An apology to the country of Iceland for my Mighty Ducks inspired prejudice
I’ve had a lot of posts on this blog talking about the racism and sexism hidden in our pop culture. In each of those posts, I’ve called on our society to do better and actively work against these prejudices. We all are guilty of it in some way and I am no exception. Now it’s time for me to look in the mirror and call out my own shortcomings.
I’d like to take this time to publicly apologize to the country of Iceland. For much of my life, I’ve been led to believe a series of lies about the country’s people, culture and climate. I take fully responsibility for any negative comments I have made about them in the past and I will work to actively fight against the spread of prejudicial talk against them in the future, starting with this blog post.
The origin of it all
I don’t believe that people are born with prejudice. I believe that we are all blank slates at birth and our surroundings influence how we see the world. For me, a huge influence on how I see the world is pop culture, specifically movies. As we all know, pop culture is not free from prejudice and can have a tremendous impact on how we, as a society, view people, places and things.
In 1994 a movie came out that was my first, and for a long time only, exposure to the country of Iceland. This shamefully racist film, hidden under the guise of a family movie, portrayed the Icelandic as the antithesis of our “American” values. They portrayed the Icelandic as soulless, arrogant, elitist people that looked down on the rest of the world for no apparent reason. This film, through its demonetization of a not well known country, was not only was unfair, it also negatively influenced the perspective of a whole generation of American youth. What was the name of this sinister movie? D2: The Mighty Ducks.
Like many prejudices, my opinions of the Icelandic people aren’t based on any personal experiences but rather from a fictional portrayal of the country that isn’t based in fact.
In the movie, the Icelandic team is unrealistically portrayed as a bunch of tall, blonde, super-athletes that pay the game with meticulous efficiency. I’m just going to call it like I see it. You can’t tell me you don’t think Nazis the first time you look at this group. I’m not sure what Icelandic accents sounds like but whatever they were speaking in the movie sounded German-ish to me. To further portray them as bad guys, their uniforms were unnecessarily made black. An interesting decision considering the Icelandic flag is blue, white and red. Finally, the Iceland team are assumed to be dirty players when they just play a physical games that is totally within the rules of hockey. Yes one of their players slashes (in the hockey sense) the star US player’s wrist but that’s no worse than some of the things the US team’s Bash Brothers do in the film. Like when Dean Portman assaulted a referee and got ejected from the game all within the first thirty seconds of the contest.
Like other prejudices, the actions of a couple of (fake) people shouldn’t define a whole team or country. Iceland is just a better coached team than the US, no need to frame them as cheating, ice Nazis.
Speaking of the coaching, Iceland’s coach Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson, is the main vehicle for spreading these prejudicial lies about the great county of Iceland. You see, prejudice isn’t always based in personal experience. It’s usually spread because of one person, or in this case a fictional character’s, actions are then assumed to be the characteristics for the rest of his or her people. Stansson is basically a sociopath that knows how to play hockey. He was in the NHL for a year but was kicked out after punching his coach. When playing Gordon Bombay later on in the movie, Stansson intentionally targets Coach Bombay’s injured knee in order not to lose. Obviously this is a great ambassador for Iceland. He would surly be the country’s pick to carry the flag at the next Olympics.
Fortunately, as the internet allows us to expand our worldview, I was able to see the errors of my anti-Icelandic ways and have my prejudices erased. How did I do this? Oddly enough, it started with the Icelandic band, Of Monsters and Men.
I first heard “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men back in 2012. Like with any song that catches my ear, I decide to look up the group who sang it. In my research (just a Wikipedia page scan) I learned that this group was Icelandic. Look at them, a far cry from the Aryan Brotherhood that was the cinematic Icelandic team. So I thought, “ How could a group that made a folksy song like “Little Talks” be evil? Maybe there’s more to Iceland than what I saw in D2.
This was the frist step I took in a journey that would totally transform how I looked at this country in the North Atlantic ocean. Since hearing that song, I have discovered the following cool, positive facts about Iceland and it’s people. For instance:
- Many Icelandic people are good at lifting heavy things and putting them down. As a person that trains for powerlifting, I think this is awesome. Iceland has produced some of the best Strongmen athletes in the world including Magnús Ver Magnússon (what a name) and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson known as “The Mountain” in Game of Thrones. In addition to Strongman, there is also a disproportionate amount of Icelandic athletes at the top of the Crossfit rankings. I’m talking about half the list sometimes.
- Iceland actually has a pretty temperate climate. Yes in the summer the average high only gets up to about 60, but in the winter the average monthly low doesn’t dip under 20. As someone who has spent most of his life in Chicago and Upstate New York, let me tell you that that is a very mild winter by Yankee standards.
- The way people get their last names is awesome! Some people take their father’s name and add “son” or “dotter” at the end depending on their gender. So if anybody has a name like Hanson or Erickson, you can assume they had a father named Has and Erik respectively. This leads to awesome names like Icelandic Crossfit champion Anne Thorisdottir (Thor’s Daughter).
- Iceland is not a barren, frozen wasteland. It’s beautiful (the movie did mention this). Also it’s a pretty cheap international vacation option.
When it comes to prejudice and bias, the real enemy isn’t humans, it’s human nature. When presented with something new, we automatically assume that whatever we first observed applies in all situations unless proven otherwise. While this may be OK in the areas of science and math, this type of thinking is also what leads to prejudices against any number of minorities in our society. If Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs is your only example of anyone from the LGBTQ community, it makes sense why you may think homosexual’s rights shouldn’t be respected.
It’s important to be aware of our attitudes towards things we dislike. Is that opinion based on facts and multiple direct experiences? Or is it based on something we heard or experienced just once? Today, we live in a globalized world where ignorance should never be an excuse. Make sure you know all sides of a story before drawing conclusions.
So with that being said, I want to apologize to the country of Iceland and all the Icelandic people out there. You are not what the Disney company makes you out to be. I guess Ice really is nice. Unlike those bastards from Greenland.