Northern Sights: A regular column of inaccurate observations and outright lies
Peeking while perched in your neighbour’s tree, you spot through a window your panting neighbour vigorously engaging in plyometrics. Perplexed, you proceed to watch for the entire 30 minutes of pain and perspiration. You like to watch, unnoticed with voyeuristic pleasure. Suddenly, this person perks up and you see, for the first time, this is your cousin.
Sexy, right? Depends on the cousin. Incest has been an erotic taboo throughout all of recorded history, but in modern times there is no place where it is more present and permeating than Iceland.
Reality TV has profited largely off of peoples’ persistent desire to peer. It’s one of the two art forms created in America: reality television and advertising (though it could be argued that reality TV is a possible subset of advertising, an allotted time for plugs and promotions). Reality TV is painstakingly American—persisting metaphorically since its founding—and is based on the polyethnicity of its cities. People from around the world searching for purse or purpose moved to america and, in that cultural Pangaea, neighbours passed judgement on each other with pious glee: “Hey, look at those guys!”
That’s how reality TV works in America. They watch strangers pound, punch, plough, poke, prod, and play with each other—passing the time between their pre-cooked dinner and their pre-sex pep talk in the bathroom mirror. They don’t know these people, personally. They probably wouldn’t want to.
In Iceland, you probably know them and there is a pretty good chance you’re related to them. When I pitched this problem here at the Grapevine, one of the editors asked, “Would you like to interview one of the previous contestants? I know him.” Perfect.
That’s where the eroticism piles on. Painting over the simple fetish of voyeurism with a polishing coat of familiar sexual tension, Les Cousins Dangereux. It’s like your first post-puberty family party, and the older-cousins are passing a pinner on the back porch—piquing your interest and permitting your more questionable proclivities to present themselves. To be more prototypically Icelandic, it’s like your first country dance or the first time you come into downtown Reykjavík to get publicly pissed and picked up (Don’t worry! They have an APP for that).
Iceland’s Biggest Loser is the personification of this double-whammy perversion: two pretty people punish a poor pig with a penchant for potato chips, with all of us back at home pretending to be less pitiful (I like to watch wearing workout clothing and then change back into my pyjamas). Everyone, including all his relatives, watches him puff and pant in unflattering pictures of physical duress, like a Facebook profile with public privacy settings. It’s the present-day version of a public flogging (sorry Saudi Arabia) except every time he shows up to the whipping post, he’s a bit sexier, penance porn. By the end of the season, we’re like proud parents.
I realize this whole article will be awkward reading for my relatives. Also, I promise to tear the P-pages from my pocket dictionary. Please leave all comments in the form of a Haiku.
I moved to Iceland to get away from my friends and family. I don’t hate them, but I was beginning to think they were stopping me from reaching my full potential. My friends were always showing up at my house and forcing me to have fun. My family was always concerning themselves with my welfare and life choices. I needed, much like Superman, a fortress of solitude, a place far from Canada and, preferably, warmer.
Iceland seemed to be the perfect place. I would be able, much like Superman, to study the history of my adopted ancestors—I’m not Icelandic, but I’m tall and drink like a Viking—and carve out my destiny.
This is my journal.
York Underwood is a journalist, writer and comedian from Canada. He’s currently living in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, next to a fisheries’ ice house. He’s also trying to learn Icelandic. He makes poor decisions.
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