Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but our friend we were caring for (lung cancer) passed away, and to be completely honest, I just didn’t feel like writing on the blog until a very nice fella by the name of “Jim” left a comment, and asked me if I have a comment on the TV show “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning”. As a matter of fact (as you all probably figured) I certainly do. I originally wrote this about a week or so ago, but I just realized that for some reason it didn’t post, so here we go again…
First of all, let me point out once again that the Hatfields and McCoys are no longer feuding – far from it, in fact, no matter what anyone may say on this “reality” television show. We get along just fine, and many Hatfields and McCoys are good friends. No “reality” TV show is ever going to change that, no matter how much they try. And boy, does that show try to give the impression that we’re still feuding. In fact, they come right out and say that the Hatfields and McCoys have been “feuding for over 100 years”. That is an out-and-out lie, and anybody with an internet connection knows it. In real reality, the feud ended over 100 years ago.
Now, let me also point out that while there are still very real feuds in West Virginia, especially in the southern part of the state where the family clans live in close proximity, none of those feuds involve the Hatfields and McCoys. Sure, sometimes Hatfields or McCoys might disagree, with each other or with another family, and they might even cuss each other or get into a fist fight, but that’s not a feud. That’s an argument, or at worst, a fight. A feud is a full-out armed war between families, and if our families were feuding, believe me, I’d definitely know about it. So I can say for an absolute fact that there is no feuding going on between the two families, regardless of how many times this television show states otherwise.
We learned our lesson about “a-fightin’ and a-feudin'” a very long time ago. We just have no interest in feuding with anybody, not only because it’s stupid, but also because it’s far too easy for little feuds to become big feuds, and in real feuds, people die. Nobody knows better than we do that, by the time people are getting killed, chances are nobody even knows why they’re feuding. They just are.
That, of course, brings me to this television show which claims very specifically that the Hatfields and McCoys are still feuding. While some might view that as entertainment, and some may like to imagine it’s true, those of us who lost family to that infamous feud don’t find it quite so entertaining. This show, which claims to be “reality”, in real reality is nothing but pure Hollyweird exploitation of the Hatfield and McCoy family history. The History Channel is just continuing to line its pockets with the blood of our ancestors, and personally, I am not at all amused.
You may not realize this unless you live in southern West Virginia, but last year there was a “casting call” for Hatfield and McCoy descendants, for an “upcoming reality show” (which is now known as “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning”). Someone actually asked me whether I was going to try out for it, but I thought the whole idea of a reality show based upon feud descendants was both idiotic and insulting, so I had no interest in it whatsoever. As far as I was concerned, the only reason anybody would ever in a million years be interested in a “reality” show about the Hatfield family is due to the feud, and I have a real problem with people being led to believe that the Hatfields (and our friends the McCoys) are still feuding over 100 years later. Of course we’re not, that’s ridiculous.
Even if I didn’t feel that way, though, I was never the type they were looking for. For one, I have absolutely no interest in having cameras shoved in my face; I don’t even like for people to take regular pictures of me. Yet they needed people who were not only willing to do that, but also willing to trade their dignity for a few dollars, which is something I will never do. They needed people who were willing to act like idiots on television, which is something I will never do. They needed people who didn’t care how their family was portrayed, or that their family was being shamed in front of the entire world, and I do care about those things or else I’d have never spent my time correcting the stories from the miniseries on this blog, when I could be out target shooting or riding my four-wheeler instead. So no, that person is not me. How do I know that’s what they were looking for, you may ask? Well, it’s because I used to watch the Real Housewives, among other reality shows, and I was amazed (and sometimes shocked) that people acted that way until I did a little research, and realized there’s nothing “real” about reality shows.
Reality shows are like regular television shows, except people portray an exaggerated and scripted version of themselves. Producers cast the most outrageous people possible (though they also need the “straight men” to carry the main storyline), and they already have their story figured out before they start filming. In this case, they needed a patriarch for each side. They needed a matriarch too. They needed people to create drama, as well as filler. They needed to create a storyline for each character, they needed filler in between the main storyline so it seems more real, and they needed a main storyline for them all to play out in the end. Most of all, in this case, they needed to make it appear that the families were feuding, because otherwise, no one would ever watch their show.
There are multiple takes of each scene in reality shows, just like on regular television shows. Each cast member has a particular role to play, and they are very well aware of that role before shooting begins. Producers play cast members against each other, giving information to some but not others, and even lying to cast members in an effort to get them to react a certain way (in this instance, they want the two families to fight). Producers then edit the footage to give viewers the impression they want them to have. They take events out of chronological order to make more drama and tell the story, and even insert words where those words were never spoken (called “frankenbites”). So no, the cameras don’t just follow them around in their real lives, because if they did, it would not only be boring, it would also be a documentary, and not a “reality show”. Unlike documentaries, “reality shows” are a full-blown television production.
In other words, the only difference between reality TV and regular TV is that people are playing characters loosely based upon themselves, rather than playing a completely fictional character – I’d compare it to the characters on those crazy “ripped from the headlines” episodes of Law & Order, in that they take a little bit of truth and a whole lot of fiction, to make it dramatic. In this case, the show is loosely based upon the Hatfield/McCoy feud (they even have a Hatfield and a McCoy dating, and of course there’s lots of drama surrounding that because their fathers don’t want them to be together – sound familiar?) They stress the idea that we’re still feuding, and they found a few Hatfields and a few McCoys willing to play along.
I’m not offended really by the people playing on the show, mostly because I know that it’s all nonsense and so do they, whether they’ll admit it or not. Plus, when it comes down to it, they’re the ones who have to live with their decisions, not me, and I would never tell someone not to do whatever they want to do to make a legal buck (especially in this state, where the economy is very bad). I am however VERY offended by the producers intentionally painting a lie which has affected the reputation of my family. I’ve had several people ask me whether I know that the feud’s on again, and I’ve had people ask if I’m making money off the “White Lightning”. I just look at them like they’re crazy. Therein lies the problem: people hear the word “reality show”, and they think it’s reality.
Look, I’ll admit that some parts are real, or at least real enough. Are there old women here who hit people with their cane and yell about another family being “cheaters”? Oh sure, but you can see that anywhere you find half-senile old women, especially ones having to deal with out-of-control teenage boys (by the way, there’s no doubt in my mind that the boys’ fights are set up by the producers, not only because they’re too old to still be acting that way in the house, but also because the fights don’t even look like real fights – plus, why are the cameras always conveniently there when they come in fighting? Think about it.) Are there men here who get into fist fights? Oh sure, that’s common, but nobody really takes it seriously. Unless someone actually gets injured badly enough to need a hospital, which most people here don’t intend to do even when they do fight, chances are you won’t even be arrested for it. However, men fist fighting is also a universal problem; always has been, always will be.
Do the Hatfields make moonshine good enough to be marketable? You betcha, but we’ve been doing that since long before the feud, so it’s hardly a secret. Are the Hatfields forced to get together with the McCoys to get a still, in order to make moonshine? You’ve got to be kidding me. The Hatfields have enough stills between them, usually passed down through generations and hidden in sheds, barns and garages (or out in the woods somewhere), that we don’t have any problems finding a still; that part of the “reality show” is downright laughable, a real knee-slapper. Are the Hatfields and McCoys feuding over moonshine and potential profits? Absolutely not. I don’t know even one person in either family who cares about it one way or the other, except insofar as how this show makes us all look like incompetent idiots.
The truth of the matter is that moonshine is extremely common in West Virginia. It’s also known as “shine” or “white lightnin” (bear in mind that the “g” is always dropped when real West Virginians spell or pronounce it – if I were to spell it as we actually pronounce it, it would be spelled more like “whiaht liahtn’n”, but spoken very, very quickly). It’s perfectly legal to make moonshine here as long as you have a license. Truth be told, you could drive through West Virginia right this minute and buy yourself some fine moonshine, it’s sold in liquor stores (usually behind the counter though, to keep it from being stolen by teenagers). I don’t think it’s as good as Hatfield moonshine, but obviously I’m biased and in truth, there’s really not that much difference. Besides, people don’t really drink shine for the taste. They drink it to get drunk, because it’s 150 to 200 proof (which is 75-100% pure alcohol).
So making “white lightning” is really and truly not the big deal this show is making it out to be, and the Hatfields and the McCoys aren’t feuding over it. Truth is, most of us don’t even care about moonshine one way or the other, with the exception of those who like to drink it, and those who actually make it (usually illegally, but like I said, the only difference between legal and illegal here is a license – the state has to have its fingers in everything, as usual).
Oh and, by the way, the narrator on that show sounding like the narrator from “The Dukes of Hazzard” is just plain insulting. That’s the way people sound when they’re making fun of “hillbillies”. Don’t even get me started on that…
All in all, my opinion is quite simple. Why is this mess of a fake “reality” show on The History Channel? Well, I guess when answering that question, we have to bear in mind that they also air shows about extraterrestrials.
The problem is not only that their statement – that there’s a current feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys – is a complete lie, it’s that they’re seemingly trying to provoke the two families to feud again, this time for entertainment. So I find it despicable. It’s offensive, it’s wrong, and if I had my way, it wouldn’t be on television at all, and certainly not on The History Channel where most viewers just assume that what they air is true. People should be able to assume it’s true if it’s on The History Channel, but in real reality, no one can make that assumption about that network anymore.
All in all, I think it’s long past time The History Channel changed their name to “The Make-Believe Channel”, or maybe the even more accurate “We Just Pulled It Out Of Our Rear Ends Channel”, because that certainly would be a far more accurate description of this show (and much of their other programming as well).