March 30, 2010

Vice:  Nunavut teens are drunk, depressed

Hipster web-rag’s depiction of Iqaluit irks local youth

“Nunavut teenhood, in a frozen and depressing nutshell”

By Chris Windeyer
Some young Iqalummiut are miffed at an American magazine article they call “very insensitive” to Iqaluit.

The story ran on the website of the New York-based hipster magazine Vice.

Entitled “Arctic Teenagers,” it’s basically a second-hand retelling of one girl’s experiences growing up here.

“What if it was -50C outside, booze and drugs are almost triple what they are in the rest of the country, and a bunch of your friends committed suicide because they got dumped?” the story reads. “That’s Nunavut teenhood, in a frozen and depressing nutshell.”

The piece also describes the smell of maktaq as “sweet, rotting, flesh-garbage” and claims that kids go snowboarding “in tank tops when it’s –35 C and get sunburned.”

Angnaluaaq ‘Tia’ Friesen, an 18-year old nursing student at Nunavut Arctic College, called the story “pretty insane.”

Friesen said the Vice story serves as an introduction to Nunavut for some southerners, and while the article has streaks of truth throughout, it’s insulting to imply that all teens ever do on weekends is get wasted.

“I’ve never been drunk,” Friesen said. “I’ve never been high.”

So Friesen’s started a Facebook group calling on Vice to pull the story. It’s attracted more than 130 members in under a week.
The original article:

Arctic Teenagers

Comment:  There's a fine line between "negative but accurate" and "too negative and therefore inaccurate." For instance, the Vice article says:Like most teenagers the goal on a Saturday night is to get fucked up. If you don’t have a cool older sibling who hooks you up then you’re pretty much on your own to find a way of getting wasted. A typical Saturday night in Iqaluit consists of wandering around looking for a party.Does that imply that all Native youths get drunk? Does it imply they're worse than non-Native youths? Hard to say.

The piece is focused on the negative and cultural insensitive. Since I haven't visited Iqaluit, I'll take Friesen's word that the portrait is unfair and "pretty insane." It carries a whiff of stereotyping: Natives as drunk, good-for-nothing, and uncivilized.

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