Dirty Money: Is Canada’s New $20 Bill ‘Pornographic’?

As a bonus, the controversial currency also evokes the Twin Towers.

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What do you get when you put topless women and an image that looks like the Twin Towers on a Canadian $20 dollar bill? A lot of controversy.

The newly redesigned $20 bill was unveiled by the Bank of Canada in Ottawa last week, according to the Daily Mail. The revamped bill — the most counterfeited Canadian tender in circulation — is manufactured from a high-tech polymer and boasts a difficult-to-copy design that’s supposed to make it much more difficult to produce.

If only someone had taken a closer look at what the new design actually was. While it features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II  (Canada is a commonwealth country, don’t forget), it also carries a reproduction of the National Vimy Memorial. There are a couple problems here: for one thing, the Vimy Memorial, created to honor Canadian servicemembers who lost their lives during World War I, is not the most recognizable of  national symbols. “I’ve never seen this monument, ever,” said one Vancouver participant in a Bank of Canada focus group on the bill.

For another, it also happens to be in France: the memorial rises 120 feet over the Douai Plain, near the battlefields where more than 7,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives.

But the biggest problem may be that the Vimy’s double-columned design, draped with semi-clad classical figures, manages to evoke both the ill-fated Twin Towers of New York City and softcore porn. “When you quickly glance at it, and if I didn’t know any better, it looks like the Twin Towers,” one focus group participant said, according to documents from Toronto market research firm The Strategic Council obtained by Canadian broadcaster CTV News. Critics called special attention to the figures draped revealingly across the top of the monument, meant to represent Justice and Peace. “It’s too pornographic,” a cash handler in Toronto told researchers. “What is the woman on the top holding?”

Many people were also critical of the war and military theme of the bill.

“Given the climate domestically and around the world, I wonder if war is too much of a statement. . . . Canada used to have the label of peacekeeper,”  a focus group participant from Halifax said to CTV.

This isn’t the first time Canada’s currency has evoked controversy. Similar focus groups were conducted for the polymer versions of the redesigned $100 and $50 bills that are already in use. Many people in the focus group mistook the DNA strand featured on the $100 bill for a sex toy. Others thought the see-through windows on the bills resembled the contours of a woman’s body. Who knew money notes could be so risque?

The $20 notes will go into circulation in November. New $5 and $10 bills will be issued by the end of 2013, according to the Bank of Canada.

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