There’s a certain image associated with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: a barren, snow-covered tundra populated by approximately1.3 hicks per square mile. It’s a stereotype that most native Yoopers have to deal with upon their arrival at the University.

Jessica Boullion
(Courtesy of Sundance)

“You’re from the U.P.? Do you, like, brush your teeth with beer?”

After spending 18 years of my life up there, I’ve never killed a deer or driven a truck, and I hadn’t touched beer until two months after I moved to Ann Arbor. That’s why it’s so frustrating to watch “Nimrod Nation,” the Sundance Channel’s new reality show about Watersmeet and the town’s high school basketball team. The show implies that all Yoopers are complete hillbillies.

The show itself is dreadfully boring. Even though at face value it’s about the Watersmeet High School basketball team – purportedly the best team in the history of the school – the show is really concerned with the impact the Nimrods have on their hometown. Nearly every person wears a “Watersmeet” or “Nimrod Nation” sweatshirt in every scene, which doesn’t exactly dispel the stereotype that Yoopers don’t wash their clothes.

After the previous year’s run, Watersmeet is eager to begin a new basketball season with a team that promises to be good. The pilot documents the first game against rival-town Bessmer, which ends with disappointment for the Nimrod faithful. It’s oddly funny to watch the disappointed faces of the crowd as the town grasps the trivial realities of their team’s loss.

The main problem with the show lies in how the citizens of Watersmeet are portrayed. In half an hour, there wasn’t anything very intelligent said; Watersmeet teenagers spend their free time shooting things on the weekend and swearing at each other. It’s all pretty embarrassing. The show’s producers are also quick to focus on the characters’ verbal slips. It just sends the message that Yoopers are idiots.

It’s also possible Watersmeet citizens are playing up the stereotypes to be more entertaining. If that’s the case, not only is it not working, it’s selling out a region of people for ratings.

Some will invariably disagree and find the program an accurate depiction of Yooper life. I’ve spoken to a number of them, both current residents and University students, and some, instead of being ashamed by the show, say Yoopers should resign to how the “majority” of them act.

There may be boorish people in the Upper Peninsula, but there are also artists, scholars, musicians and even people who read books! But “Nimrod Nation” doesn’t show these people much. Instead, the viewer is led to believe that everyone who lives there often stares vacantly into space or actually believes an asteroid hit Canada and created the U.P.’s atmosphere – which isn’t entirely the fault of the producers. The word “everyone” is thrown around too often, and the people act cartoonishly.

There will always be stereotypes about the Upper Peninsula, just like any other region of the United States. What needs to change is the audience’s ability to separate what’s real from what’s edited. Hopefully, viewers of “Nimrod Nation” will realize that although ignorant Yoopers do exist, there are still a great number of articulate, intelligent people who don’t always wear orange hunting caps.

Nimrod Nation

Mondays at 9 p.m.


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