Exploding the stereotypes

About a month ago, Rob Lowe, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, made a joke about the Halifax Explosion.
It wasn’t a great joke, suggesting that the explosion was caused because Canadians are too polite. To be clear: my problem with the joke wasn’t that the captains of the two ships weren’t Canadian. I just don’t like the stereotype of Canadians being polite. I know lots of rude Canadians. Arguably, I’m one of the them.
Another stereotype I don’t like is that we’re all funny. I know plenty of unfunny Canadians. Arguably, I’m one of them.
But my take on Lowe’s joke is a quibble. I was glad our city was mentioned by a celebrity who if not A-list, is on a list. I like when Halifax appears in popular culture.
A couple of nights ago, I was watching a second season episode of Peaky Blinders, and Halifax was mentioned as a destination where illegal booze would be shipped by those razors-sewn-in-their-caps rascals and I was proud.
Of course, some people in our local media, even the local media that is headquartered in New Brunswick, tried to get a controversy going. (Somehow the headline “Lowe blow” wasn’t used.)  “It’s too soon for Explosion jokes” was the common refrain.
I’ve never known when that “too soon” line is. I think most people agree that “so other than that, Mrs. Lincoln what did you think of the play?” is not too soon. But are Kennedy jokes okay? (Spoiler alert: yes).
Maybe disaster-to-disaster comparisons are better. I don’t know many Titanic jokes but there is a catchy campfire song. (“It was sad, so sad, it was sad when the great ship went down, to the bottom of the sea…”) which seems in poorer taste than a joke to me.
Even more insulting to the victims: on the anniversary of the day the Titanic sank, restaurants in Halifax (because we have Titanic passengers buried here! We are so World Class!) will sometimes serve the meal that those on the Titanic ate. You wouldn’t see some restaurant offering the meals that would have been served on SwissAir 111. Too soon, I suppose.
In an effort to look important, my MLA, Labi Kasoulis, whom I don’t know personally, but who seems to have a level of pettiness I can only describe as “Whitmanesque,” wrote a letter to Jimmy Kimmel demanding an apology for the joke. Labi was being a little precious if not blatantly hypocritical. I’m sure politicians in this city would sell the naming rights to the Explosion if they could.
“The Scotiabank Explosion. Scotiabank, you’re richer than you think.” Or “Skittles: Our flavours will explode in your month, much like the explosion that occurs when a ship laden with ammunition collides with another boat.”
Astute readers have probably guessed that I’m fine with Rob Lowe joking about the Explosion. Any mention of the Explosion reminds people that Halifax was an important port in the Great War. You could even say that on Dec. 6, 1917, our fair city was a booming metropolis.
I should probably apologize for my terrible pun. All Canadians, as the stereotype goes, apologize. But I know lots of Canadians who don’t say “I’m sorry.” Arguably, I’m one of them.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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