Michael Coren writes: Mr. Ordinary: Jack Layton was OK. Nothing more, nothing less

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The Article

The time of waiting has come to an end, and like a child embracing the dawn on Christmas Day I feel my heart bursting with a fulfilled anticipation.

Yes, filming has started on the Jack Layton biopic, and Rick Roberts — who? — and Sook-Yin Lee will play Layton and his wife Olivia Chow in Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story.

“It’s been a pleasure looking into the life of such a multi-faceted man. I’ve had to learn to speak Cantonese and French, and play the guitar,” explained Roberts. “Jack Layton was an incredible athlete, and I like to lie on the couch — so this in itself has been challenging. The most intriguing part has been trying to embody his passion for life, his generosity, and his resolve to follow his vision in spite of overwhelming odds.”

Quite so. Gifted musician, linguist, Olympic athlete, saint. A little like Gandhi and Churchill, but oddly hidden in an extremely ordinary municipal politician and man who was ever so briefly the leader of the federal opposition. This is the sort of thing that makes Canada look so small and silly. Jack was a nice fellow, but my goodness he had his faults, and there have been legions of better people and better politicians. This is pathetic stuff, all paid for with the tax dollars of the very Canadians to whom, it seems, Jack was a god. Odd, then, that so few of them actually voted for him.

But more bewildering is the casting of the absurd but politically acceptable Sook-Yin Lee as Chow.

“Jack and Olivia were an amazing team in life, love and politics,” she explained pretentiously. “They cut through bureaucracy and remained accessible to people. It will be a challenge for me to embody Olivia in all her beautiful complexity. I hope to serve her well.”

Yeah right, but there was that massage parlour thing wasn’t there, where most of the media refused to refer to the 1996 police raid on a Chinatown massage parlour where Jack was found naked in the suspected bawdy house. (He was not charged). It doesn’t make him a monster, but can you imagine any conservative politician being treated so generously?

Lee would probably have been better cast as a masseuse in the alleged bawdy house, in that she is best known for her intriguing role in a low-budget movie called Shortbus. Laughably bad and largely forgotten, this nonsense caused controversy only because Lee performed non-simulated sexual intercourse and masturbation on the screen.

Nope, she wasn’t faking, it was for real. And who of us is not a better person for watching some silly girl playing with herself and having public sex on the large screen? Well, it’s easier than acting I suppose.

Look, Jack was OK and Olivia is OK. Nothing less, nothing more. The Layton funeral was a preposterous demonstration of ersatz grief and communal neurosis, and yet another platform for Stephen Lewis’s invincible arrogance and pomposity. Stephen Harper was blackmailed into allowing it by media pressure, and it’s sad that he submitted.

Layton was not a beloved Canadian figure, he was a beloved media figure. Now he is to be portrayed in a television hagiography, and his widow by someone who professionally masturbates.

As I say, nice.

Michael Coren

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