Network has an opportunity
Some West Virginians are annoyed by the “reality television” show “Buckwild” because they say it provides a national audience for negative portrayals of Mountain State residents. Apparently that appeals to many television viewers; “Buckwild” has been renewed for a second season. It turns out some of the off-camera life of a “Buckwild” star hits disturbingly close to home.
Nine young West Virginians living in the Sissonville-Charleston area are the stars of “Buckwild.” Their antics, often fueled by alcohol, are the meat of the program.
But one of them, Salwa Amin, 24, was behind bars for real this week. Caught in a law enforcement raid on a home in Summersville, she was charged with two counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. The charges are felonies. Police said they found oxycodone and heroin at the home, where two other people also were arrested. Amin is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, of course. But the real-life episode involving her is a microcosm of a problem occurring throughout West Virginia – and it is no laughing matter.
Our state has among the highest, if not the highest, drug overdose death rates in the nation. In some regions of West Virginia, it is difficult for businesses to find new employees capable of passing drug tests. Overcrowding in our prisons is due largely to drug-related crime.
So Amin’s arrest was really nothing unusual for law enforcement authorities. Young people are taken into custody for drug offenses all the time.
MTV, the network that airs “Buckwild,” had no immediate comment on Amin’s arrest when an Associated Press reporter inquired. In view of the philosophy the show business world has about alcohol and drug abuse, the thought first occurring to network officials probably is how the situation will affect the show’s ratings.
Given the attitude many television viewers have, it is a safe bet “Buckwild” ratings will soar. Meanwhile, the drug abuse plague continues in West Virginia. More people will die, more people will be victims of drug-related crime and more people will find their lives ruined because of it. And if drug abuse is glamorized or excused by the entertainment industry, more young West Virginians will fall prey to the plague.
So what will MTV do about “Buckwild?” Will the network rework the series for next season in an attempt to show the raw, vicious truth about drug abuse? Or will the show’s producers simply continue to exploit Mountain State residents?
There is an opportunity to do good here, if MTV will take it. Stay tuned.