Weeks have passed since the stars from the popular Alaskan Bush People series were ordered to serve a 30-day sentence related to deceptively claiming Alaskan oil revenue. Yet the controversy around the Brown family and Alaskan reality TV shows continues to rage. Some are angry at the Discovery Channel for unleashing shows like Alaskan Bush People and Alaska: The Last Frontier on the general public. In actuality, these shows are a part of the same vein of reality television first made popular by Survivor.
Their appeal is the age-old “man against the elements” narrative, a desire to see people plot out their own destiny and overcome incredible odds. However, whereas Survivor featured contestants moved to a controlled and isolated environment, these Alaskan shows focus on families who “rough it” year-round in remote regions.
While it’s understandable that such programs would draw loyal viewers, it seems that there’s a sharp downside to these reality TV series: That they paint an unrealistic picture of life in Alaska.
Now it is true that there are areas of the state that are quite “remote.” Real estate blog Movotoexplains,
The people in Alaska aren’t “backwoods,” but if you choose to live in one of the smaller bush communities, you might feel like you’re back in pioneer days. You’ll learn to love outhouses, chopping wood for heating and cooking and using oil lamps to get around. Life away from modern convenience can either be a hassle or just what you’re looking for to escape the hustle and bustle of the world.
Information like this would seem to lend some authenticity to Alaskan Bush People and other Alaska-based shows. However, many feel that the exploitative nature of networks like the Discovery Channel holds up people who aren’t actually the face of typical Alaskans, regardless of whether or not they live in the bush.
— Alaskan Bush People (@AlaskanBushPPL) January 7, 2016
For example, one of the primary grievances held against the Browns on Alaskan Bush People is that the family isn’t an authentic bush family. Additionally, the family has spent a large chunk of time living outside of the state of Alaska. With the family having roots outside of the state, seemingly returning to make money off of an image, resentment is inevitable. But what about the Kilcher family?
Despite being the stars of a popular reality tv series, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the family’s roots go deep into the state of Alaska: Yule Kilcher helped write the state’s constitution. Yet, it seems that Alaska: The Last Frontier isn’t immune to the backlash that can be traced to anger over Alaskan Bush People.
— NowTV Catchup (@NowTVCatchup) February 1, 2016
According to Alaskan Dispatch News writer Emily Fehrenbacher, the problem with the Kilcher family and their version of Alaska is simple.
For the record, I don’t believe the Kilchers are the reason this show fails to resonate. In fact, I applaud them for not going out of their way to become caricatures of themselves and ending up in Us Weekly, unlike the cast of “Duck Dynasty.” The Kilchers seem to be the kind of Alaskan family that decided to try to distance themselves from money the best they could, and I can understand that. What I don’t understand is why they would allow the cameras into their lives.
And here we have the major flaw that some, especially Alaskans, are having trouble with: How are these people representing the true, rugged spirit of Alaska when they’re constantly surrounded by cameras? Not only that, but with images and events meticulously edited, what’s the point of pretending these shows and their casts are absolutely “untouched” and “authentic”?
The Discovery Channel isn’t fussed over the criticism of its stars, regardless of their criminal scandals or the questionable authenticity. It doesn’t matter if people crowd comment sections to berate the casts, their image, and their versions of Alaska.
In the end, it appears the only thing that matters is whether or not the backlash against Alaskan Bush People and similar programs will affect ratings. With a new season of Alaskan Bush People eagerly anticipated by fans, that doesn’t seem to be the case — for now.
Do you think authenticity issues with shows like Alaskan Bush People will eventually be the genre’s downfall, or are people underestimating the popularity of Alaska-based shows? Share your thoughts below!