America loves to ogle, and often mock, "rednecks" and "hillbillies." But if we would never dream of treating minorities in the same way, then why is this behavior considered acceptable? Philosophy professor Alexandra Bradner takes on the question in Salon, focusing her ire particularly on MTV's new reality show Buckwild, which follows a group of friends who like to go muddin', huntin', and ATV-ridin' in West Virginia, an area marked by poverty. "Suffering people are so entertaining," writes Bradner. "There’s nothing more humorous than decades and decades of exploitation at the hands of the coal and natural gas industries."
Not to mention the educational challenges people in Appalachia face, their health problems and lack of access to basic health and dental care, and their staggeringly low incomes. But, of course, Buckwild doesn't focus on those aspects of West Virginia life; it just shows us people we can laugh at who "talk differently, have different hairstyles, live in different kinds of homes, and drink and eat different stuff. They ride in excavator shovels and make swimming pools out of dump trucks, as we saw in the series’ debut." Watching these people allows "non-Appalachian" viewers to see themselves "as sophisticated and cosmopolitan—as better." But urban viewers have their own problems, and all this series will accomplish is hurting West Virginia. Click for Bradner's full column. (Read more Appalachia stories.)