Watching people we despise? It’s part of the fun.
Over the past few years, reality TV has produced a number of irksome characters, including Survivor’s Russell Hantz and Jonny Fairplay, The Apprentice’s Omarosa Manigault, Jersey Shore’s Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, and hundreds of other untoward people that we love to hate. And to watch.
No doubt some of the young castmembers of MTV’s rural reality show Buckwild, which wrapped up its first season in February, fall into this category. The episodes follow a group of friends from Sissonville, West Virginia, who perform Jackass-type stunts during the day, and then drink, flirt and fight with one another at night.
But amongst his crew of party-throwing, neighbour-battling twentysomethings, one of the castmembers emerged from the rest as a shining light, a likeable lug, a southern superhero, a Decent Human Being. You’ve probably heard a lot about him recently. His name was Shain Gandee, and earlier this week he was found dead in an SUV from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Of course, the 21-year-old reality star – who seemed to relish in the country hick stereotype and earned the nickname ‘Redneck MacGyver’ for his inventive building skills – participated in a lot of zany stunts during the show. Yes, he did some dumb things. But he did a lot of good things, too:
- While wooing Cara, he fashioned a “Wolf Pen Bouquet” out of wild daisies he found. Sure, it’s kinda cheap, but it definitely beat Tyler’s romantic gestures for Cara (which were basically none). And who can forget when Shain lit that romantic “S+C” chicken wire creation on the beach in the finale?
- When Ashley expressed interest in an upcoming bullriding event, he invented a homemade mechanical bull so that she could practice. It looked pretty fun. And dangerous.
- When the girls wanted to go for a swim, he created a pool in the back of a dump truck.
- When his friends went clubbing in Morgantown, he joined them, even though he’d never hit a nightclub before.
- He treated his family well. The show hinted at a strong relationship with his parents – even if they gave him grief for blowing out his trucks all the time.
- He tried his best to maintain his family tradition and create a business, enlisting his grandmothers to help him make and sell ‘Gandee Candy’.
- He formed friendships with everyone in town – especially during his shifts as a garbage collector – because of his sunny disposition and outgoing personality. “I don’t have no Facebook,” he said in the show. “I don’t have none of that Internet stuff. If I need to talk to my neighbours, all I gotta do is come out here on my porch.”
Obviously, Buckwild’s producers edited their footage to assemble this wonderful, entertaining character. But I’m betting that the real Shain was pretty close to the Buckwild version. Amongst the show’s peculiar individuals, Shain was the one person that you could see yourself befriending in real life – kind of like Vinny Guadagnino, the sensitive ‘guido’ that went to university, in the first few seasons of Jersey Shore.
Will Buckwild continue? Who knows, as MTV has currently suspended production. Perhaps there’s a larger, Truman Show-type point to be made here about reality stars partying to their deaths for the cameras (although, in this case, the camera crew wasn’t there at the end). But aside from all that, one thing’s for sure – MTV had a Decent Human Being on a reality show for a change, and now he’s gone.