Having recently recommended not to emotionally invest in Alaskan Bush People, it occurs to me that I might have danced around the periphery of the whole “most reality tv shows are made up” thing, and without doing enough to share evidence already on the internet. I mean, people are obviously very curious about Alaskan Bush People and other Discovery Channel “survivalist” type shows. It just worries me when I see some people defending the Brown clan as a real bush family whose exploits are 100 percent true without understanding that they’re pretty much a “bush” family (air quotes heavily implied).
Before the Alaskan Bush People show came the book One Wave at a Time, the book the show is based on. It’s actually available for purchase right now on Amazon. Are you wondering how a family that doesn’t own a telephone and supposedly has no idea how modern people live could be hawking a book on the internet? Then congratulations for catching up with the rest of us!
Here’s that grain of salt you were supposed to take with Alaskan Bush People.
— Nick Harrys (@NickHarrys) February 11, 2016
Anyway, that book plays into why the Brown family recently got into so much trouble for claiming to be in Alaska when they weren’t. Billy Brown and Joshua “Bam Bam” Brown were sentenced to jail time during a case that outright exposed the inauthentic nature of their TV series. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the Brown family was accused of stealing oil revenue by claiming to be residents of Alaska despite not living in the state since 2009.
“Originally, state prosecutors had charged Billy Brown, his wife Amora ‘Ami’ Brown and four of their seven children with a total of 60 counts of first-degree unsworn falsification and first- and second-degree theft linked to dividend applications submitted from 2010 to 2013.
“While attorneys never explicitly said where the family lived during that time, court documents filed in the case established a spotty timeline that put the Browns on a ferry leaving Alaska in October 2009. They lived in Texas for several months in 2011. In July 2012, Billy Brown and three of his sons flew from Denver to Anchorage, and returned to Denver less than two weeks later.”
The reason given by Billy Brown for taking his family out of Alaska was for the promotion of his book One Wave At A Time. What’s interesting is that the promotion of the book often fell to Billy’s children, who actually are much more familiar with modern technology than we were led to believe in the Alaskan Bush People Season 1 pilot.
What’s interesting is that Gabriel “Gabe” Brown says in the above video that the bush life we attribute to the Alaskan Bush People cast was “a long time ago.” He uploaded the video in 2008. I think a lot of people gave the cast credit for leaving the bush in Alaska in 2009. However, this video suggests that the lifestyle is something that hasn’t been true for a number of years, but it made for a great autobiographical novel.
After visiting the YouTube channels created by/for Alaskan Bush People cast members, I actually blame the Discovery Channel for the dishonest claim that this is an authentic bush family with no concept of life as we know it in the 21st century. I mean, I’m supposed to believe these people had never heard of Whitney Houston or an iPhone when they can create and upload videos to freaking YouTube? These questions were asked of the family by producers of the show. That these people weren’t “born wild” is something the showrunners have always known, while banking on the fact that the viewing audience didn’t.
I guess this is the ultimate test of one’s ability to suspend disbelief — an act only necessary when putting aside logic to embrace a work of fiction. It’s certainly not something you’d expect to need when following a supposedly real story about a family’s real Alaskan adventures.
But then, we already know that the state of Alaska has made it possible for so many reality TV shows to be filmed practically right on top of each other, all thanks to a generous tax credit program. It allows a number of scripted Alaskan reality TV shows to be filmed for relatively cheap. Alaskan Bush People is just one of many shows cashing in on this.
So what does this all mean? Well, hopefully, it shatters any remaining belief that this show (featuring frequent interviews in front of a green screen, mind you) is anything but entertaining fiction. Nothing more, and nothing less. Rather than seeking someone “to blame” for this show or for people having the alleged audacity to film a show based on a book, why not treat it as entertaining, harmless television? Why stop not stop taking it seriously or find something else to watch?
After all, it wouldn’t be like the Browns would be the first “backwoods family” to fool a bunch of people.
Just remember: the fact that you’re living vicariously through characters rather than real people doesn’t change the whole “living vicariously” part.
So were you fooled by Alaskan Bush People? Are you shocked that this family is computer literate? Share your thoughts below!
[Image via Discovery Channel]