The Great American Road Trip is a much beloved cinematic trope. From the first time Jack Nicholson and his fellow Easy Riders got their motors running and headed down the highway, there’s been a grand tradition of the young, the reckless, the disillusioned and the brave setting off- as Simon & Garfunkel sang- to “look for America”.
Vice Does America, premiering on SBS Viceland on the 9th of February, follows in a similar style as three young journalists venture from west to east, from sea to shining sea. They’re conflicted about the country they love and are trying to stay hopeful for her future. In the meantime, they just want to try and understand her a bit better, figure out what makes her tick, why she’s hurting so badly and how, maybe, they can fix her.
Being three distinct minorities, Abdullah, Wilson and Martina know they’re in for some interesting times as they dive deep into 2016 America, a country (then) on the verge of electing Donald Trump, a country terrified of change, of progress, and of people who look different. But most road-trippers are young and fearless and that’s the case here as the three battle prejudice, discrimination, and downright stupidity in an attempt to understand why the US seems hell-bent on self-destruction.
Across seven episodes the three intrepid travellers take in the best- and worst- that the land of the free has to offer. From sunny California to the White House their trusty RV winds them through the heart of a very divided nation. They meet anti-government militia leader (and legit nutjob) Cliven Bundy and delve into America’s inexplicable love of guns.
They visit a marijuana farm in Colorado and get pretty damn high. Because they are serious journalists and they know that it’s important you thoroughly research the subject you’re investigating.
They then check out Mt Rushmore which, when they visited, looked like this:
But I believe now looks like this:
The trio go on to join the protesters at the Keystone pipeline. They also meet with creationists, wade into the complex waters of illegal immigration, and have a fairly serious encounter with some incredibly gung-ho Civil War re-enactors who seem pretty convinced African Americans were better off as slaves.
In other words, they’re criss-crossing the country and crossing off all the hot-button issues that the US went to the polls to debate last November.
They also go horse wrangling. Because, Texas.
Vice Does America is a seriously good watch for anyone with an interest in just how America got into the mess it’s in today. And while you might think you’ve put the no good/terrible/very bad year that was 2016 behind you and you’re not going there, think again: because every diabolical thing that was put in place then is playing out now and it might be a good thing to watch and reflect, take note of the signs and ensure it never, ever repeats itself.
If nothing else, it’s fun to remember a more innocent age when Ted Cruz was still just that creepy Gomez Addams impersonator and Donald Trump was just a ridiculous bragadocious joke - and America was still just, as Martina puts it, “A Crazy, Weird Place”. Not the (let’s face it) supremely messed up, impending dictatorship it now resembles.
Vice Does America begins on SBS Viceland on Thursday 9 February at 8:30pm