey areas with no simple solutions.
There are difficult conversations ahead. Difficult and necessary.
On one issue, however, I see clearly. If First Nations is what these people ask to be called, that is what I will call them. If you consider that too politically correct, I don’t care. When you survive this, I’ll call you whatever the heck you want to be called.
We’re not all special snowflakes and the sooner we get that through our skulls the better off we’ll be.
But we are all human and most of us deserve, at the very least, a little respect.
Until next time, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, and lovin’ life!