If Jed Clampett were still around to see the current goings-on with regard to reality shows and rural folks, no doubt he would have come up with an appropriate colloquial term for the makeshift swimming pool the gang on MTV's new series "Buckwild" put together for a housewarming party. Since he had a "cement pond" out back of his Beverly Hills mansion, he would have probably called the truck/pool a "mobile swimmin' hole" (the first term pronounced "mo-by-uhl," of course). But call it what you want, the guys figured out how to get the girls a swimming pool for their moving-in party.
(To catch up: In the first half-hour of "Buckwild," which made its world premiere on Thursday, Jan. 3, the girls partied so much in their South Charleston house, they were evicted. Anna got into a fight with a neighbor and managed to simply beat up on herself. They moved to a far larger place in a more rural area with the guys' help, their neighbor cheering as they drove away.)
In "Dump Truck Pool Party," they just backed a borrowed dump truck up to the front porch of the girls' new home ("Buckwild" is borrowing captioned place names and such from "Fringe," big block 3-D letters suspended on the screen, like "Girls New Home" sitting atop the roof of the newly rented house) and jumped off the roof into the waiting deep truck bed full of water. The guys had rigged it with a plastic lining with mattresses at the bottom. It was predominantly Shain's idea, prompting Cara to refer to him as a "redneck MacGuyver." (Luckily, nobody was injured by breaking an arm or leg on the steel sides of bed as they jumped, flipped, back-flipped, and cannon-balled into the water -- giving MTV even more reason to emphasize the disclaimer at the beginning of the show for people at home to not attempt to re-enact anything on the show. Also, on a more sanitary note, there is no amount of bleach that could have scoured that truck's bed to have made it germ-free enough to be suitable for a swimming pool.)
The guys got a free show when Salwa, a self-described "exotic" looking Bengalese girl with the disturbing hick ("country") accent, jumped into the water and her breasts escaped her bathing suit top. Although she covered up quickly, the guys told her they'd each give her a hundred dollars to take off her top and jump in the water. She did (her breasts strategically blurred out by editing), whereupon the guys all admitted they had no money (of course).
Shain gives viewers a quick tour of Sissonville, West Virginia, a small town just a few miles north of Charleston, the state capital. He says that being from West Virginia, why would he want to live anywhere else? (There's an obvious answer to that question...) Show editors wasted no time on showing the better parts of town, just a car on blocks, some shady-looking, dilapidated buildings, and trailers everywhere. It is during this exhibition of West Virginia as Poorville, USA, that Shain admits he was the prom king at his high school, only he didn't attend (because he was working, according to his bio page).
Some of the gang on "Buckwild" work, some go to college -- not that it's evident in any way. Anna seems to want to get into everyone's business. Cara embarks on a quick sexual liaison with Tyler. And everybody wants to party and have a good time.
And that seems to be all well and good until everyone is out of the house and Cara and Tyler go for a hook-up session in Anna's bed. Katie, who is in the next room, can hear it all and later informs Anna of what transpired in her bed. Anna confronts Cara for being "disrespectful" (because Cara has her own room) and Cara leaves in a huff, all the while refusing to acknowledge that she and Tyler have been intimate. When Anna confronts Tyler, he gives her a clueless look, says "Sorry," and walks away. Anna has worked herself into a rage by this time, yelling at him as he goes. He tells the other guys, who are intent on building a bonfire nearby, that Anna is overreacting to him and Cara having sex.
There is little doubt that after the two-show, one-hour premiere of MTV's new ode to decadent young adults that there are some exceptionally proud parents watching their kids debauch in West Virginia. So proud, no doubt, that they're most likely contemplating leaving the state forever.
"Buckwild" airs on MTV on Thursdays at 10 p.m. (EST).
Take Home Message: Where to start... The show is being billed as an "authentic comedy" but it is anything but comedic, nor are the antics of the cast members amusing. Reckless, immature, irresponsible, immoral (but most social standards), but in no way amusing. At least not yet -- unless one considers the reinforcement of poor, white, trailer trash stereotypes as humorous. (If so, the show is hilarious.) Sadly, the show will most likely only contribute to the idea that West Virginians are just a bunch of ill-bred, redneck ridgerunners without morals, principles, or simple common sense -- even the educated ones. That these nine "Jersey Shore -- West" cast members are indicative of the state's hard-working, clean-living, mostly fair-to-well-educated people is about as close to correct as Snooki Polizzi and The Situation Sorrentino being spot-on representatives of young Italian Americans from New York. Hopefully, the Sissonville Nine will never be construed as West Virginia in microcosm. If anything, "Buckwild" is making the case for sociologists that television and the Internet and the social need for distraction and escape have given rise to shows of its ilk and as long as society continues to support the idea of the do-anything-to-get-noticed celebrity, such overt exhibitionism as a standard of success will continue to pervade YouTube and television. Besides, it should be remembered that these young people are being paid per episode to act like fools and that much of the action is scripted "reality." Remembering that shows like "Buckwild" are entertainment, much like soap operas like "Dallas" and "General Hospital," can go a long way in keeping the abject ridiculousness of its content in context.
Disclaimer: The author of this article was born and raised in southern West Virginia, attended West Virginia public schools, and picked up three bachelors degrees at West Virginia University. Although there are some truly wild and crazy people in the Mountain State, they are exceptions to the rule of a mostly blue-collar, religious, family-oriented, fairly well-educated, generous, law-abiding social structure. But it is the wild and wooly redneck, the ignorant and hard-drinking hillbilly stereotype that persists as the image of the average person hailing from West Virginia. Shows like "Buckwild" will only endorse such pervasive nonsense. And in that, they do the state and its people a great disservice, something Sen. Joe Manchin attempted to point out by protesting the airing of the series. Still, it is only a bit of fanciful entertainment passed off as "reality." But it should also be remembered that in reality, West Virginia has given the world test pilot Chuck Yeager, actor Don Knotts, Pulitzer Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck, NASA engineer and author Homer Hickam, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, actress Jennifer Garner, Nobel Prize-winner John Nash, US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and many others of note. Reality sometimes isn't all that it appears to be, especially if given over to intrusive and obnoxious stereotypes. Most often reality entails far, far more than ever meets the casual eye.
(photo credit: Buckwild, MTV)