There’s an argument that any references to heroin use in culture inevitably glamourises it. I recall there being a lot of debate about this around the time that Trainspotting was released in the cinemas.
My own view, and this might be coloured by my anti-censorship inclinations, is that while there may have been a bit of glamourisation, the film did also show the harrowing nature of heroin addiction. Overdoses, withdrawal symptoms, HIV transmission – they were all dealt with in gruesome detail. After watching Trainspotting, only a jaw-dropping imbecile would conclude that getting hooked on smack was in any way desirable.
Now let’s take a look at Vice – the magazine for jaw-dropping imbeciles.
We all know that pumping heroin into your veins turns you into a phenomenal artist. Basquiat? Cobain? Burroughs? Have you seen the shit they were putting out before they started using? Of course you have, because it was put on your high school syllabus to teach you that you’ll never be able to create real art without a smack habit. But one group of artists your school books might not have mentioned are the dealers who use their own graphics to beautify their heroin baggies. Kind of like acid tab art, I guess, only more sinister and likely to kill you.
Yes, this is indeed an article on “The Art of Heroin Bags”. No, I’m not kidding, I just wish I was.
The article is an interview with a blog author who chronicles the different decorations on heroin bags. The blogger describes this as an exercise in harm reduction (I’m not entirely convinced, but at least they’re making an effort) – the idea being that by knowing the different bags, an addict can avoid the dodgier mixes.
However, the Vice interview doesn’t seem to have much interest in harm reduction. More in cooing over the various designs like they’re a collection of Prada handbags.
My first thought on reading the article was to wonder if Vice are angling for some sort of Darwin Award.
My second thought was to think of the fictional Sugar Ape magazine from the 2005 comedy series Nathan Barley.
The series depicted a world of over-moneyed, technology-obsessed vacuous hipsters. Back in 2005 it came across as a bit too surreal, and did poorly in the ratings.
Nowadays, of course, if you were in certain suburbs of London or New York, you’d just think it was a documentary.