Lauren Oyler

“Buckwild”: Exploitative MTV Reality Show Comes to Laugh and Stare at Life in the Appalachian Mountains

After MTV announced its new reality show “Buckwild” last month — the series debuts tomorrow night —  it wasn’t long before friends started sending me links to the trailer without comment — the virtual equivalent of excitedly tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Look! Your people!” The show, described as the “‘Jersey Shore’ of Appalachia,”stars “an outrageous group of childhood friends” who live, party, and shoot potato guns in Sissonville, West Virginia. In the trailer, one cast member receives a “birthday lickin’”; another boasts, “I don’t have no phone, Facebook — none of that Internet stuff.” My fellow West Virginians were quick to cry “ugly, inaccurate stereotypes!” and the state’s “Democratic” senator (formerly, governor) Joe Manchin III even went on the “Today” show to denounce the “travesty.” After using the phrase “heck-bent,” he called West Virginia “one of the greatest states in the nation” and suggested, cringe-worthily, that maybe MTV could “show a balance” by presenting the state’s “greatest young adults who’ve accomplished an awful lot” alongside the “Buckwild” cast. The big, bad media responded with the noble savage argument; in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, one of the show’s producers called the lack of Internet thing “refreshing” while Tricia Romano, writing for the Daily Beast, deferred to TV historian Tim Brooks. “There is some self-awareness over what they are doing,” she quoted Brooks. “They are proud of it. One of the things you learn from these shows is that people who aren’t like us may be proudly not like us. They live differently intentionally.”

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