If you’ve never lived in West Virginia, all the drama surrounding Buckwild has probably either escaped you and/or seemed relatively unimportant. But here in the Mountain State, there is a great deal of concern about how the show will perpetuate negative stereotypes about those of us who live here.
When the first promos began airing last month, there were newspaper articles, editorials and online petitions criticizing Buckwild. Even our junior U.S. Senator and former Governor, Joe Manchin, wrote a letter to MTV asking that the show not be aired. Many argued that his subsequent appearances on national news and talk shows simply provided unpaid advertising.
To me, the show just looks stupid. I never watched Jersey Shore, and I have no plans to watch Buckwild. And yes, I even signed one of the online petitions asking that it not to be aired. But my reasons have nothing to do with how people might perceive West Virginians. There will always be those who believe stereotypes regardless of what they watch, hear or read.
To me, the show is actually more of a reflection on the entire nation than it is of West Virginia anyway. And while I deplore the concept of encouraging young people to do really stupid (and yes, mostly scripted) things for others’ entertainment, what I deplore even more is that there is obviously a large market for such shows. And yes, I know there are many who will tune it to watch Buckwild out of initial curiosity, but that’s not my issue. My issue is with people who watch this type of show for entertainment and for more people to ridicule. This includes television viewers such as the guy who was having his hair cut during my last hair appointment.
Until a few years ago, I never understood why any man would go to a beauty shop, but that was before I discovered the salon where I now go.
The place is more entertaining than anything on television because the people, the conversations and the emotions are genuine. I never complain that my appointments usually last more than two hours, because that time is more compelling than any reality show, particularly those featuring half-dressed young women and cocky young men whose vocabulary is rooted in George Carlin’s monologue about seven dirty words. And, when I think about it, I don’t recall hearing much, if any, cussing in the beauty salon.
Instead, I hear and participate in conversations about real people and real struggles that somehow turn into laughter and hope. The conversations range from cancer, to drug addiction to cross-country motorcycle rides. Everyone in town seems to know the owner and her husband, so there is a constant stream of local characters who come through her doors with their own dramas and issues. Discussions can turn from politics to childhood memories in a matter of seconds. And all of this occurs to some music soundtrack that almost always becomes part of the conversation.
The owner, and my stylist, strives to play just the right music, but she also always has technological difficulties. During my last appointment, she finally gave up when her latest gadget stopped working, and she was forced to turn on the radio to a classic rock station. Of course, the music brought back more memories and more stories.
And then, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded by the Light” came on, and we all sang along. Sort of. The lyrics have always been unclear, so we all sang a different variations of “revved up like a deuce another runner in the night.” Some bordered on completely inappropriate. In order to resolve the debate, I took out my phone to search for accurate lyrics.
By the time I’d found them, the conversation had already moved on to Buckwild, and everyone was expressing an opinion. That’s when the clean-cut gentleman who had been sitting quietly while his hair was being trimmed said, “I think it looks entertaining, and I’m looking forward to watching it.”
For the first time, the shop went quiet except for Led Zeppelin playing in the background. Everything just seemed to stop. And then, just as quickly, the conversation resumed. Only no one said anything about Buckwild, instead the owner started telling a story about the recent Eddie Money concert.
No one acknowledged the man’s comment, and I don’t know whether he was oblivious to the slight or if he even cared. What I do know that everyone else’s reaction spoke volumes. And I don’t think the silence was so much an indictment on his opinion as it reflected a deep sadness that someone, surrounded by real characters, real conversation and an ongoing celebration of the reality of day-to-day life, would admit he wanted to simply observe the exact opposite.
Hours later, when I was thinking about the incident, I realized how we often lose sight of all that is meaningful around us because the media is trying to sell us a completely different definition of what makes life interesting.
I’m just glad there are people who still don’t buy that, and instead enjoy the simple pleasures of going a bit crazy, or buck wild, in a beauty salon.