We still don’t need Hollywood

Several years ago, a television show known as “Buckwild” aired on MTV showing the zany antics of a group of young West Virginians.

The “reality” show was promoted as showing the “wild” life of the state’s youth as they found various ways to have fun in their communities.

I was among those who didn’t like the idea out of concern it would spread some of the stereotypes we West Virginians have been trying to eliminate over the years; those of backwoods, uneducated hillbillies.

The show had some success, thanks in part to filling the timeslot previously assigned to “The Jersey Shore,” on MTV but its fanbase didn’t have the same national enthusiasm.

It was canceled after one of the cast members died from carbon monoxide poisoning and a string of minor controversies.

An attempted followup, set in Alaska, fared worse.

Since then, West Virginia has found ways to grow its image and showcase more of the state to others around the world. People see our natural beauty, our tourism opportunities, chances to invest in our economy.

In short, there is a lot of potential in West Virginia, and the rest of the world has finally caught on to what we have known for generations.

This past week, word came that one of the individuals involved in the creation of “Buckwild” wants to launch a new show with a similar idea.

“West Virginia Wilder,” according to preview footage shown as part of market testing, shows someone blowing up a car, another individual being shocked with jumper cables and other questionable actions by youth supposedly in the Mountain State.

So far, Viacom, the parent company of MTV, says it is not involved in the production.

Sen. Joe Manchin, according to an Associated Press article last week, also has spoken out against the production — as he did with “Buckwild” — saying the show is exploiting the state and its residents. He says there are other opportunities for the entertainment industry to showcase the real West Virginia.

I happen to agree.

The producer, who is a native of Morgantown, reportedly has said Manchin is just trying to get attention by coming out against the new show.

That could be true, also, but there comes a point where people need to start thinking about all of the effects of a “reality” show.

I used to watch shows like “Real World” during the early days of reality television. While there were a small number of people who would try to hunt down the houses used in each year’s production, the programs did little for the cities themselves.

It’s doubtful there would be a large demand from people wanting to come to West Virginia to visit people who clamp jumper cables onto their bodies or blow up motor vehicles.

Even if there was, is this really the example we want to set for the rest of the country?

Is this what we want people to think about West Virginia and West Virginians?

We have enough issues because of existing shows like “Mountain Monsters.”

We recently had some attention from Anthony Bourdain, who visited eastern and southern West Virginia for his current program, and it seemed to be a positive experience.

It shown a light on the lives of real West Virginians, discussing the state’s history and culture, some of the hopes and struggles.

We don’t need exploitative ideas from Hollywood, or New York, or wherever else the entertainment industry might crop up.

Coming to West Virginia for a television show or movie is fine. Many have done just that, including in the Ohio Valley, which has been used as the backdrop of various documentary and fictionalized programs and movies.

But if you are going to do something to promote the state and its people, actually show the state and its people…the reality of it all, not the “reality.”

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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