Speedman, Trudeau, and the Place of Dreams

October 18, 2012

National Magazine award-winner Kaitlin Fontana is regular contributor to Hazlitt, where she writes, among other things, the Venn Again column. Her...

Venn again, sometimes two seemingly unrelated things are actually closer than we thought.

There is a lot happening in culture right now to make me reconsider that awkward-but-also-awesome era between the ages of 14-18 (well…more like 12 and 18. Nine and 18? Jeez). No Doubt and Green Day have new albums, I’m getting neck zits again, and Scott Speedman is back on TV. Who, you may ask, if you’re male, is Scott Speedman? I will, in response, shoot you a look, and then walk away haughtily and tell a female instead. She will let out a heavy sigh, tinged with a little bit of lust, and look into the distance in that way people do when they’re looking into their past. “Oh, Scott Speedman,” she will purr, and her eyes will turn into hearts like on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? “I have missed him.” I will then turn to the male and say, “That is the appropriate reaction to this news.”

For the uninitiated (read, as above: male), Scott Speedman* is a Canadian actor who, in the 90s, was cast as the Helen of Troy of dudes opposite the amazing Keri Russell in Felicity, JJ Abrams’ first TV show. In the show, Speedman’s awesomeness is so potent that Felicity dumps a chance at Stanford pre-med to follow him across country to New York. This makes her sound dumb and lame, but it’s actually the best thing ever for her and him and life as a general concept. And the show is so good, and Speedman makes you feel so funny inside, all the time. Watch it, if you haven’t, and then we can be friends again.

Naturally, when Speedman’s face started to appear on ads for his new show Last Resort, I got excited. He would be back on TV! This time as a member of the US military, wearing tight-ass clothes and looking fan-fucking-tastic striding around doing action-y stuff on a submarine. Sure, he’s made movies in the interim (notably the Underworld series), but Speedman on TV is like a nostalgia IV drip to us late-20s ladies that watched him every week between 1998-2002. It just feels right. Familiar.

The same might be said of the reappearance of the Trudeau name across Canadian politics. Justin Trudeau is, as of this writing, confirmed to run for the Liberal party leadership spot. He’ll probably get it, too. We, of course, knew this was coming. We just didn’t know when the handsome and charismatic son of our favourite PM would make his power play. And furthermore, when the Liberal party nearly perished in the last federal election, we weren’t sure he’d get his chance to impress us at all.

But it turns out that was the perfect opportunity to summon a Trudeau forth—too early, perhaps? Time will tell. But who better than to remind us of the collective romantic yearnings of our past as a nation? When Trudeau the elder graced us with his presence, we were an adolescent country, romantically leaning, desperate to fall in love and looking for somewhere to moor our hopes. Ditto for 90s teen girls and Speedman—if smart, capable Felicity could lose it all for Speedman’s character Ben Covington, why couldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we?

I’ll tell you why—because, as Felicity discovered (spoiler alert!), it wasn’t about Ben. It was about her. As she often told her friend Sally Reardon on the narrative devices—sorry, audiotapes—she sent home, she had really been looking for an excuse to find herself, and he was it. It’s super easy to invest ourselves in the handsome, breezy men around us. It’s harder to figure out how we got to where we are and became the people we became, both as women (don’t I know it!), and as a nation.

It’s also dangerous to invest in a Speedman or a Trudeau blindly, simply because they offered us a place to store our dreams in the past. It’s oh-so-nice to see Speedman on TV again, but after a few episodes I have to say—the show he’s on is not great. I probably won’t watch it (at least, not with the sound on…zing!). And Trudeau, well…he’s a good-looking fella, and he raises, on occasion, a nice political stink in a sly way not unlike his dad. But can he save Canada? Most likely not…no one person can do that for us. In short: His show might suck, too.

The lesson is to not let a pretty face be our undoing, no matter how pretty. Let’s pay attention, shall we? In the meantime, I am going to go back and rewatch Felicity, because…Scott Speedman, you guys.

*Fun fact: Speedman got his first audition, for Batman Forever, by making a pitch for himself on Speaker’s Corner. Seriously. The part went to Chris O’Donnell.

National Magazine award-winner Kaitlin Fontana is regular contributor to Hazlitt, where she writes, among other things, the Venn Again column. Her work has appeared in The Walrus, Maisonneuve, Event, SPIN, RollingStone.com, and CBC Music. Last year she published her first book, Fresh at Twenty: The Oral History of Mint Records (ECW Press). Kaitlin is also a comedian; recently, she was named one of the funniest people in Vancouver by WE, so she left. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.