An article running on the Huffington Post Canada has been making the rounds in the fallout of the Jian Ghomeshi story. The article includes excerpts of a piece written in 1992 by Naomi Klein and has been posted to Facebook by Mick Sweetman, chair of the board of directors of Canadian University Press. Featured below is Klein's article, a woman whose observations and skewers of Ghomeshi and his Moxy Fruvous group are strikingly prescient given the last several days:
Dr. Seuss, Fruvous, the CBC and you
The Varsity confronts Moxy's sober and sobering acappella satire
Published, Oct. 5, 1992 in The Varsity newspaper (University of Toronto)
By Naomi Klein
For ethical reasons, I will begin by admitting that my motives for interviewing Moxy Fruvous were less than pure. Truth be told, it was more of a vendetta than an interview. I think my feelings are best explained in verse — Fruvous-style.
I don't like them that's the key, I do not like them on the CBC.
I do not like them on a stage, I do not like them on a newspaper page.
I would not listen to them on the air, I would not marvel at their flowing hair.
I would not, could not, don't you see? I do not like them, so just let me be.
I do not like their faux-politics. I've had enough of that Moxy-schtick.
I do not like them at a pro-choice rally, I do not want to meet them in an alley.
I do not like their P.C. ham, I hate them hate them, Sam I am.
Moxy Fruvous, in case you have been frozen in time, is the latest brand of nursery school all-Canadian rock. Healthy, squeaky clean and painfully well groomed, this semi-acappella band's cartoonish quality recalls an all-male Josie and the Pussycats.
Why this level of hostility? For starters, there was a period this summer when I seemed unable to turn on the radio, see a band that I do like, or even walk down the street without being assaulted by the friendly sounds of Fruvous. The most disturbing occasions were: a benefit for the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics where Moxy Fruvous upstaged Morgentaler, the opening of Molson Place which was billed only as Holly Cole but featured a surprise cameo by, you guessed it, Moxy Fruvous, and the Toronto Star picket line where the boys entertained the workers with lyrics even cheesier than the paper's Lifesection. They were tailing me. I swear it.
Although I had already heard Moxy Fruvous' headline-rhymes several times on CBC radio, I was still taken aback when, on one somber morning following the Toronto riot, I turned on CBC's Sunday Morning only to hear the boys cooing a Dr. Seuss condemnation of police brutality. Where were you when...
Predisposition aside, I still believe that I went into the interview with an open heart and an objective mind. I even started with a joke to put the band at ease. The pre-interview press material included a Toronto Star article which opened with the warning that if there is one thing the Fruvous boys hate, it is the description that they are the "Nylons-meet-Barenaked ladies."
"So, you guys are like the Nylons-meet-the Barenaked Ladies, right?" I said as I sat down with the four band members last July. My remark was met with stony stares and sulky glances. I then spent the next 10 minutes backpedaling, trying to explain irony to a group which bills itself as political satirists. Yikes, this was not going well.
In the words of band member Mike Ford, Moxy takes satire mighty seriously. "Our job as satirists is to discover the irony inherent in the issue or with a public perception that is off." Well then, as the self -proclaimed satirist of these satirists, the irony in these political humorists is that they are neither effectively political not particularly humorous.
Their lyrics, which tackle issues ranging from cross border shopping to Harbourfront development to the Gulf War, are hit-you-over-the-head-we're-so-sensitive political, while their presentation, which includes stupid hats, improv troop antics and mime, is goofy slapstick. They coat their pill with jam and thus make themselves easy for the likes of Peter Gzowski to swallow. Fruvous—which writes to order for the CBC—is pureMorningside.
Moxy member and former president of the York Federation of Students Jean Ghomeshi disagrees: "I think there are some really great messages in these lyrics that I'm very proud of. It's a pop medium but it has its message. As long as we can play the kind of things we want, we are using Moxy Fruvous to help the causes."
A pet cause is the pro-choice movement. Ghomeshi sports an OCAC t-shirt and boasts that they played a rally and a benefit. I know, I was there. At the benefit in question, the crowd separated into two factions: those who thought these cheesy white boys should get the hell off stage and those who thought these sensitive young men should be commended for bringing the cause to the mainstream — and for having great hair. There's the Toronto left for you.
David Matheson, who plays Sam in "Green Eggs and Ham", is less convincing. Asked if they cater their politics to their medium, Matheson admits "We're not going to write something they are going to freak out over."
Levelheadedness, is perhaps not the most sought-after quality one looks for in a rock band. But then they're not really a rock band, are they? The Fruvous-phenomenon, however, is not something you can just chalk-up to Paul Mitchell. Their fans span a hugely wide age-range from swooning underaged drinkers to crotchety CBC fans with opera glasses. It cannot be denied that Moxy Fruvous is appealing to something. But what? Ghomeshi puts forward one theory:
"The reason people like what we do is that there are so few young people doing political satire. When we played Voice of Women we were symbols of young progressive males. That gives them hope for the future."
So why do I feel this sense of impending doom? Slick and sanitized, Moxy Fruvous is not the only Canadian pop band to emerge that clearly goes to bed before 9:00 and won' t make the decent gesture of returning hero-worship with self abuse. Not only don't these guys drink alcohol, you'd be hard pressed to catch them drinking tap water.
On a hot night last summer, band member Murray Foster bounced into a bar where he was playing later that evening munching a green pepper.
They will eat green peppers in a bar, they will eat green peppers in a car, eat them eat them, you may go far....