The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 8, 2012

Manchin not thrilled with 'Buckwild'

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— Few West Virginians are wild about “Buckwild,” and Sen. Joe Manchin joined the chorus of irate residents upset over its content with a plea Friday that it be canceled, even before its scheduled Jan. 3 debut by MTV.

Facebook and other social media have been bombarded of late by angry West Virginians who see the upcoming program as demeaning to the state.

Manchin strongly agrees.

“It’s just so much crap,” Manchin said disgustedly in an interview, after an aide showed him a YouTube teaser of clips from “Buckwild” via an iPhone.

“It just makes me sick.”

Manchin didn’t just scold the producers, but zipped off a letter to MTV President Stephen Friedman, asking that he pull the show before next month’s initial airing.

This isn’t likely, the senator acknowledged, but at least MTV could provide some balance by emphasizing the many positives of his native state.

“As a proud West Virginian, I am writing to formally request that you put a stop to the travesty called ‘Buckwild,’” Manchin told Friedman.

“As a U.S. senator, I am repulsed at this business venture, where some Americans are making money off of the poor decisions of our youth. I cannot imagine that anyone who loves this country would feel proud about profiting off of ‘Buckwild.’”

While not a single episode has aired, a trailer has been making the rounds, and it didn’t take long for a reaction from the Mountain State.

Youths in West Virginia are depicted as beer-swilling, foul-mouthed, ne’er-do-wells, wasting time and energy in redneck pursuits — tooling around in four-wheelers and slugging it out. One scene depicts them using a water-filled dump truck as a makeshift swimming pool. The package of clips is heavily laced with promiscuity and obscenities. Episodes were filmed in both Charleston and Sissonville.

Manchin pointed to complaints by neighbors there that several takes were filmed until the producers got the results they desired, saying this proves that “Buckwild” in no way truly illustrates West Virginia youth.

“If it was going to be just impulsive and natural, why would you have to do it four or five times over to make it more sensational?” he asked.

“I’m just to the point where I’m frustrated ... people trying to, if you will, blemish our beautiful state by encouraging behavior that is less than becoming. It’s downright disgraceful. It’s absolutely horrible, what I saw, and the type of behavior they were promoting, like that’s who we are in West Virginia.”

An aide to Manchin characterized the show as “Hillbillies Gone Wild.”

“Why would anyone be upset over a program that promotes stereotypes and ignorance of an entire class of people?” asked Facebook member Edward Esposito of Akron, Ohio, who emphasized in parentheses his remarks were sarcasm.

One West Virginian not annoyed by the content, Christian Giggenbach of White Sulphur Springs, observed, “It doesn’t upset me. At least they have all their teeth and they are not from the holler teaching people how to defraud the welfare system.”

From the Heart of Dixie, Jeffry Queen of Northport, Ala., asked, “It’s a show? I thought it was my nickname. Well, not for a few years now, but it was.”

Another West Virginian, Elizabeth Wilson of Beckley, recalled teasing at the hands of classmates over her accent when the family moved to Maryland.

“I am and always have been proud of West Virginia and the people who live here,” she said. “For the most part, we are a strong people who have a strong faith in God, family and country. This show does not reflect the majority of the young people in our state.”

Yet another Beckley resident, David Sibray, considers the show “harmless fun.”

“Besides,” Sibray added, “it’s well known that the movie ‘Deliverance’ led to a dramatic increase in whitewater rafting.”

Morgantown resident David Beard said he isn’t upset by the show, “but from what I’ve read, it’s about 90 percent faked. I suppose a lot of reality TV is.”

And from White Sulphur Springs resident Bernard Porterfield came this tongue-in-cheek response, “If ‘Buckwild’ ain’t about deer hunting, or Buck Owens, I ain’t gonna watch the damned thang.”

Manchin was hardly amused by the show. And a flood of tweets after his cancellation call backed him up.

“Yet another reason I’m glad I voted for him,” read one tweet.

Another said, “Good for you, sir. Good for West Virginia.”

“Instead of showcasing the beauty of our people and our state, you preyed on young people, coaxed them into displaying shameful behavior, and now you are profiting from it,” the senator told Friedman. “This is just wrong. This show plays to ugly, inaccurate stereotypes about the people of West Virginia.”

Then, the senator reminded them of how he perceives the average West Virginian as patriotic, hard-working folk leading meaningful lives.

“Let me tell you: Our people have given their all for this great country,” he said. “They’ve done the heavy lifting to produce the energy that is needed to produce the steel that builds our factories and cities. The proud veterans of our state have shed more blood and made more sacrifices than most other states to keep America free. We’re proud of all we do to make America strong and secure the cherished freedoms that you seem so determined to abuse.”

Manchin’s aide said his office has received both pro and con letters about “Buckwild,” viewed by some as a revised version of “Jersey Shore,” only set in the southern Appalachian mountains.

In The Register-Herald interview, Manchin imparted some advice to the folks at MTV.

“Let them go back to the music business,” he said.

“I hope the citizens of West Virginia will reach out and tell them how disgusted they are with MTV promoting this type of behavior or stereotyping it as normal behavior of young people in West Virginia. It’s crazy. It’s a shame. This is just showing the absolute irresponsibility of a young society growing up and the culture that doesn’t demand any more personal responsibility, and that is simply not who we are.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com