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Escaping Alaska- Another tired racist premise

Please take a minute to read this excellent take down on ICTM on the new TLC show that focuses on Alaskan Natives who are leaving their small towns. This program is all sorts of problematic and should be avoided and if possible please write in to complain about it. Here's some key tidbits from the news article, but please take a minute to read the whole thing.

Escaping Alaskaalready has problems: The whole setup is contrived, and depends on the premise that leaving their culture and family is (as Nuala says in the clip above) "considered treason". The show's description at the TLC website says "Leaving an Inuit community for any earthly reason is the ultimate sin, so our cast members are lying about their true intentions, telling their community that they are going on a cultural/religious mission, and thus committing the highest treason." Facebook commenters have already seized upon this premise as utterly false, saying that young Alaska Natives leave home all the time. The notion of "shunning" may have been borrowed from Breaking Amish.

This is all supposed to be funny. Is it? And if these young people aren't as naive as the Amish, there is arguably something disturbing about the expectation that viewers will smirk at them because of their race, rather than their religion.

We can't help but recall a scene inNanook of the North, the 1922 "documentary" film about the life of an Alaska Native. Visiting the "Trade Post of the White Man," Nanook marvels at a gramophone. The trader attempts to explain how it works, then hands a record to Nanook, who bites it. The scene was staged; Nanook (not his real name) had seen a gramophone before, and only put the record in his mouth because the film's director told him to.

Despite coming from "Eskimo" villages, the five of them have a pretty good command of American pop culture. They don't seem to be any less informed about life in San Diego than, say, white kids from rural Kansas. But we're pretty sure a show about white kids from rural Kansas living in San Diego wouldn't have made the TLC cut. Not funny enough.

Illustration for article titled Escaping Alaska- Another tired racist premise

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