Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Cursing, drinking, fighting and swimming in the back of a dump truck — it’s the latest image of West Virginia, ready to be broadcast in January of the new year.
“Buckwild” will take over the “Jersey Shore” timeslot on MTV come Jan. 3. Filmed in the Sissonville and Charleston areas, the show follows a group of young adults and their day-to-day antics. While no one has yet to see an entire episode, a preview of the series on Entertainment Weekly’s website has raised concern throughout the state. The magazine describes the show as a reality series about nine young adults who live by the motto, “Whatever happens, happens.”
Entertainment Weekly continues, “And what seems to be happening is a lot of riding down hills inside giant tires, driving trucks dangerously through mud, tearing up the trails on ATVs and motorcycles, drinking, body licking, fighting with neighbors, and doing Jackass-y stunts that sometimes involve construction equipment.”
At this point, no one knows how negatively the series will portray the Mountain State. But it doesn’t look good. On Friday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin sent a letter to MTV’s president asking for the show to be canceled.
Based on past history, West Virginians have a reason to be leery. When clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch made reference to the Mountain State in 2004 with a T-shirt alluding to inbreeding, many people were up in arms.
Some called and e-mailed the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in outrage. Then governor Bob Wise wrote a letter demanding the tees, which bore the slogan “It’s all relative in West Virginia,” be pulled from the shelves. National news media, including CNN and FOX, picked up the story.
Yet prior to the Abercrombie zing, the Mountain State was portrayed in a much more despicable way by the horror flick “Wrong Turn.”
The movie begins with a young couple rock climbing in a rural area. As with most horror flicks, the viewer is aware something tragic is about to happen — and it does. The two are brutally murdered by unseen perpetrators.
The opening credits roll next, and first in the background scene are the prominent words “West Virginia.” Following are clips of newspapers and books with references to “inbreeding,” “super strength” and “psychosis.” One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see where the plot is headed.
Following the credits, one sees a panoramic view of a lush forest and the phrase “Greenbrier Backcountry, West Virginia” flashes across the screen.
And just in case there is any doubt where the movie is set, the next scene features a radio news broadcast about two missing Bluefield State College students.
The bad guys are, of course, inbred “forces of evil” from our state. But that’s not all: They are physically deformed to the point of mutation; they prey on innocents; they kill, seemingly, for fun and food (one can now add cannibalism to the list of derogatory West Virginia labels); and they don’t even speak English, communicating in grunts.
Even references outside the “monster” plot are unkind to West Virginia: A truck driver acts like a jerk when a guy asks for help, a gas station attendant is toothless and speaks in the classic stereotypical dialect.
The only justified slam in the movie comes when a character driving down the road loses his cell phone signal. Score one point for accuracy, with an overall rating of F for insensitivity, perpetuation of stereotypes and a bad plot.
The feeling can begin within two days or two weeks. And it can last for decades, or a lifetime. It typically begins as a subtle, nagging feeling within the subconscious — a keen awareness something is not right. Soon, the yearning kicks in and the source of the discomfort becomes blatantly obvious. You’re homesick for your home state — West Virginia.
The feeling can kick in during vacation, while settling into a new job in a different region, when decorating a dorm room at an out-of-state college or as a result of any other circumstance that spurs a venture outside the Mountain State borders.
There’s no comfortable “y’all” echoing through greetings or conversations. No cashiers, friends or acquaintances uttering the familiar well wishes and endearment, “Now you have a good day, Honey.” And no West Virginia family members — be they blood kin, neighbors, coworkers or friends — providing a cocoon of comfort in daily life.
There’s no simple adjective or succinct phrase that can adequately describe what makes West Virginia special. But it’s evident there’s a unique quality about the Mountain State that becomes ingrained in the hearts, minds and spirits of those who call the region home — whether they’re current residents or those whose long-ago ties to the state remain strong.
“Buckwild” may, or may not, portray us in a negative light. If the worse-case scenario proves true, we’ll weather the storm with the typical Mountaineer spirit.
Those who do not know us may laugh, and label us with inaccurate and insensitive stereotypes. But we who live here know there is more to the West Virginia way of life than some folks with bad grammar and hillbilly antics.
It takes more than a reality show to sever the ties and emotions that bind us to the hills of Appalachia. We have beautiful landscapes, good people, rich history and a sense of pride in our heritage many people across globe will never experience.
West Virginia is “almost heaven” — and it’s always home.
Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @BDTPerry.