Overview: The fifth episode of VICE on HBO gives us three segments; one told by each of our correspondents. The first segment is MORMON LOST BOYS. In this piece we find that in today’s Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) Church, many young men have been thrown out of their homes because of edicts allowing polygamist church elders to monopolize all the eligible young girls. These “lost boys,” few of whom have even an 8th-grade education, must adjust to a drastically different America than the one they grew up in. We travel to Utah to meet some of these young men and listen to their harrowing stories.
The middle segment is called THE FAT FARMS OF MUARITANIA. Ironically, in one of the world’s poorest countries, obesity is a sign of beauty and wealth. In the West African country of Mauritania, parents send their daughters to rural fattening camps, where they are force-fed over 15,000 calories a day in camel milk, figs, oiled breadcrumbs and couscous. VICE sends its skinniest correspondent to one of these camps to examine the impact of force-feeding on young women in a society that loves them so plump.
The third segment shows us the MUMBAI SLUMSCRAPER. Nowhere in the world is the collision of caste and future more apparent than in Mumbai, where more than half its residents live in slums sprawled in the shadow of billion-dollar, single-family skyscrapers. VICE travels to Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, where over a million people live in abject poverty while billion-dollar single-family skyscrapers are being built on top of them.
Expectations: First off we should obviously expect short reports as this episode is broken down into thirds. Is that enough time to get a grasp of the issues and profiles shown? We’ll see. My perspective for this episode will focus on the episode’s subtitle: Winners and Losers. It is called that for a reason but, are the winners and losers so easily defined? Based on this episode’s preview I have formed opinions already. The young men of MORMON LOST BOYS are denounced from their society and abandoned & clueless it appears. The young ladies of the middle piece, FAT FARMS OF MAURITANIA, are bred into a cultural practice not of their choosing and India’s caste system, seen in MUMBAI SLUMSCRAPER, is irrevocable. So, they all seem losers to me. So, who are the winners? I guess it will take watching episode 05 to find out.
Review: You know, originally, I hoped that VICE was an hour program because I was so eager for the content. But now, after a few episodes, I find myself satisfied after that brief thirty minutes. Each segment is boiled down to concise words using just enough facts, history, interview and even a witty quip or two in just the right dosage to encapsulate the story. Just think of it as – too much of a good thing gives you a sensory overload. VICE gives it to you in a palpable amount.
I will say I don’t really like three stories in one episode because a story could get short-changed when it really warrants a deeper examination. More on that as I look at each segment closer starting with a trip to Utah, USA.
MORMON LOST BOYS reported by correspondent Ryan Duffy. You see, this one warrants a whole hour in my opinion. Ryan, pals up to some ostracized young men who were virile competition to the elder men and had twenty-minutes to pack up and leave the family for good. To make matters worse they are clueless to the ways of the mainstream and don’t even know if it is alright to masturbate. With little skills and small jobs they have a tough road ahead and it is all thanks to one man who is spending the rest of his life behind bars yet still managing to call the shots.
At first, it seems that these “lost boys” are also ‘”loser boys.” It has nothing to do with the fact they are from an LFDS community. Just the fact, regardless of background that they were part of a sheltered and protected home and they were shunned from it and lost their close family and siblings is enough to scream foul. It adds to the conflict that it is due to religious and unorthodox reasons, to be polite, that this situation has occurred. I’m not sure why I’m trying to be polite in that last sentence except that I don’t want to get into the whole cult thing ; BIG LOVE was nothing like this. It is for that reason that I agree with Ryan Duffy’s last comment in the piece. He states – “that these young men are far better off in exile” and that makes them WINNERS!
FAT FARMS OF MAURITANIA reported by correspondent Thomas Morton. Okay, now this piece was the right length. I don’t need to see little girls throwing up food they are forced to eat, or big ones for that matter. My main thought on this one, beyond the amusement I felt in seeing Thomas gorge himself to the point of bursting, was the misquoted societal practice here. There are more ways to show your wealth than plumbing up your females just to prove you have money. Maybe, the wealth could be expressed via the amount of gold your daughter is bedecked in or the number of camels you have parked outside? How about the size of your home or oasis or other amassed property? All I can say is that cultural differences such as this fattening process are what make this globe fascinating. Clearly, the suffering and the gravage practice itself make these women “LOSERS.” But, the hope is that in future Mauritania the cycle can be broken making for one less hardship to endure in this desert domain.
MUMBAI SLUMSCRAPER reported by Shane Smith. This piece offers little surprise as the caste system of India and the slums of Mumbai have been talked about for a long time. It is one of the most clear cut examples of the have and have-nots or, as they are called today, the 1% and the 99%. What makes this piece sell is the shots showing the close quarters the rich share with the poor. That imagery alone makes me ask who in the hell would build a billion dollar skyscraper facing the world’s worst slum? “We got all the amenities, honey and what a view and what an odor, huh?” Sadly, it will never change and the winners will keep on winning and the losers…well they can’t get much lower.
In Conclusion: There are many winners and losers but it is hard to get a black & white definition for each. I guess they are defined but whatever values you place in them. After all are we not winners for having VICE on HBO!