The Alaskan Bush People managed to fool me. I say this as someone who wrote multiple stories about why this Discovery Channel series is fake. I’ve previously acknowledged that Alaskan Bush People is probably best enjoyed with a grain of salt as pure entertainment value.
However, something just went down that might make doing that impossible. At least, impossible if the show really did what I think it just did.
I suspect Alaskan Bush People needlessly exploited a young teen’s tragic death for ratings and profit.
Alaska-Dispatch News‘ Emily Fehrenbacher covered the most recent Alaskan Bush People episode. Emily sarcastically reminded us that though the family claims to be “born wild,” Billy Brown spent lots of time living in Texas. In fact, his family lived in the “lower 48” between 2009 and 2012. All signs point to their move to Alaska coinciding with their brand-new television series.
What’s particularly interesting is their Discovery Channel show suggests Billy Brown walked away from his pre-Ami life and kept no contact with his other family. Radar exclusively reported that this wasn’t the case. An anonymous source told Radar that Wilson believes she was abandoned by her father. The source said, “Twila harbors a lot of anger toward [Billy Brown]. She says he was a horrible father.”
Radar also reports the Alaskan Bush People patriarch and his eldest daughter have “communicated over the years on occasion.” This tidbit would make that “haven’t heard from her in 30 years” statement a blatant lie. There’s allegedly at least one photograph of Twila and Matt together, as she’s reportedly met her estranged siblings in the past.
This information is deeply disturbing for a few reasons.
First, it proves my previous theory that the entire point of an on-screen father/daughter reunion was for ratings. I know Alaskan Bush People is a very popular show. But if this were truly about family, I could easily understand allowing a meeting to take place off-screen.
Second, despite having a distant complicated relationship with his daughter, Brown was perfectly comfortable lying for the cameras about not interacting with her previously. He actually said during the show that he still saw her as a “little girl” or imagined that’s what she’d look like upon seeing him. Not realistic if he’d kept up contact over a period of decades.
Next, Alaskan Bush People’s ceaseless propaganda machine attempted to paint Billy as the victim in all of this. The show claims Brown was unable to leave with his daughter because he was driven away and that she never got any of the letters he wrote. Alaskan Bush People makes the bold claim that Brown’s attempts at contact were sabotaged by some of Twila’s other family members. Whether this was true when she was a teen, I don’t know. However, Wilson is now a 44-year-old woman, and we have proof that his children understand the Internet.
It would be one thing if Brown had an affair and there was a teen daughter he didn’t know. It’s just really hard to argue that he couldn’t make time in 30 years to be near a daughter he wanted very much. It’s very gross that the Discovery Channel is using this situation to pander to fans about what great people the Browns are and that they’re unfairly maligned on all fronts.
Especially since this very story arc undoes their efforts in a disastrous fashion.
The final and most disappointing realization? The Browns knew all about Twila’s daughter’s death, and made her explain it to them while being filmed. According to Radar, not only was the Alaskan Bush People patriarch aware, he failed to reach out to Twila in her time of need.
Said the source, “He never consoled her about her daughter’s death.”
Imagine your estranged father couldn’t even be bothered to call you and offer words of comfort when your child — his granddaughter — passed away. Later, you get contacted with a request appear on a TV show with your dad. When you do so, he pretends not to know you or have talked to you. Topping it all off, you get to talk about your teenaged daughter’s death like he wasn’t aware or consciously chose not to speak with you about it.
How is that not inconsiderate and creepy?
We could argue that guilt, shame, and grief kept Billy Brown from reaching out at the time. However, getting in front of a camera and acting as if this is all brand new news and how this one day of awkward interaction healed all old wounds… wow.
I know the Discovery Channel wants to protect Alaskan Bush People. It’s hilariously obvious when they repeatedly get people to go on and on about what great honest people the Browns are. That the network couldn’t do it without exploiting the death of a teenage girl is beyond tasteless.
Strangely enough, I was actually going to write up an article asking if Alaskan Bush People was a reality television throwback to shows like Little House on the Prairie or the Waltons. I guess we have our answer — and it’s not a very good one.
Are you comfortable with Alaskan Bush People exploiting death and lying to viewers for the sake of ratings? Do you think this is all overblown and we’re being unfair to the Browns? Share your take in the comment section below!
[Image via the Discovery Channel]