Episode 13 – Alaskan Bush People

 

This week’s discussion: Alaskan Bush People, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude, Season 1, Eps. 1-12, 39-40. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Due to some (still ongoing) technical difficulties, Mike travels to his folks’ place in order to bring you another episode while the initial portion of JS’s audio has a ‘special guest’ (our apologies).  However, we soldier on with this week’s show, which was a lot more enjoyable than the last couple.

After doing the usual rundown of concept, cast, and episode highlights, we discuss this show’s troubled – to put it charitably – relationship to reality and use that as a segue to try to further define reality TV, particularly in comparison to the documentary, and figure out what makes reality TV unique.

We then dig into the show’s worldview of self-reliance, rugged individualism, and the virtues of living ‘off-the-grid’ as well as the interesting way in which the show positions the Browns – and, implicitly, Alaska itself – as avatars of both exoticism and traditional (white, Christian) American values.

Finally, we wrap up by locating the show’s appeal in its display of the virtues of rural living and community in an increasingly urbanized and impersonal modern society.  Also, we announce the results of our Jersey Shore spin-off listener’s choice poll – since the world has been waiting with bated breath.

Show Notes and Links

1:08 / We rue our poor luck

2:02 / Introducing this week’s show

3:27 / Running down the high concept

5:00 / The cast of characters

8:11 / JS was a big fan of Bear

8:46 / Moving into the episode recaps

10:03 / Really playing up that flat tire

11:18 / Theme of first season is race against winter

13:34 / Talking about ‘Rick the Lumberman’

15:04 / The fingerprints of producers are all over this show; JS mentions Monica the Medium

16:18 / Talking about the ‘junkman’ and whether show is playing up the ‘roughness’ of these characters

18:22 / Delving more into the bartering ‘goose chase’

19:15 / JS drops some research about DVDs and rural Alaska

20:10 / The emphasis placed on barter as emblematic of bush culture

20:30 / Wrapping up the cabin-building arc

21:50 / Briefly summarizing the ‘boat’ episode

22:45 / The ‘clip’ episode aka ‘No, it’s real!  Really!’

23:23 / Talking about the dentist’s office

24:05 / Our differing reactions to the believability of hospital care for barter

26:06 / How authentic we thought the show was prior to doing our research

28:11 / We start delving into the gossip on the show

28:40 / Talking about the family’s residency fraud charges

30:00 / Matt’s DUI in a Walmart parking lot

30:39 / Talking about the family’s history with technology (Billy’s book, YouTube video)

31:52 / The evolution of the show’s authenticity (living in hotels, etc.)

32:18 / Mike wasn’t surprised at the inauthenticity, but the level of fakery was beyond what he would have guessed

33:00 / Our final thoughts on the family’s ‘bush skills’ in light of the ‘revelations’

33:47 / Talking about the definition of reality TV vis-à-vis the documentary

34:34 / What is the line between documentary and reality TV?

35:02 / JS defines the line as the level of producer involvement in the action as it is happening; mentions the Heisenberg Principle

37:38 / Mike talks about the early documentary Nanook of the North; director’s involvement in staging some scenes

39:45 / Mike’s defining line is in the marketing and purpose (low/mass culture, entertainment-oriented, profit-driven vs. high culture, education-oriented, prestige-driven)

40:54 / Discussing how important ‘reality’ is to ‘reality TV’ (Our Bridezillas episode is here and our Survivor: Borneo episode is here)

43:15 / JS thinks even the ‘fake’ reality shows qualify because they are at least setting up the expectation of reality, even if the execution is obviously poor (*cough* TOWIE *cough*)

45:00 / Segueing into the worldview and themes of the show

45:21 / Mike noticed a theme of self-reliance and freedom juxtaposed to civilization; mentions Dual Survival, the other Discovery reality show we watched

46:20 / JS thought the inauthenticity of the show undermines this message of ‘freedom from society’

47:33 / Mike wonders if freedom from civilization is really freedom or just subjugation to the whims of nature

49:10 / The show’s idealization and romanticization of ‘bush culture’

50:05 / Mike was struck by the masculine focus and tone of these ‘outdoor’ oriented shows

51:13 / JS inserts a brief digression on Billy’s marital history and history with Ami’s family

52:55 / The interesting blend of familiarity and exoticism in the portrayal of the Browns

53:53 / Alaska’s place in the US mental geography

54:22 / The importance of the Brown’s whiteness to the show’s appeal

57:28 / Mashup between 1850’s nostalgia and 1950’s nostalgia

57:55 / Show sells an image of rugged individualism, but there are cracks in that image

58:50 / Relating this image to Alaska’s reality (oil fund, federal subsidies)

59:56 / JS talks about the appealing aspects of the show

1:01:05 / Mike thought this show could have been an interesting look at rural life without the hype (and fakery, obviously)

1:01:40 / The appeal of Gemeinschaft in an era of Gessellschaft

1:03:15 / Mike brings up Frederic Jameson’s essay ‘Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture’ (Mike also briefly mentions our Paris Hilton episode)

1:06:25 / The relationship between reality TV and subcultural communities (Amish Mafia, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding)

1:07:23 / Announcing the results of our listener’s choice poll

1:08:45 / The boilerplate: contact us, Facebook, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 12 – Keys to the VIP

 

This week’s discussion: Keys to the VIP, Season 2, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next week’s discussion: Alaskan Bush People, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.

This week Mike and JS put on ten pounds of hair gel and don their fedoras and indoor-only sunglasses for some special VIP treatment, but Mike in particular is having regrets about what might have seemed like a good idea at the time (much like the women who gave these guys their numbers).

Nevertheless, there was much of interest to discuss.  We cover our usual topics: the show’s concept and our general impresssions, it’s authenticity (or lack thereof), and we revisit our beloved success/failure dichotomy to try and put our fingers on the show’s appeal.  However, we also discuss the show’s worldview about the relations between the sexes as well as its relation to the broader culture of pick-up artistry in general.  We particularly pay attention to some of the pick-up culture’s shaky intellectual arguments grounded in bogus notions of ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ and faux evolutionary psychology.  (WARNING: Foucault and chimpanzee sex both get mentioned prominently.)

[Also, as a postscript, Mike apologizes for the quality of a few of the sound clips.  One of the many terrible things about this show (and one that did not become apparent until post-production) was how fucking shitty the sound mixing was.  It’s almost as if even the producers of this trainwreck didn’t even care about it.]

Show Notes and Links

1:40 / Introducing this week’s show

2:20 / The concept of the show

5:08 / JS observes how mundane the intros were

8:09 / Discussing the four hosts – ‘the four corners of the male psyche’ (LOL)

10:02 / Sheldon did not seem to have a defined persona (the article Mike mentions is here)

11:20 / Mike criticizes the show for not having enough differentiation between the hosts

12:50 / Comparing the relative badness of this show to Monica the Medium

13:46 / Returning to the topic of differentiation and the show’s relation to pick-up artist culture

15:30 / Talking about the interludes and how the hosts’ ‘differences’ faded away

16:37 / The contestants for the show are also very similar (and all have dumb nicknames)

18:03 / JS talks about the episode with Mike the Magician and Hot Body Jason – ‘brains’ vs. ‘brawn’

21:00 / Mike agrees that this episode was more interesting, but thinks it still fits into the overall worldview of the show

21:33 / Mike talks about an episode that left a sour taste – ‘nice guy’ vs. ‘asshole’

23:18 / Segueing into the worldview of the show (and pick-up artistry in general)

24:31 / Talking about the idea of ‘negging

25:30 / JS did like the challenges that put the guys in a bind

26:02 / The perennial question – How real is all this?

26:33 / Mike kept seeing unsourced allegations of fakery, but no smoking gun (Wikipedia, IMDB)

27:18 / How did they get the audio to pick up so clearly?

28:10 / Not very many blurred faces in this show

29:07 / JS noticed the guys seem to be aware of the ‘hidden’ cameras

29:38 / Lots of women show up more than once – what are the odds?

31:05 / Mike was unconvinced by the kissing

32:08 / Talking about the evidence for some level of ‘authenticity’ (AMA, interview with Alen)

32:58 / Women may not be out-and-out confederates, but if they know the show is going on beforehand, how authentic are the actual reactions?

33:42 / Talking about how the multiple takes give the producers an opportunity to basically tell whatever story they want

36:40 / Mike’s theory of the week: Keys to the VIP as a Foucauldian educational institution (To be more clear, Mike was referring to Discipline and Punish, but Foucault also studied other things)

39:25 / Talking about the dated nature of pick-up culture and how this show was very much of its time; Mike mentions The Game

41:13 / Segueing into a discussion of pick-up artist culture more broadly

41:45 / Mike was talking about something like this    (He also mentions the vintage hosting service Geocities)  (the dumb website is here)

42:14 / Talking about all the dumb terms and acronyms (yes, they are all real) from the different ‘schools’ of pick-up artistry, such as Speed Seduction and the Mystery Method (Mike mentions the Konami Code)

43:59 / Discussing the influence of ‘neuro-linguistic programming’ (aka ‘the Force’)

45:53 / The Adorno quote is from aphorism 70 of Minima Moralia

46:19 / Why can’t horny women ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ hot guys into sleeping with them? (Discussing the assumptions of pick-up artist ideology)

47:44 / Mike makes a brief comparison between pick-up artistry and female-oriented cottage dating advice

48:21 / Even if this stuff worked 10 years ago, don’t you think women would have caught on to the dumb hats and canned lines?

49:04 / JS makes a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ argument for the value of pick-up artistry

50:05 / Talking about the ‘numbers game’ aspect of pick-up artistry, with a brief aside into the emergence of dating apps like Tinder and how they’ve changed dating culture

51:56 / What Mike thinks is actually behind pick-up artist philosophy (power not pleasure)

53:18 / Mike debunks the pop evolutionary psychology arguments underlying the philosophy (aka humans and other primates are not the same)

54:38 / Chimps and bonobos have entirely different social structures, despite being more genetically similar than either one is to humans

55:07 / A digression into chimp mating and the relation of sex to status in chimp society (Mike refers to the book The Origins of AIDS)

56:27 / Talking about the evolution of pick-up artistry over the last decade to its nastier current-day incarnations like The Red Pill and Gamergate

57:42 / Segueing into the appeal of the show

58:03 / Mike reads a quote from Alen on the show’s creation and JS responds

59:08 / Mike mentions another podcast that reviewed this show, Flight School Podcast (The specific episode is here)

59:40 / The show is not really about teaching people ‘what women want’, but is about reaffirming traditionally masculine worldviews

1:00:50 / Is this show about success or failure?  (We both come to the conclusion that it is ultimately about the latter)

1:02:57 / We never rooted for the contestants

1:03:25 / The educational emphasis of the show centers the narrative around failure

1:03:52 / Mike talks about how this show could maybe have been better (it takes a lot)

1:04:55 / A novel concept – have actual women on a show about impressing women

1:05:24 / The women in the show are always ‘targets’ and stereotypes

1:06:30 / Our final thoughts – Mike recommends only watching the goofy intros, JS puts in a word for Mike the Magician

1:07:46 / Introducing the next show (It can only go up from here)

1:08:38 / The usual announcements – Like our Facebook page and visit the website (Good job – you are here!) – Also: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe!