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WEB EXTRA: Every West Virginian Helps Showcase State’s Image on Film

By Staff | Nov 23, 2009

Portrayals of West Virginians in popular culture vary from positive to negative, however, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin challenges every resident has an opportunity to influence how the media portrays the Mountain State and its people.

“October Sky,” “The Right Stuff” and “We Are Marshall” represent major films “that have shown our state and some of our most beloved West Virginians in a positive manner,” emphasizing “talent, strength and courage,” Manchin said. By  contrast, Manchin previously voiced strong objection to the “inaccurate portrayal” in “The Express: The Ernie Davis Story.”

Shot mainly in Illinois and New York, “The Express,” which depicts events in the life of the first African American Heisman Trophy winner, included scenes in which Syracuse took on the WVU Mountaineers in Morgantown. In real life, the match up occurred on Syracuse’s home field, as WVU’s stadium did not have lights. The picture also errors also in how it recounts the 1960 Cotton Bowl game and surrounding events. Research errors such as these make up an entire page related to “The Express.”

Speaking of reactions to stereotypes or factual inaccuracies in so-called “true stories,” Manchin added, through his spokesperson that “West Virginians are very proud people. The governor does not wish to suggest how each of us should react to a negative portrayal of this state or its citizens. No doubt those portrayals can be hurtful and for people who take great pride in their way of life and their home, it’s natural to be defensive when someone does or says something that’s simply not fair. And each person will react in the way they feel.”

However, the state and its people continue making progress in many of its media portrayals, through the actions and hard work of Mountaineers.

Matt Turner, Manchin’s spokesperson, explained, “We have made great progress in shedding that [stereotypical]  image but not so much by combating unfair portrayals through words – more so by our actions and hard work, and the truthful portrayals of West Virginians that do make it to the media. Those actions include things such as our assistance and volunteerism after Hurricane Katrina; the way our state came together after the Sago and Aracoma tragedies; and by our state’s continued economic health amid this major recession.”

That said, the governor  continues working to change that image by showcasing the best of West Virginia wherever he travels and using every opportunity he has to promote this state. He always says, “West Virginia is the envy of the whole world, they just don’t know it yet.”