I’ve lived in Colorado for 15 years, but I was born and raised In West Virginia. I even went to college there (there are many good colleges in West Virginia). My kids have only been to West Virginia a couple of times when they were tiny. After my mom passed, we didn’t go on the regularly scheduled visits anymore.
West Virginia is finally getting some media attention but I’m afraid it’s not the kind of attention that I want my kids to know about. Of course, they are far too young to watch shows like Buckwild or see movies like “The Wild, Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” but these programs will have an effect on how West Virginia is viewed. The vision of West Virginia they show is just a piece of the state and hardly an accurate one. Of course, I must remember that there is a lot more to New Jersey than what we saw on “Jersey Shore.” I’m not the first one to feel this way about about my state’s media portrayal.
Buckwild is a show about teenagers who are bored and poor. It’s like Jersey Shore without the clubbing and tanning budget. “The Wild, Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” is a trainwreck of a movie that profiles some of the biggest hicks that have ever hit the face of the earth. There is a difference between the kind of country person or “hick” that drives a truck and and listens to country music and the kind of person that regularly eats squirrel and deals in hillbilly heroin. “The Wild, Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” focuses on the latter type of hick. The Whites are definitely the lowest common denominator when it comes to hicks.
In addition to those two programs, chef Jamie Oliver did a show about Huntington, West Virginia, which is my hometown. He went to rescue Huntington because it topped the list of the unhealthiest cities in America. He famously found a child who did not know the difference between a tomato and a potato. Sigh. This is the way it always goes when people turn the cameras on WV.
West Virginia is full of colleges. It’s downright gorgeous. I live in Colorado now and though the mountains here are beautiful, I am still wistful for the hills of West Virginia in the autumn. The spring is pretty darned impressive as well. There are lots of regular, hardworking people in West Virginia who don’t exploit themselves as hicks to make a few dollars. There are lots of intelligent, down-to-earth people who are struggling in a rough economy. I wish I could get a hold of producers and convince them to do a faces of WV profile and maybe they would show the following:
- My friend from high school who works vigorously to find homes for homeless animals.
- My best friend from college who is an amazing teacher.
- My nephew, who is a hard worker and an excellent father.
- The school my mother taught at, which has an excellent humanities program and a high college placement rate.
Those are just a couple of things off the top of my head. These are the people and experiences I want to show to my children. The only way I’ll really be able to convey those things is to take them back to visit. What I wouldn’t give for a few more movies like “We Are Marshall” to fight the hick profile in the media. Did you know that was filmed in West Virginia? That’s a bit better representation of what the state is really like.
Photo via Flickr.