Date: 19 January 2017 17:38
Did you know that Alaskan Bush People is loosely based on a book? After family patriarch Billy Brown published One Wave at a Time in 2007, his family allegedly ventured into the lower 48 for the sole purpose of turning the story into a movie or TV show. According to Capital City Weekly, the Browns returned to Alaska with a production crew "to recreate the journey described in the book." What was initially intended to be a one-season documentary, proved so popular, it was repackaged into an ongoing series. Does this mean the whole show is fake? No, but it does prove this off-the-grid family courted very on-the-grid opportunities.
True isolation means there are no roads, nearby towns, or neighbors. This wasn't the case with the Browns when they set up shop during the show's first season. According to the Alaska Dispatch-News, the series filmed close enough to civilization to tick off some neighbors. Jason Hoke told the publication he "grew increasingly frustrated during the show's production by vehicles speeding up the dirt road, the shouting from next door and the constant buzz of chainsaws." The paper also made note of a pizza shop about a half-mile away—because nothing says "wilderness" quite like melted cheese and pepperoni.
Sometime between Seasons 4 and 5, the Browns found themselves in California, where Noah Brown allegedly met a West Coast girl named Karryna L. Kauffman. She accepted an invitation to "Browntown" to reunite with him, and their date was filmed, of course. Shortly after their awkward encounter aired, social media sleuths tracked down Kauffman's Twitter, Facebook, and an IMDb page. Her career consists primarily of bit parts and walk-on roles, but that's enough to suggest that the show may have courted her to help drive ratings; not because a real romance was budding. Not to mention, much of the "date" focused on Brown getting over his ex-girlfriend. He even performed a song about it for Kauffman.
Before they were known as Alaskan Bush People, the Browns called themselves "The Alaskan Wilderness Family." They even created a website to market the brood and Billy's books. It's a pretty nice site—so nice that it shatters the idea that these free spirits have no concept of modern technology. One could make the argument that the site was professionally built for the Browns because of their lack of computer savvy, but evidence abounds that this family is well connected to the outside world.
When audiences met this backwoods family in Season 1, the show went out of its way to demonstrate how deeply the brood despised modern inconveniences, suggesting the seven Brown kids had no clue how an iPhone works or who Kim Kardashian is. But a trip to YouTube reveals that most of the kids are actually quite internet savvy: Bam, Gabe, Noah, Snow, and Rain Brown all seem to have been active on the video-sharing site. In addition to promoting Billy's book, their channels featured assorted tidbits about their perfectly civilized lives.
CNN and the Juneau Empire reported that the Brown family pleaded guilty to lying on its Permanent Fund Dividend forms, a program that allows Alaskan residents to collect annual funding from the state. According to the Juneau Empire, "The stars of the reality TV show Alaskan Bush People admitted to lying about their Alaska residency and absences from the state on their Permanent Fund Dividend applications from 2010 through 2013."
In this video, the show's narrator and father Billy attempt to explain the family's legal problems to TV viewers. The show implies the family is innocent because the government won't allow them to live free and wild. One could argue that using state money to support yourself is kind of the antithesis of off the grid independence. More importantly, breaking the law is breaking the law, even in the bush.
The court case wasn't the only conflict that was potentially skewed on the show. Remember disgruntled neighbor Hoke? Well, he may be the guy behind the "gunshots" played up on the Season 1 episode titled "Fight or Flight." The show plays up the idea that mysterious locals may be threatening the families' lives, but Hoke has readily admitted to shooting "two or three mortar-type fireworks" at a helicopter hovering near his home, telling the Alaska Dispatch-News that he fired the shots as a warning because the chopper was shaking his house and upsetting his youngest son. No charges were filed, but the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly fined Hoke $500. The Alaskan Bush People never bothered to clarify this event, opting to paint the locals as some sort of gun-toting maniacs (instead of firework-toting…oh, nevermind.)
Previous points aside, common sense is also a strong indicator that Alaskan Bush People is fake. After all, how is it "wilderness survival" when your every move is followed by a camera crew? Viewers often suspend disbelief when enjoying a good fictional drama or a semi-fictional reality TV show. Alaskan Bush People is a highly entertaining program, and we love tuning in. It's just not a good idea to take the show too seriously.