The ‘Buckwild’ gang

Once I tracked down a particular high school teacher to tell her how much her class had impacted my life.  The teacher listened politely and then confessed that she didn’t really remember me.

Beyond the bruised ego, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. At least she did not think poorly of me.  Neutral is better than negative.

As West Virginians, we are obsessed with what others think of us and our state.  The many slings and arrows we’ve suffered over the years have made us sensitive to how we are perceived.

The latest came just last night as MTV rolled out “Buckwild,” the Appalachian version of “Jersey Shore.”  Our collective radar is up to see whether the series portrays West Virginia unfavorably.

It’s important to note, however, that for all our fears about image, most of the country has no impression at all about West Virginia.

A survey by Widmeyer Communications for the West Virginia Division of Tourism found that 76 percent of those questioned don’t know much about our state and 38 percent know nothing at all about us.

In fact—and this will come as no surprise to us—eight percent think we’re part of Virginia and 16 percent are not sure West Virginia is a separate state.

But this isn’t necessarily bad news.

“It’s an opportunity,” said Widmeyer Communications President and West Virginia native Scott Widmeyer.  “It provides a lot of openings.”

Widmeyer says given the blank slate, West Virginia can build an image from the ground up in hopes of attracting tourists to the state.

And there are already a few blocks in place.

The survey found that when people are asked to describe West Virginia, terms like “natural,” “small-town,” and “friendly” come up the most.

“This can be a real magnet to attract people who are looking for getaway vacations that offer recreation, leisure and relaxation,” Widmeyer said.

But getting people to West Virginia is only part of the equation.  Mountaineer hospitality must be on display.

“People are expecting high quality and good efficiency,” Widmeyer told me.

The survey also found that up to 75 million Americans are likely to visit West Virginia within the next three years.  That sounds high to me, but regardless those folks are, in many cases, going to get their first taste of the Mountain State.

We know West Virginia is a friendly state with charm and beauty.  Most natives have a certain pride in their birthplace, while the joke among those who move to West Virginia is that they got here as soon as they could.

So forget the stereotypes.  The average West Virginian who hosts a visitor or bumps into a traveler will be a more significant ambassador for the state that the “Buckwild” gang.


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  • TD

    West Virginia is the BEST Virginia

  • ShinnstonGuy

    Personally I feel that the cultural downturn in America has spread to affect all aspects of life. Our youth watch these terrible shows--from "Buckwild/Jersey Shore" to the Kardashian mess--and think it is appropriate to act like heathens. This spreads up the food chain and suddenly our elected representatives act like egotistical maniacs bent on grabbing power versus the statesmen they should be. I can't see anything short of restoring the middle class and its values--hardwork, respecting your neighboring, having manners, etc--to changing the tide of trash TV and its subsequent effects on our entire world.

    • Barney

      If, as you say, our youth are watching these shows, it seems to me the parents, or even
      the grandparents are to blame. I think maybe it's time to admit the real problems in our society........the parents and guardians.

  • Rakman


    Not to worry. The reputation and image of West Virginia to the outside world has already been solidified with the YouTube video postings of "Couch Burning" and other celebratory antics involving fire and alcohol.

    Its doubtful that "Buckwild" will ever be viewed here in Scotland. "Jersey Shore" never became popular with Scottish youth. It was perceived as total fabrication (which it was).

    However, the social media videos about WVU and Morgantown ... simply can't get enough of that !!

  • Hop'sHip

    Too bad that the real West Virginia couldn't be shown, like that illustrated by the video below:

  • Gregg

    While Buck Wild was on MTV a Native from WV was on the football field officiating at the Fiesta Bowl being televised on ESPN !!

  • jeff

    Why is it that WVa folks always feel they have to rush toward that lowered bar and either justify or rationalize away the bad actors amongst us all.
    Aspire for more than a beer and a mud hole.

    If the scenery on the show convinces tourism of a degree that matters, .I would be greatly surprised.Hopefully, even the proponents or apologists of the show recognize that West, by the Grace of God, Virginia is a bit better than a trailer and a tractor tire set against the hillside.

  • hillbilly

    I watched it.. we did a lot of those same things long ago when I was a teen too. It doesn't represent the entire WV though.

  • Wowbagger


    I didn't watch as this was after my bed time and will either see it later, or not. Your point about being an ambassador did hit home in an odd sort of way.

    As some on this board know I spend time in Canada and have enough background that most people there immediately assume I am Canadian (eh). When the topic does come up I generally mention West Virginia. Immediately a lot of Canadians ask if I know about Summersville. It turns out that the speed trap there has been making a big first impression on the Canadians who travel through West Virginia to Florida and the Carolinas, and not a good one. I always warn them that Fayetteville has a speed trap too and tell them that the Police in those two speed traps do not discriminate. Hopefully I at least give a good impression of the people of West Virginia.

  • pioneer

    i could really only "stomach" 10 mins of the show. Not so much because of the content.(what else could we expect fromMTV) but because of the really bad acting of these characters. This show makes the cast of jersey shore look like golden globe nominees. i don't think the antics of these idiots really casts our state in a bad light. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that this is nothing more than a few jersey shore wannabe's with TERRIBLE acting skills and whose on camera display is all staged by MTV to exploit young people.

  • Mountaineer

    "It’s important to note, however, that for all our fears about image, most of the country has no impression at all about West Virginia."

    This is what's scary. People will now relate the whole state to "Buckwild."

  • Mary

    not sure how the topic got changed to Obamacare .... but Buckwild is a total embarassment for me, being from Sissonville area. I hope NONE of my college friends and coworkers make the connection between this trashy TV show and my heritage.

  • Pioneer

    I could actually "stomach" only 10 mins of this show last night. Not so much for the rampant stupidity of these morons, but because of extremely bad acting by the characters. Makes the cast of jersey shore look like golden globe nominees. Other than that I don't think anyone in America could possibly believe any of the antics in this show are anything but staged for the cameras.

  • TD

    Off topic but have to say it. Another experience with the medical industry. My wife has some stomach problems, found out she has to go gluten free (which is a whole other story in itself). She's told she needs a colonoscopy and an upper gi, she request that both procedures be done at the same time. No, she's told they have to be done separately.

    So when we went in last week and had the colonoscopy we asked why they couldn't do both and were give a variety of answers. "You'd have to be under too long" was one, "the insurance company won't allow it was another", etc... When we went back for the upper gi a new nurse explained the procedure itself takes less than 3 minutes, why couldn't they be done at the same time again???

    Here's the deal, they do them separately so they can charge twice for the operating room, recovery room, hospital room, anesthesologist, etc... So why does the insurance company not perform what should be its natural function and require both simultaneously???

    We have no idea how much any of this cost although I'm sure it is thousands of additional dollars for the extra admittance. The medical industry is completely out of control and the health insurance industry is complicit.

    You can talk all you want about budget problems or every other problem under the sun. All of those combined don't equal what the healthcare industry is doing to this country and we will not right our ship until it is dealt with.

    • CaptainQ

      I can relate, TD. I was recently denied a medical procedure by my insurance provider. They said outright that I "didn't need it" and it wasn't "medically necessary." When I talked to my family doctor about it, he just shook his head and then related to me HIS frustrations with health insurance companies who were constantly denying procedures/medications for his patients. After wrestling with my own health insurance bureaucracy for two days, I gave up. It's just not worth the hassle.

      And no offense to TD or the other Obamafans out there, but I KNOW that the provisions of ObamaCare WILL NOT SOLVE these problems. Even when 2014 rolls around, I don't beleive either TD's wife and I, if the same situations arose for us, would receive the medical care we need. For all of the valleyhoo surrounding the ObamaCare law, the bottom line is for-profit health insurance companies will be involved, and as long as they are involved, they will protect their corporate bottom lines FIRST and client's health SECOND. Not even another act of Congress will change this fact.

    • GregG

      Now, now TD, these all caring "not for profit" hospitals, poor under paid doctors and all the wonderful multi-billion dollar making Big Pharmaceutical companies couldn't possibly be part of the problem.

  • Bill Currey

    West Virginia has had the same lack of image problem for years. As a state we have allowed events to dictate the news and we have left it to the media to create our image. The fact is we can do a much better job of managing our image simply by telling the world who we are in an honest and planned effort. First we have to define who we are then we need to work hard to communicate the story. It makes good business sense to communicate effectively. Just promoting tourism via advertising is not enough. We have many more important good news stories that deserve to be heard by the public. But it requires spokesmen and women who work one on one with the national media to make sure that the public hears the truth about not just good news but the bad news. It's all about management and effort. Let's work together to let people know just how great our state and its people really are.

  • jeff

    Mom and 'em are simply hoping to cash in, couple that with a sad enjoyment on the part of viewers who enjoy watching others worse off than they.....and, Bob's your uncle in today's pretend reality world.
    However, those characters make MTR a better consideration for a state welcome mat.

    The Clinic Is Open For Business.