Eaton Centre, “Retail Rage in Toronto” (June 27, 2010)
At first I thought how there was a touch of the fairytale in this video. I saw it in the wild, fantastical desperation of this new hero of the people—demanding his rights, asking the questions that everyone else around him is probably wanting to ask.
The hero, in front of this Mordor of shopping (the Eaton Centre), demands not only that the gods let him in but that they give him an explanation: “Why are you closed? Tell us why you’re closed. Why? Tell us the reason. Why? Why? Why? I wanna go shopping in the Eaton Centre,” he screams rattling the doors.
In my fairytale version I imagined a giant diaphanous figure descending somewhere from the rooftop, slowly, gently, hovering in front of the hero, ready to listen to his woes. She’s a female god, a patron of shoppers, perhaps a bloated, helium-balloon version of Carrie Bradshaw. “What is that you search for, shopper?” In awe of her sparkly, moving form, he is mute for a moment. Then, in the staccato whisper, he says: “Why are you locking your doors to the public. Tell us the reason.”
In her soft, melodious voice, the goddess tells him about the G20 weekend, and the security measures, while gently steering him away from the glass door into the sunset of Dundas Square.
This is not what happens in real life. In real life the man rages on, frustrated, with empty bags. He wavers between telling the cameraman to fuck off and, in a mournful tone saying, as if, again, complaining to gods who won’t listen: “No, no, it’s closed. It’s closed.” His voice sounds child-like, pleading.
I wish someone would open the God damn door for him.
There are no dance remixes of this video yet. Anyone who’s ever heard Christian Bale’s freakout remix, knows, however, that “Who gave you the right? Who gave you the right? On what right do you exclude the population?” and “We want to shop!” just begs to be made into a nice techno number. And I’m sure, by the time this essay gets published there will be a couple of those. Maybe even mixed with snippits from Christian Bale’s on-set freakout.
While writing this, the original video got taken down. It’s possible that its creator felt guilty; it’s possible that like me, he laughed and let others laugh at it but then stalled, no longer comfortable with ignoring the fact that there’s something seriously wrong here. Maybe it was the tension of the city under siege, the freaky animal behaviours that Toronto witnessed during the G20 weekend that caused this man to snap? Maybe it was a mental illness manifesting itself, or maybe this shopping experience was the only thing he had come to rely on inside some kind of personal chaos?
I watched this video a few times to write down the dialogue and something struck me. Again, maybe I’m reading too much into it but it broke my heart a little to hear the man say, “Doesn’t anyone else care? It’s just a spectacle to you? It’s just funny?” and then let out this insane laugh. Then he says, “Let the police cut off my balls? I don’t mind because it’s the cops and they’re always right?”
What happened to this man? What is this deeply rooted mistrust of police? Is it based on a past experience? A bad experience? What exactly are we watching here?
I can’t help but think of another videotaped man of rage: Robert Dziekański at the Vancouver airport.
Vancouver Airport, “Robert Dziekański tasered by the RCMP” (14 October, 2007)
For this Polish immigrant, a freakout cost him his life. After a fifteen hour journey, he was kept by customs for ten hours, unable to speak with anyone (a translator was never provided). His mother, who was waiting to welcome her son to Canada, left the airport thinking he’d missed his flight. For whatever reason, he suddenly lost it and was tased to death.
Here are a few words from the transcript of the video:
“Dziekanski is pinned on the ground by four RCMP officers. He struggles, kicking his feet.
(Off Camera) It’s sad.
(O.C.) How is he still fighting them off?
(O.C.) He is still freaking out.
(O.C.) Nobody knows why.
(O.C.) He speaks Russian.
(O.C.) No rhyme or reason.
(O.C.) Prime footage for my home videos.”
– Jowita Bydlowska