Tag Archives: VICE Canada

All Your Favorite Cartoon Characters Are Black

An internet friend and I share a deep interest in a specific type of internet culture. Our correspondence is exclusively sending one another really bad illustrations of childhood cartoon characters in street wear and people in off-brand character suits dancing (this was all sparked by our mutual love of this Bugs Bunny meme). While searching for more memes, my friend sent me this screenshot.

I responded, "He's black, duh."

After thinking about it a bit more, I realized that, for many, this wasn't an inherent fact. Bugs Bunny is a rabbit, and while he is anthropomorphic, the suspension of disbelief only stretches so far for some people. It might not be a widely held understanding for white people, so immediately after talking to my friend about Bugs Bunny being black, I turned to my (admittedly, mostly white) colleagues and asked around.

"Do you think Bugs Bunny is black?" I asked, only for many to not really understand the question. "Is this a trick?" one suspicious white man asked. "No." I responded, "It's a very simple yes or no question."

After many conversations that involved white people trying very hard to not to say the wrong thing, someone finally asked how I knew—a question I couldn't really answer. I just knew. Once I explained my vague reasoning (he just is,) some understood but I left most of these interactions realizing it wasn't so simple.

There's no doubt in my mind Bugs Bunny is a black man. To me, it's as obvious as anything I've always known. The sky? Blue. Grass? Green. Bugs Bunny? Very black. It doesn't end with Bugs Bunny, either. While Bugs is arguably one of the most widely recognizable cartoon characters of all time, I've known in my heart that many other characters are black. The best way to describe it would be like a type of synesthesia but for race and cartoons. Soon, I began obsessively updating a memo on my phone of all the characters I felt were black. I now have a list of over 20 characters from my childhood that I'm still updating. Bob from Reboot, Brain from Arthur, the Pink Panther, Elmo—all black.

Bugs Bunny
Tasmanian Devil
Tweety Bird
Spongebob (he's white passing)
Bob (from Reboot
Cookie Monster (West Indies)
Arthur (half)
Brain (from Arthur)
Muffy (half)
Lola Bunny
Luigi (from Mario)
Jerry (Tom and Jerry)
Some Ninja Turtles (Michelangelo, maybe Raphael)
Scrappy Doo
Woody the Woodpecker
The Pink Panther
Optimus Prime

In case you're not convinced and think I'm crazy, I'm not even close to the only one who thinks this way. In fact, I don't know a single black person in my life who hasn't attributed race to non-human characters. The only time a black person I talked to about this didn't understand what I was saying were times when we would disagree on which characters are black (Foghorn Leghorn is a point of a major point of contention).

Earlier this year, Noisey published a piece stating A Goofy Movie was a black millennial classic. The piece argues that from an aesthetic point citing various indicators of the movie's blackness: "From the white female protagonist being a light skinned black girl named Roxanne, to the white boy named Bobby (voiced by Pauly Shore) getting in just as much trouble as Max, but somehow feeling way less worried about his parents finding out." It all makes so much sense.

It's also a much discussed topic online. On Twitter, Alyson, known as fillegrossiere, has tweeted extensively about the topic. After tweeting that Bugs Bunny was black, Alyson tells me, "Several men [tagged] me to let me know Bugs Bunny was a rabbit." Asking how she knew who was black (her characters, like many, include Skeeter from Doug, Goofy, and Max) she said, "I'm not sure. It just seems obvious to me who's black."

Annoyed with white people around me not getting it, I put out a feeler on Twitter to speak to more black people about their reasoning and thoughts. While it's well established these feelings are so common and widely held, I needed to know why. Thinking about my own reasoning, I'm certain the general lack of racial diversity in children's entertainment plays a huge role.

Within minutes, my inbox was flooded with others wanting to talk about black cartoons—by the end of the day I received over 40 direct messages and emails from black people around the world. Some with subject lines, "Arthur was 100% black" and "Babar was black."

Brooklyn-based comedian Jaboukie Young-White emailed me with the highly intriguing subject line "Sandy Cheeks (SpongeBob) Piccolo (Dragonball Z) are Black." For Jaboukie, Piccolo's backstory was very black. "His homeland, Namek, was ravaged by colonizers, he always felt slightly out of place around his non-Namekian friends, single parent origin story. And he was always performing emotional labor for little reward." Many emails shared the same reasoning—characters they felt were black shared some similarities to traditionally black characteristics.

Piccolo via. YouTube

Lisa Nakamura, a professor at the University of Michigan and author whose work focuses on race and how it's portrayed online, believes there are plenty of reasons why white people aren't familiar with the concept of racializing cartoons.

"White people don't want to see race anywhere," Nakamura told me. "They're discouraged externally and internally from noticing it because they're afraid they're going to get in trouble or they're straight up racist." Not only that, but Nakamura explained white people (as any person of color can attest to) generally avoid conversations about race. "The risk of being shunned or seen as racist far outweighs the benefit of having [these] conversations," she added.

In a Tumblr post, New York City-based artist Jayson Musson argues that Panthro from ThunderCats is an unsung African American hero. As a child in the 80s, Musson explains to me that alongside Panthro, Papa Smurf, and ET (the alien) are also black. 

"I don't care what anyone says," Musson says. For Papa Smurf, "He was just way more chill than the other smurfs, he's like their dad," he tells me. "I'm sure it has a lot to do with overtly black characters not being considered remotely marketable. In my childhood, it just wasn't on the table."

Another method of characterization most people I spoke to mentioned was that none of this was forced upon them—these characters weren't overtly coded as black. "It has to be embraced and not performed or shoved into the minds of kids," Musson tells me. "For me, it was something I had to understand myself."

Nakamura also believes a big part of finding these non-human characters black has to do with "finding yourself in places where you're not supposed to be." It's almost an act of resistance. We didn't see ourselves reflected in what we loved to watch as a child, so we created our own narratives despite being showed our representation didn't matter.

Optimus Prime. Image via YouTube

For the last week, I've been thinking about Bugs Bunny and other characters being black almost non-stop. And while on the surface it's an extremely funny and silly thing to think about—there's also a layer of sadness that goes beyond silliness. Like Nakamura mentioned, it comes down to literally not seeing ourselves reflected in what we loved.

I have nine nieces and nephews and most of them are at the age where they now have their own favorite television shows and characters they love. When I watch TV or Netflix with them, it's obvious things are slowly getting better when it comes to diversity. I see more children of color in movies and cartoons, though not as much as there should be. Still, as I become more aware of how affecting a lack of representation has been in my own childhood I make an effort to pick shows and movies that have overtly black or non-white characters. I want them to be able to see themselves on a screen.

Babysitting my niece one day recently, I wanted to put on a movie and scrolling through Netflix for kids was unbearable—there were about a dozen movies aimed at little girls starring blonde, white princesses. We put on Home, an animated film from DreamWorks about a girl named Gratuity "Tip" Tucci, who goes on the run after aliens invade Earth. Upon noticing the movie starred a young black girl, my niece was overjoyed.

"Wow!" she exclaimed, "She looks like me!"

Follow Sarah Hagi on Twitter.

I Went to a Play Where the Audience Was Naked

Last week I went to a play where the audience had to be naked if they wanted to watch it. You could keep your shoes on, though.

Toronto indie theater production S H E E T S, written and directed by Salvatore Antonio, hosted the naturist night. S H E E T S, a series of vignettes about how people act in hotel rooms, is the type of script that lends itself to a room full of nude strangers. The play is intimate, sexually charged, and a bit uncomfortable. Among other things, S H E E T S features a scene navigating the politics of a threesome, discussions about the merits and pitfalls of sex work, and a list of various bodily fluids found on used bedsheets. At one point during a monologue decrying the injustice of circumcision, one of the characters explains how as a child he would pee into his foreskin until it expanded like a balloon. The actors performed these scenes in various states of undress.

"I was inspired to write the play after a year I spent by myself in numerous hotel rooms around the world for work reasons," Antonio told VICE. "I experienced loneliness, and insomnia, and would often obsess over the history of whichever room I was in, doing the math of how many people had been in that particular room over the years—on that bed, in those sheets. The law of averages for how much sex and suicide those rooms had been witness to turned me on, or revolted me, or saddened me on any given night."

The idea to host a naturist night came from S H E E T S co-producer Samantha Kaine-Gruen, an actor and theater creator, who also happens to be a naturist. When I asked Kaine-Gruen if the themes of sex and intimacy explored in the play had anything to do with naturism, she quickly shot me down.

"Most of the audience are naturists and simply want to see theater in a way that is most comfortable for them. The new folks coming also want the opportunity to do the same thing and didn't know there was a community that is welcoming for them to go to," she said. When I followed up by asking Kaine-Gruen if she was worried about any newcomers being voyeuristic or disrespectful, she seemed annoyed. "If people want to disrespect others, they are going to do so with clothes on as well."

Photos courtesy of Jeff Gruen

I understood the response, but thought it overlooked the fact that most of the time a theater audience is wearing clothes. While being naked in a public space is a normal thing for the naturists, it's not something that the general public regularly partakes in.

I took an informal survey among my friends and asked them if a nude audience would make them more or less likely to attend a play. Their responses proved that people make a lot of assumptions about naturists, mostly that naturism has something to do with kink or sex, a stigma that the community fights hard to overcome. But there was also a lot of curiosity. That curiosity, along with a large turnout from the naturist community, led to a sold out performance of the show.

I didn't know what to expect when attending the naturist performance of S H E E T S. Previously my nudity had been contained to intimate situations or locker rooms. Entering the theater that night I picked up my ticket before heading upstairs to the lobby. I passed a green sign saying "nude people beyond this point," and was greeted by an older naked gentleman with a comically large mustache. The man explained that I could remove my clothes behind the curtain or out in the open. Afterwards he would check my belongings and usher me toward a table where, for a dollar, I could rent a towel if I had forgotten to bring my own. I opted for undressing behind the curtain. Despite knowing that for the next 90 minutes I would be baring it all, there was something about the act of stripping down that still seemed private. After I had undressed and purchased my towel, I stepped into the theater. Entering the performance space, I was greeted with a sea of flesh.

The audience that night was mostly white and under the stage lights they collectively took on a pinkish tone. There was a pretty wide age bracket, bodies of all shapes and sizes, smooth and hairy legs. Some people paraded to their seats without abandon, while others hid behind slouched shoulders or crossed arms. Entering the room I felt nervous and exposed. Normally when I experience those feelings I ignore them by looking at my phone, but without my crutch, I simply put down my towel, sat, and waited for things to begin. After a couple minutes the nudity in the room became normalized. People stopped looking at the ceiling and acknowledged one another in a way that I hadn't experienced before. While there were more than a few nervous giggles, the situation forced us to be present. I started to muse on what that presence might mean to my day-to-day life but before I could come up with anything, the lights went down and the show began.

S H E E T S was funny, and thought-provoking, though the experience of watching the show was obviously heightened by the nudity situation. When the final scene ended, the audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation. As I stood from my towel, I was surprised at how quickly I had become acclimatized to the setting and wondered if participating in a naturist event was something I'd do again. Just then, a fellow audience member pointed out that there was a fruit sticker stuck to the back of my thigh. My whole body turned red. I decided that this would definitely be the last time. 

 Follow Graham Isador on Twitter.

How to Get Your Boyfriend to Wash His Dick

I have a long history of being a nosy person, and offering my opinion to people who sometimes aren't really asking for it. This extends to a lot of topics, but one of my favorites to butt into is other peoples' relationships. So I decided to reach out to my loving fan base on Twitter and Instagram to see if I could actually give some solicited advice for a change and answer some sex and relationship questions. 

I should preface this with saying that if your submission is one that I've answered below, please take my advice lightly. If you're reading this and you think that what I've said can apply to a situation that you're in, just know that I'm one of the most jaded, lonely, and cynical people you'll ever encounter. Now, with all my potential guilt assuaged, here we go:

OK, I feel like this is a super fucked up situation, but a while ago before my partner and I were sexually open, he cheated on me (water under the bridge), but now the guy who he cheated on me with keeps messaging me and wants to "hang out." Now I'm torn between feeling the satisfaction of rejecting this guy, or feeling the satisfaction of having the equal experience as my partner. 
Oh my god, what a predicament. That's more power than I'd like to have. There are a couple of scenarios I can suggest. Basically, it boils down to whether or not the open relationship you're in requires disclosing to your partner who you sleep with, and if he'd get weird about you sleeping with the person he cheated on you with. Because it feels like fucking this person would be for a half-vendetta (which is hot) but if it's going to cause a rift in your relationship that's too big to repair, it's not worth it.

If everyone is chill and mature and it's not just everyone having a kink for unnecessary drama, have some casual sex with the guy. It could help bring some closure to the cheating situation. But you said it was water under the bridge, right? ;)

Dearest Puppyteeth; I have two lovers. One we'll call Soft & Tender, the other is Rough & Rowdy. They both know about each other (I started to see S&T during some planned time away from R&R). Every time I leave R&R's I'm covered in bruises. I feel weird having S&T see me all marked up, but I also don't want to miss out on terrific spankings. Do you have any advice? 
Hey! I sound like both of these people, depending on how much Domino's I've eaten before the hookup. 

Do you feel weird about the bruising because S&T has brought up being put off by it, or just personally? If you definitely don't want to be bruised when you see S&T, it might just be an annoying game of staggering your dates with each partner. Also, I am a fan of full disclosure. Explain to S&T that you like getting spanked and your other partner likes to spank you, and that it doesn't impact or affect the quality of your sex with them, and if they can't wrap their head around that, maybe just find a second R&R and get spanked double.

How do I tell my boyfriend he needs to wash his dick without hurting his feelings?
There probably isn't really a way to tell him that won't hurt his feelings to some degree. Whenever I've had to mention it to a guy, I always aim to bring it up as casually as possible. Instead of having shower sex every time, just say something like, "Hey, do you mind washing up before we start, I like it fresh down there." If he can't understand your standards of hygiene without getting insulted, he's not worth keeping around. Honestly, the equation washing dick=getting dick sucked shouldn't be too tough to grasp.

My new partner is entirely sober while I'm not. They'd been sober a few years before they met me, and continue to maintain their sobriety through going to meetings, taking medication, having sponsors, etc, and most of their close friends are also sober. I don't struggle with addiction, but I'm not at all close to sobriety, and neither are my friends. I absolutely don't pressure them to do anything, and they say that me not being sober doesn't at all bother them, but in the back of my mind I still kind of worry it might be a deal breaker at some point. Can this relationship work in the long haul?
I chose this one because I am sober, so I feel like I might have some actual insight into this. Every person is different in their sobriety. I have sober friends who don't hang out with non-sober people. Most of my friends still party, and it's something I've adjusted to. From what I've read, you're just going to have to trust your partner when they tell you they're okay with you not being sober. They have a few years under their belt, and probably have a good bearing on their triggers. If they say you aren't one, you have no reason to not believe them.

Taking that into account, I would still try to be respectful from your side, and considerate of their sobriety. I say this because I have had partners who weren't sober and it wasn't an issue until I saw them too fucked up one too many times. I'm not saying hide who you are, but just stay cognizant of whether the inebriated you is someone they want to be around, or if you should censor yourself for the sake of the relationship. Trust that they'll raise concerns if they arise, and let them know you expect that from them.

Well, that concludes this installment of my advice column. As long as people keep getting into sticky situations and asking me about them, I'm down to keep responding on a really public forum. What could possibly go wrong?

Jaik Puppyteeth is an artist in Vancouver.  Follow Jake on Twitter and Instagram.

This Man Named Grabher Just Wants His Vanity License Plate Back

The Grabher family is proud of its name. That's why Lorne Grabher, a retired corrections officer who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, is pissed that the province has confiscated his personalized license plate featuring his last name—all because someone complained that it was offensive.

He told the Chronicle Herald he'd been out for Tim Hortons in December when he noticed a woman snapping a photo of his "GRABHER" plate. He didn't think much of it, but on December 6, he received a letter from the director of road safety and registrar of motor vehicles saying his plate was being canceled.

"The reason stated was 'can misinterpret it as a socially unacceptable slogan,'" Grabher wrote in a rant on Facebook. "I feel this is a total abuse of power by Ms. Director of Road Safety! Where does it state that my last name is considered a 'slogan' in the Motor Vehicle Act?"

Grabher, whose family is of German heritage, said that in the 25 years his family has had the plate, there haven't been any problems. He also noted that his son, Troy Grabher, has a GRABHER plate in Alberta, Canada, and hasn't had any problems with it.

In an email to the CBC, a spokesman from the Department of Transportation said a complaint was filed indicating that some see the plate "as misogynistic and promoting violence against women." That interpretation may or may not be related to a phrase a certain US president was caught saying into a hot mic back in 2005. 

On Facebook, the incident has sparked a heated discussion amongst the Grabhers. Lorne's son, Troy Grabher defiantly updated his cover photo to show two GRABHER plates side by side, while Tracey Grabher wrote, "I've never had anyone impose a derogatory meaning towards my name before this a-hole complained to motor vehicles." She also joked, "I'm still looking for a Hiscock. Tracey Grabher-Hiscock has a nice ring to it."

For now, Lorne Grabher said he's using one of his son's GRABHER plates on the front of his car, but he's holding out hope the province will change its mind.

"I want my plate back. I don't want an apology," he told the Herald. "I don't want to talk to them, I just want my plate back."

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

Uber Will Make Results of an Internal Sexual Harassment Investigation Public

Uber has been the focus of plenty of criticism lately. If you've somehow managed to avoid the urge to delete this app, here are some highlights: questionable ethics surrounding treatment and pay of drivers (or, you know, the possibility that the company might replace them with self-driving cars eventually); accusations of trying to profit off an immigration ban protest; its controversial CEO, Travis Kalanick, having ties to Donald Trump and getting caught on video being a dick to one of his company's drivers

On top of all that, the ride-sharing company had yet another new scandal to deal with in December: A former engineer at the company made sexual harassment allegations against Uber in a public blog post. Now, the company has said that it will be making the results of the resounding investigation public, Fortune reports.

"Whatever the investigation finds will be honored by everyone at Uber," board member Arianna Huffington said a call with reporters. Former US Attorney General Eric Holder is heading Uber's internal investigation into the matter and the results are expected to be released at the end of April 2017.

The former Uber employee who made the sexual harassment allegations on her personal website, Susan Fowler Rigetti, described multiple concerning experiences at the San Francisco-based tech company:

"It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR," Fowler Rigetti wrote. "I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to."

Huffington told reporters that she does not expect Kalanick, whom she has called the "heart and soul" of the company, to step down as CEO as a result of the investigation. "It's not something that's been addressed because it has not come up, and we do not expect it to come up," she said.

Follow Allison Tierney on Twitter.

Some Hero Recut ‘Breaking Bad’ into a Movie

The internet is a land of unending cruelty and unbridled imagination, a place where we can find almost all the information mankind has ever known at a fingertip, and sometimes—when everything lines up perfectly—it will deliver us something we never knew we needed.

This time the delivery came in the form of a cut-down, film-like version of Breaking Bad.

The film, aptly titled Breaking Bad: The Movie, was uploaded by a mysterious user a week ago and sits at a runtime of two hours, seven minutes, and ten seconds—a far cry from the two days and 14 hours that the series runs if you try to binge watch the entire thing. Disclaimer: The 62 hours is totally worth it for the show because it's fucking Breaking Bad.

The brilliance of Vince Gilligan's show aside, the amazing thing about this project is, well, it changes some things up.

"It's not a fan film, hitting the highlights of show in a homemade homage, but rather a re-imagining of the underlying concept itself, lending itself to full feature-length treatment," reads the description under the film. "An alternative Breaking Bad, to be viewed with fresh eyes."

Earlier in the description, the mysterious recutter states that this was a "study project" that turned into "all-consuming passion," which is reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh's 110-minute recut of 2001: A Space Odyssey (RIP). It apparently took the cutter and a team two years for the final project to finish the project.

We're living in the golden age of television—a brilliant age that never seems to end—Game of Thrones, Atlanta, Stranger Things, Sherlock, Fargo, Review, Mr. Robot, Veep, Hannibal, House of Cards, the list goes on. So with all that to consume, it's is no wonder that, you know, we might miss out on some amazing television—mysterious recutter, you're doing the world a favor.

Please do The Sopranos next.

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.

We Talked to the Director Whose New Movie Has Left Rob Ford’s Family Furious

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The Rob Ford era in Toronto was a time unlike any other. It all started with an elusive cell phone video of the jolly, rosy-faced mayor smoking crack. And with that, a media frenzy erupted. Suddenly, the entire world had its eyes on Canada's largest city as they watched the Rob Ford story continue to unfold into a slew of increasingly bizarre events.

Ford died last year from a rare form of cancer, ending the strangest Toronto saga of Canada's lifetime. But for those few years before his death, combined with the rising popularity of Drake, Toronto went through some sort of deranged golden age. Now, though the years of the crack-smoking mayor are behind it, the definitive crime comedy of Toronto has been captured in the form of a fictional movie.

VICE spoke to Andy King [Editor's note: King previously worked at VICE's Toronto studio as a producer for VICELAND], the director of the new Rob Ford-inspired movie aptly named Filth City, about the strange times of Toronto, getting a "death threat" from Doug Ford, and the everlasting legacy of the late mayor. The film premieres on March 25 at Scotiabank Theatre during Canadian Film Fest.

VICE: Why did you want to take on the task of making a movie about Rob Ford so soon after this happened?
Andy King: I'm a fan of crime comedies in particular... I don't think there are enough, and I wanted to do something that was authentically Canadian. One of my big influences was the Wire, and I love how show taught you about the city you never knew about—Baltimore. You learn about the city through its fiction. I wanted to do a crime story, but not just set in some generic city… I wanted to make it authentically Toronto, that's me… The Ford story was on the front page every day. You have the mayor of the city running around like a gangster, acting like Scarface, and it just started to influence the writing, and this is what came out.

What was it like for you personally as someone from Toronto living through the Rob Ford saga?
It was crazy, it was a really insane time. What's interesting about it is that there has really been a breakdown in social norms in society in the last few years. For thousands of years, social norms have kept people in check. There's a set of values that make it so you wouldn't say that, or you wouldn't do that—it would be disqualifying. I think Rob Ford was one of the earlier examples of, across North American culture, that you could violate norms and get away with it if you were likable enough and were a straight shooter. There's a lot of similarities to the Trump thing now that we see that.

I have this theory that Toronto is a very cool city—we're the fourth-largest city in North America [by population]. We're a cool city, but we just don't feel like we're cool. I feel like the whole Rob Ford thing was this moment on the international stage where we got to be the bad boy a little bit… I think we kind of appreciated that attention internationally on our city, regardless of the negativity. We just thought: This is interesting, it shows a different side to our city, there's a lot going on you don't know about. That helped forge this different identity of Toronto. 

Every day there was a new story that was more outrageous than the last one, and the more I read about it, it was even harder to believe. He was literally hanging out with gangsters and partying with them on a regular basis, and it's highly unusual for a mayor to do that.

Rob Ford himself is a fascinating character. I always respected the fact that he gave his cell phone number out to constituents… He's really kind of approachable, really down to earth. I think that's why people love him. We called him to see if he would make a cameo in the movie. It didn't happen, but when we called and explained what we were doing he was like, "Oh cool, I'll think about it." He was nice about it. He was a charming guy...There's something about him you can't help but like.

How do you feel about Doug Ford calling you a "scumbag?" Are you expecting more negative responses when the movie premieres?
I was shocked. I woke up and saw he called us "scumbags," profiteers, disgusting people… The language was just over the top. Worse was he threatened to run me over with a car. [Wednesday] at lunch [on CP24], he issued a death threat to me. He said I better not be crossing the street when he is driving, or he'll run me down… I think it's just completely outrageous to say you're going to commit vehicular manslaughter against someone for making an indie film. It's hard enough to make an indie film in Toronto without the mayor's brother all over your ass.

The irony is that this is not a takedown piece on Ford in any way. It's just a fun, exciting action comedy with his character at the center. The reaction not just from Doug, but from his supporters… You haven't even seen the movie, you don't know what it's about.

The garbage strike is also part of the movie, right? Why did you decide to include that?
I've lived through a couple of garbage strikes. There was one in '09 and one in '02. In '02, there was one that was just crazy. It only lasted something like 16 days, but it was in the middle of the summer. Mel Lastman was the mayor and went through a really vitriol battle with the head of the union responsible for garbage removal. He was calling them irresponsible and morally bankrupt, all of these things for allowing it to happen. It was so surreal because, in one week, it just exposed how filthy the city was, there was garbage and bugs everywhere. Christie Pits [Park] became an impromptu dumping ground at the time, just mountains of garbage next to the kids' playground. It was apocalyptic in a way, it just fascinated me. The mood of the city changed so much… I had the name Filth City, and I thought of the garbage strike, and I thought it would be a nice connection.

What point were you at with the movie when Rob Ford died?
We had already shot the whole thing. That was a shock. To be honest, people said, "What are you going to do now?" My own feeling was that he couldn't die. He just seemed like the type of personality that could beat anything. It was just a real shock for everyone that he didn't make it, that he was that sick. It was tragic. It really is.

I don't blame Doug for being upset and protective of his brother, but I think it's ridiculous to call us "scumbags" for making a movie about a public figure. He affected all of our lives in the city, in the country. Those kinds of situations, we connect with each other through public figures and our reactions to them, the cast of characters in our collective lives. There's different rules about public figures than private people when it comes to anything… The reason for that is that they become part of our collective identity. I think for us to make a film that is inspired by that or influenced by it, there's nothing wrong with it.

When Rob Ford died, many people were discussing how, looking back, this guy had a really serious problem with alcohol and other drugs. Considering that, do you feel bad about making a film about him?
No, not at all. What I've said before too is that if anything, this showcases the dark power of drugs, the disruptiveness of addiction. Truthfully, the character's conflict in the movie is a direct result of his addiction. If he hadn't been addicted and sort of overstepping the line, none of these consequences would have happened to him. At the same time, the character (played by Canadian actor Pat Thorton and named "Tom Hogg" in the movie) is likable, just like Ford. It's maybe an antihero. It's not in any way a villain; it's just someone who is trying to solve a problem.

As far as addiction goes, I'm a nicotine addict, I understand that mentality in a way. The way I saw it is when you're an addict, the thought processes just keep going. There's not a reflection in the mirror like, Who am I? What am I doing? You see that a lot in movies. But for a lot of addicts' lives, it's just business as usual... The way I saw Ford is he just kept going, just tunnel vision. For him, it's like he worked all the time and he partied all the time, and they got kind of stuck together… And in a satirical way, the film shows that dark side of addiction.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Follow Allison Tierney on Twitter .

How Preppers from Around the World Are Gearing Up for Doomsday

Skirt lengths might be a good barometer for the state of the economy, but what do hazmat suit sales tell us about the world we live in?

Much like economist George Taylor's "hemline theory," which claims that miniskirts mean positive things for a country's financial health, general consumer statistics on the sale of things like luxury goods, alcohol, and even porn can provide a good read of the general social climate. Four-inch heels apparently mean an economic downturn, and kinky porn habits can offer commentary on social oppression.

In uncertain times, it seems normal for citizens to cut spending or seek creature comforts.

The popularity of survivalist merchandise—gear used to prepare for a cataclysm or the end of times—offers interesting insight into people's anxieties concerning natural disasters, political situations, or even technological development. For instance, a recent report states that rich Silicon Valley innovators are building shelters to hide from the popular revolt that will occur when robots steal all of our jobs, which is very reassuring.

I wanted to learn more about these types of trends, so I contacted survivalist stores in Canada, France, and the US to find out what has been driving their clientele's purchases.

Pascal Lemieux
Owner, Boutique Militaire, Quebec, QC

VICE: So your store sells army surplus and survivalist stuff?
Pascal Lemieux: Yeah, we've been around for 25 years and we started as an army surplus store. But I developed a survivalist section after September 11 because there was a demand, people were suddenly conscious that stuff like that could happen in America.

Our sales depend on what's happening on the planet. There are peaks during political conflicts, US and Russia stuff, or natural disasters. Like Fukushima in Japan—that was a peak in sales. During the next year or so, people were buying anti-radiation stuff, gas masks, chemical protection suits—those one pieces with a hood and a mask.

But the Fukushima disaster is pretty far from Quebec, no?
Radiation has no boundaries, never forget that.

Did you notice any particular trends in the last year, with the Trump election?
No, not really. I think that's more affected the immigration side of things. Where we see changes is really during like political stuff of Cold War-type situations, that's when people feel like something could happen. Or when there are attacks, like what happened in Boston.

It's tough to tell though, because often people buy stuff without telling you what it's for.

Do you know if people are building bunkers?
I don't know, but you're not supposed to talk about that. What I can tell you is that more and more families are getting prepared.

Image via Flickr user Fuzzy Gerdes

Neal Crasnow
Owner, Al's Army Navy, Orlando, Florida

VICE: How long have you been doing this?
Neal Crasnow: I've been in Army Navy business for 35 years. This store has been here in central Florida for 60 years.

Is it a big business out in Florida?
I think there are all sorts of people that collect all sorts of different things. Whether they're preppers or survivalists, that's a good question, and what they're actually waiting for is an even better question. So I don't know if it's the zombie apocalypse or any number of other things.

They come in and look for different things. I sell all kinds of fire starting equipment, water purification equipment, backpacks, and firearms and all kinds of things like that.

Do you see any patterns, are there items that sell more during certain periods?
Well for the US, when there is a chance that a Democrat will get elected to office, then firearms sell better. If you remember the whole thing about the year 2000, the computers, there was a whole group of people who were worried about that, so they would go out and they were buying those [survivalist] things.

When people are worried, they make arrangements. I sell a lot during hurricane season. I do think the firearms thing is tied to politics, but the rest is tied to people's angst and feelings.

What happened during the most recent election?
Prior to election, people were concerned that a Democrat would be elected so firearms sold better. Although during the Obama administration, firearms sold as well as they ever had.

Do people inquire about bunkers? Are more people setting up bunkers?
I think there was a series of things that happened even a few years ago that led people in that direction more than now. I think there are people that are preppers and that's a continual audience gaining speed. I mean I couldn't answer as to what they're preparing for.

I think there are always more preppers. I'm not unhappy that it's always growing because I base a lot of my business on it, but I don't think it's indication of something.

Everyone needs a good bunker. Image via Flickr user brian donovan

Joël Grimaldier
Manager, Randonneurs online store, France

VICE: Who are your customers?
Joël Grimaldier: In France, we're leaders in the sale of survival materials and have been for the last ten years. Our clientele is linked to bushcraft and hiking, but our competitive edge is survivalism.

I'm also trying to develop the "pure" survivalist sector, and I'm attracting more and more francophone clients (from France, Belgium, and Switzerland) who are interested in this stuff. Even though survivalists tend to be discrete about their lifestyles and don't directly admit their interests, we can determine their habits through their purchases.

We've had a lot of competitors spring up in the last three or four years, who often do this to complement a main business like hunting or fishing.

Do you notice changes based on political climate? Do you sell more of certain products after certain events or elections?
Yes, for the last ten years I've seen the survival market evolve. Initially, this was launched by shows like Bear Grylls's, but this whole "surviving in nature" period transformed into a more survivalist trend.

This practice isn't as developed in Europe as it is in North America, but it's starting to take off here. Some clients, without calling themselves survivalists, are still preparing for a variety of possible risks.

France is more affected by climate-related phenomena, and people are getting ready for that. The attacks we've seen in the last two years have also affected people's mentalities and pushed them toward preparation.

While political risks seem increasingly obvious in these parts, they're not considered "major" risks by the general population. Germany and Switzerland are encouraging their populations to set aside rations of food, but that's not a thing in France, at least not really.

The current electoral period hasn't affected sales here, at least not yet. And the growing tensions between Europe, the US, and Russia haven't yet had an impact on the "base" population.

Since I refuse to sell weapons, my clients generally buy longterm food rations and stock up on all the essentials they need in case of an evacuation.

Niels Baartman
Co-owner, Total Prepare in Victoria, BC

VICE: How long have you been in business?
Niels Baartman: This is my sixth year in the business.

What kind of consumer trends have you seen in the past few years?
I'd say American politics influence us a lot more than Canadian politics. American politics are way more world-changing than Canadian politics will ever be, so I feel people tend to gravitate toward looking at the US policies that might dictate what might come down the pipe.

[During those periods] people will buy larger food packages, perhaps water containers, big tanks for emergency water. The food servings can be anywhere from one month to six months of supplies.

I think there's a greater awareness that being prepared is a wise thing to do and I would say the key is finding good quality products that people can rely on.

What are people preparing for though?
Everything under the sun. Natural disaster, some are for political reasons, road trips, ice storms, I would say it's all over the horizon, there is no specific reason.

What do you mean, "political reasons?" 
Whether it's foreign policy, or perhaps an economic meltdown, or whatever people in the prepper community are concerned about, a lot of it revolves around political decisions or the direction politics might be going. So, many of them prepare for inevitable reasons that there might be a shortage of food or that something might affect the availability of funds or whatever the case may be.

What did you notice before and after Trump was elected?
We definitely had a relatively strong reaction to preppers buying before Trump was elected, but after he was elected that quieted down dramatically. People were feeling a sense of relief that the election was over, but also I think those who feared economic problems felt Trump might be beneficial. A lot of the prepper community has more right-wing viewpoints and so they thought Hillary would be disastrous.

What were they buying?
Food. Our experience is that whenever there is something fearful out there, clients buy food because that's their main concern. Most preppers don't need other supplies because they're already stocked.

Do you sell bunkers supplies and do people ask about bunkers?
No, and I don't find that has come up often in Canada. At least I haven't come across it much. But most people don't mention they're stocking a bunker, they'd rather keep that quiet.

Follow Brigitte Noël on Twitter.

An Airline Pilot Was Kicked Off His Plane After Passing Out Drunk in the Cockpit

Police in Alberta, Canada, are trying to figure out how a pilot for Sunwing Airlines managed to get through multiple security checkpoints before he passed out drunk in the airplane's cockpit ahead of its scheduled takeoff last weekend, the New York Times reports.

According to Paul Stacey of the Calgary Police Service, Miroslav Gronych showed up to work on Saturday at the Calgary International Airport "severely impaired by alcohol." Apparently, he managed to pass through a few pilot checkpoints, as well as airport security, without anyone noticing he was too wasted to fly. 

It wasn't until he began acting strangely at the gate that Sunwig's staff noticed that something was off and notified the flight's co-pilot, who headed into the cockpit and reportedly found Gronych passed out.

"They found him slumped over in the seat," Stacey said at a press conference. "Obviously this had a very significant potential to cause great harm had the pilot actually been allowed to fly this plane."

Gronych was escorted off of the plane and all 99 passengers onboard the 737 managed to get to their destination safely with a new crew in place. As for the pilot, he'll face two counts of alcohol-related offenses in court Thursday, including being in control of an aircraft while being impaired, and having care of an aircraft with a BAC of over .08. 

In a statement from Sunwing's spokeswoman Janine Massey, the airline said, "We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority."

Christmas’s Hottest Toy Has a Pretty Foul Mouth

Few things beat Christmas when you're a kid (if your family adheres to it). Getting up early, surrounding the tree with your loved ones, and of course, opening presents. This is the big moment, that gift from Santa—that money gift—the toy you've waited all season for is finally yours.

Then that magical toy says, "Fuck me."

That's what at least one family experienced around the Christmas tree this year. Sarah and Nik Galego, a couple in Victoria, BC, bought a Hatchimal (one of the season's hottest toys) for their six-year-old son, and when unwrapped, the little thing started to channel Regan from The Exorcist.

"Fuck me," it says repeatedly, among what can only be described as moans.

Hatchimals are sophisticated little toys that arrive in eggs, then hatch when played with enough, and once out of their eggs, can learn how to talk, walk, and all sorts of other neat stuff. The toy doesn't have a preset foreign language for it to speak when hatched, but it learns its own personalized language, which is where the mistake could be originating from. The thing is, the Hatchimal isn't supposed to talk while hatching, but this one came out of its egg swearing like a sailor.

"It was doing its hatching process and it fell asleep, and we both looked at each other, and we're like, that's not what it's saying, is it?" Sarah Galego told CTV.

Others have noticed the problem as well and uploaded similar videos to YouTube.

As the Furbies of 2016, Hatchimals sold out of stock before Christmas, and the toy, with a suggested retail price of almost $90, was being sold on E-bay and Kijiji for upward of $400. Spin Master, the company behind the toy, said that it "sincerely apologizes" to anyone having issues (other Hatchimals just didn't work), and the company has increased its customer-care hours.

"While the vast majority of children have had a magical experience with Hatchimals, we have also heard from consumers who have encountered challenges," Spin Master said in a statement. "We are 100 percent committed to bringing the magic of Hatchimals to all of our consumers."

As for the parents who bought the foul-mouthed little toy in particular, well, they're pretty darn chill about the whole thing.

"It's good at teaching him responsibility. It's been really cool watching him take care of it," Galego told CTV. "I found our little flaws with the Hatchimal pretty hilarious. We're not going to return it or file any complaints with it. It's pretty funny."

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter .