Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Redefining Toronto, the "Screwface" Capital

It is time to eradicate the use of "Screwface Capital" in reference to the city of Toronto.

The power of a great brand is undeniable, which is why I do not understand why so many have adopted and perpetuated the use of "Screwface Capital" to define a city that they love, and represent proudly to the world.

Screwface by definition:
-a mean face
-a dirty look
-an ice grill
-to gawk
-to scowl
-deeply pissed off
-highly intoxicated
-a dirty or inappropriate facial expression
-revealing nothing

As a brand/nickname, "Screwface Capital" is definitely memorable...but is it favourable? Hardly. To say that we believe we are the "Screwface Capital" is to say that we don't think much of ourselves.

Canadians in general have always struggled with defining our identity. Defining our culture and our people in relation to the Americans, in relation to the British, and accurately reflecting what we believe about ourselves.

To promote the fact that we as Canadians believe ourselves to be "hard" and "tough people to please" and the capital of all things cruel and evil, says more about how we feel about others than we feel about ourselves. And we all know that happy confident people have NO reason to screw up their faces, or hate on other people.

What are we so mad about? That we're not getting the recognition we deserve, internationally? Because that seems to the neverending Canadian sob story whether it's signing a record deal, winning a sporting title, or proving (to who?) that we are worthy of...something.

A lot of the trouble is based on the fact that we as Canadians often collectively worry so much about what the "other" is thinking about us, that we rarely focus on what we think about ourselves.

The Juno Awards are coming up this weekend, for example. Does anyone give a s***? Probably not. Why, because we don't have the same level of entertainment present that they do on the Grammy's or AMA's? Because the Juno's do not accurately reflect Canadian music?

There are always 101 excuses as to why we as Canadians do not want to support what is Canadian.

But we'll support a wack nickname...!?

While we're hating on each other and mean-grilling on the streets, here's what other cities around the world are saying about themselves (most cities have a few nicknames; I've chosen one to illustrate):

NEW YORK CITY - The Big Apple
LAS VEGAS - Sin City
NEW ORLEANS - The Big Easy
DETROIT - Motor Town
CHICAGO - The Windy City
BOSTON - Beantown
ATLANTA - Hotlanta
PARIS - The City of Love
JERUSALEM - The City of Peace
HONG KONG - The Pearl of the Orient

In fact, here is what other CANADIAN cities are saying about themselves, which leads me to believe that a lot of the attitude and resistance resides right here in our city:

CALGARY - The Heart of the New West
EDMONTON - The City of Champions
WINNIPEG - Winterpeg

And here are the few nicknames that Toronto has received. Most are based on the actual word "Toronto" rather than the spirit or nature of our city:

TORONTO - Hogtown, T.O., T-Dot-O-Dot, T-Dot, Queen City..."SCREWFACE CAPITAL"

Being the capital of angriness is nothing to brag about. That's like being proud of sulking, wining, complaining, and badmind. And if we're using this term to front to "others" about how hardcore Toronto is, it seems to be an unnecessary exercise in false promotion.

The hip hop community in particular has adopted this phrasing, but I find it ironic that some of the biggest hip hop stars to come out of Toronto (e.g. Maestro, Kardi, Drake) had nothing "Screwface" about them. Drake's demeanor is actually quite pleasant, Kardi is always smiling and enjoying life, and Maestro was all about getting the people to dance and have a good time.

What are we trying to prove?

Telling others that you're hard and miserable is hardly a helpful strategy to get people to believe, invest, and support what comes out of the city.

To continue to pretend that Toronto is super-hard is like a contradiction. There are too many faces, too many experiences, and too many stories and cultures in this city to act like we're all scowling all the time.

It's time Toronto redefines the face that we are presenting to ourselves (first and foremost) and then worry about the face we are presenting to the world. This means we have to stop giving EACH OTHER the "Screwface" and learn how to show support, and patience, and actual kindness and empathy for our sisters and brothers who are also trying to get ahead in life.

The "Screwface" has got to go, literally, and figuratively. Creating a culture of respect and support will go a lot further and be beneficial to everyone. The days of pretending that Toronto is something it's not, or perpetrating a myth that we don't even believe ourselves is over.

Lose the mean mug, and smile already!

What is the REAL definition of Toronto? Someone needs to step up and define what we're really all about. I think we'll be surprised how much the truth will catch on, and allow us all to progress.

Don't get me wrong, I love my city, and I love the people in it, regardless. My collection of stories, the "Urban Toronto Tales," highlights the experiences of love, life, and relationships in the city of Toronto. Please visit for more details and order info.


  1. I never knew that was a nickname for Toronto. That's awful! :S

  2. We're trying to change that name too! Recognize a friend for their Act of Sweetness and win VIP tickets to the Tall Ships Festival in Toronto! for all the details.

  3. I guess I should stop selling these tshirts then.. :P

  4. Toronto is the Centre of the Universe.

    That is all.

  5. Ride the TTC... Walk through Dundas square or the Eaton center... Hoof it around the Entertainment district past the wall of homeless people. Dodge a dozen beggars as you travel to and from Union. Pull your hood up as you slip into the shadows at Jane and Finch or Sherbourne and Dundas. Toronto is not the Screwface Capitol by choice. It's a necessity. It's not a Canadian thing.. its a Toronto thing.

  6. The screwface is a gawd damn awesome name fools