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'Entertainment' needs to be balanced

December 9, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin sent a letter to the head of MTV asking him not to air the upcoming show "Buckwild" on the network.

The show is set to follow a group of young West Virginia residents (teens or young adults) and apparently shows them running around, doing various activities like rope swinging, mud bogging and squirrel hunting, as well as a few that are probably a bit more dangerous.

Manchin feels the program will help to further the backwoods stereotypes of West Virginia, without showing some of the more modern aspects of the state.

I do understand the Senator's concern, and share it to a degree.

West Virginia is full of hardworking individuals who dedicate themselves to making a better life for themselves and their families. We have a proud tradition of men and women stepping up to defend this nation. We are working to provide a variety of jobs, from manufacturing to technology and retail. We don't all sit around wearing overalls and stitched together clothing with no shoes.

Is the show only going to focus on these kids running around, playing, jumping off things and otherwise acting wild and crazy? Is it going to show other aspects of their lives? Will it show some of the good in West Virginia, or will it just depict us as backward and uneducated?

Having only seen a few seconds of some promotional material, I really can't answer any of these questions, but it is something which concerns me.

My concern also is for those who might decide to attempt some of the activities just because they see these kids doing them on television.

There are ways to have fun, for example, without rolling yourself down a steep hill inside an old truck tire.

Kids do go mud bogging. They swing off ropes and jump into ponds and rivers. Sometimes they drag race their cars and do other dangerous things. To think otherwise is naive.

But will people watch this show and think that's the only types of things West Virginians have to do for fun?

I'm sure not everyone from New Jersey was happy with the way the people on "Jersey Shore" behaved while the cameras were on them.

I know not everyone from New Jersey is a hard drinking, fake tanning, over stylized idiot.

There are very intelligent, hard-working men and women who go nowhere near the whole "GTL" lifestyle propagated by that particular television program.

But, there are others who saw the show, believed all New Jersey residents were that way and some who even began to try and copy that lifestyle because it was the cool thing to do.

If people see some of these stunts, copy them and they end up fine, it's one thing. However, the moment someone gets hurt, or worse, while taking part in a similar activity, there's going to be a lot of finger pointing and blame going around.

Chances are a lot of it will be directed at the great state of West Virginia.

MTV is going to air the program no matter what. The network made a commitment for 12 episodes, and with all the promotion they're receiving because of the news coverage this week, they will have no choice but to air it.

I personally won't be watching it. Then again, I'm not interested in most of the network's programming these days anyway.

Whether any of you watch it is your own choice. You may enjoy it, you may not. I can't tell you.

I can only hope the show does try to balance some of the fun with a more realistic look at West Virginia today.

The show is supposed to be based in Sissonville, which is close to Charleston. Perhaps there will be some visits to our state's capital city, or some days going to school or taking in a sports game.

At the very least, the network can put one of those "Don't try this at home," disclaimers before some of the segments.

Rope swinging isn't as bad as shooting a nail into someone's leg, but we still don't want someone getting hurt.

Ultimately, the whole thing has to be about balance while also sneaking some education into the mix.

If the show does well, the lives of these kids are going to change for the next several years. They will be getting a lot of attention. Some of it will be good, and some will be bad. It will be the same for the state of West Virginia.

It may have to fall to the rest of us to continue fighting the stereotypes and educate the rest of the world on what West Virginia really is like.

Kids are going to be kids and they're going to do goofy things. That's OK.

Television executive are out to make money. It's what they do.

West Virginia is a great state, even with our problems, and I hope there's a way to remind people of that.

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

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