Thursday, January 3, 2013

Slinging mud at Appalachia

The New York Times reported yesterday on a new reality show on MTV, "Buckwild," which has gotten under the skin of West Virginians, even though it has yet to debut.  The series will fill the slot being vacated by "Jersey Shore," which ran its last episode in late December 2012.  Like "Jersey Shore," the series is eliciting protest because of its "exploitation of broad cultural stereotypes," including "young people prone to fighting, swearing, careening in all-terrain vehicles and wallowing, scantily clad, in the mud."  Trip Gabriel's story, dateline Charleston, West Virginia, quotes several folks from that corner of America, including U.S. Senator and former governor, Joe Manchin:
“It doesn’t help the lousy reputation we already have,” said Greg Samms, 31, a dishwasher on a break at the Charleston Town Center mall. “You go west of Ohio, west of Kentucky — people think we’re hillbillies. 
Kent Carper, the president of the Kanawha County Commission here, said dryly, “Some folks in West Virginia wear shoes, believe it or not.” 
Based on a two-minute trailer that MTV has released online, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, labeled the show a “travesty” and called on MTV to cancel it. “This show plays to ugly, inaccurate stereotypes about the people of West Virginia,” Mr. Manchin wrote in a letter last month to Stephen K. Friedman, MTV’s president. 
He accused the show’s producers of egging on a cast between ages 19 and 24 to misbehave for the sake of ratings. “You preyed on young people, coaxed them into displaying shameful behavior — and now you are profiting from it,” Mr. Manchin wrote. “That is just wrong.”
* * * 
The tone of “Buckwild” is set by the saucy drawl of a cast member that is heard in the trailer. “West Virginia is a place founded on freedom. For me and my friends, that means the freedom to do whatever” we want, she says, adding an expletive. 
The trailer cuts to shots of a young woman throwing a drink can at another’s face, a young man running nude, and a fiery explosion. There are stunts involving earthmoving equipment, body licking and necking. 
“I have this rule,” says one young woman in the nine-member cast. “If a guy can’t rotate my tires and change my oil at least, we’re just not going to work.”
Earlier posts about depictions of rurality in television are here, here and here.

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