Reality Squirrels – self poisoning ventures?

Every few months we get an offer.  Some reality show wants to come and film the communes of Twin Oaks or Acorn.  For a dozen good reasons and twice as many bad ones we always say “no”. Reality TV is notorious for using the film they shoot to tell an entertaining story, rather than an accurate one.

One couple of friends of mine participated in the Wife Swap program.  The show producers decided that part of what they wanted to achieve was a “Wife Swap has lasting positive impacts on these strange players” story line.  So they edited the film dramatically to show that the jobs that they had acquired before the show, were rather the result of the show.  Another friend who dared to be in this format was talking about how he loved the density of collective living.  But this was edited to the slightly preposterous phrase “i love density.”

pigeon house surreal

loving density in the abstract

The communes do not want the lives of their members as disrupted as they certainly would be from this high impact venture.  The disadvantage of commune life being reflected negatively more than compensates for the advantages of the cash or the exposure.  Since we cant control the content, we dont want to risk them doing something terrible with the footage.

So why are we thinking about inviting a reality show to film the early days of Chubby Squirrels? Partly because having an income stream would allow the project to start faster – moving in perhaps as soon as the later half of this year.  Partly because it is somewhat daring and reckless and it might just be fun.  Yasmin teased me that her Hollywood friend that they would love a commune founding tale with a character named Paxus Star in it.

may the force be with us

may the force be with us

And it is certainly not without risks.  It is like taking a  poison of uncertain strength and hoping it turns out okay.  Some wonderful prospective squirrels would not put up with their lives being broadcast and remixed in such away.   Though the significant majority of prospective Chubby Squirrels i have spoken with say that they would be game for this reality adventure.  Further dangers are that some chance the show itself will make the future of the community unworkable by depicting it in such a negative or controversial light.

About 1/3 of the people who i have talked with about getting their message out through their reality TV show experience being more important/effective than the parody that was made of them.  These are much better odds than we get when we start campaigns against reactors.

As always i am curious about my readers thoughts.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

11 responses to “Reality Squirrels – self poisoning ventures?”

  1. Tree Bressen says :

    It’s not an income-stream, it’s a one-time cash dump, right? Which is very different. And can perhaps be acquired from other sources with less dramatic down-sides: angel donors, inheritances, grants, lottery tickets . . .

    If you do it, i recommend the participants decide collectively ahead of time what they want the key message to be and then practice A LOT how to stay on it at all times while the cameras are running. Which is hard work.

    Personally i’m dubious, based on my personal experience while outreach manager of lobbying Acorn to allow a NYT reporter in and then watching him publish a dishonest hatchet job on the community. I thought all press was good press, and i was wrong.

    Then again, if you chat with past reality show participants, while they complain of horribly dishonest editing (which typically creates a lot of personal embarrassment that then needs to be discussed with family & friends), they don’t usually say the show ruined their lives.

  2. cardin seabrook says :

    i want to know more about chubby squirrels

  3. someeverydaystories says :

    We live in a dirty world that often requires compromises (I say while sitting in my bed funded by big pharma) if the choice is movement direction while getting a little stained, as opposed to sitting perfectly still while being absolutely pure, I say go with the action.

    This choice smacks of flag hammocks after 9/11 to me, and being raised Mennonite and anti-government, I would have woven the shit out of some red and white stripped hammocks with a big grin on my face, because I was transmuting patriotism into community capital.

    I would say however if you do go for Hollywood money, in no way try to dress up the fact you aren’t happy with it, don’t invent any bullshit (propaganda) about changing people’s expectation, or the dialogue of TV being more radicalized. Just hold your nose say the lines they want you to say, take the money and get out. And if anyone askes you about just admit, “Yup, we were whores, we totally did just for the money, but look at the nice ______________ we bought with it”

  4. germanbini says :

    We had someone contact us at East Wind about doing a reality show (perhaps the same company as contacted you guys?), and most people were against it. I talked to the guy myself several times and thought it sounded like a good project, but then again, I tend to try to hope for and expect the best in people. 😉

  5. moonraven222 says :

    It sounds like quite the gamble and I would expect no less of you…

    I still want to help out with Chubby Squirrels, let me know if there’s anything I can do. I’ll be at TO in late Feb. Would love to check in w/ you then.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest MoonRaven:

      i certainly have not forgotten your generous offer. i am just relanding in Virginia, but i will finally be putting together a CS newsletter.

      Paxus at Twin Oaks
      16 Acorn Viz 2013

  6. says :

    The revo will be televised. NWO bulletin #1. Even bad press will be good press. Peace PAX!

    Sent from my iPhone

  7. Ed ex-T.O. says :

    Hi Paxus,

    On rare occasion, I can be cynical, even sarcastic. This proposition has brought that right out!

    Even if everyone at CS stays on message and the film crews gets great footage showing interesting people telling an exciting story, please don’t underestimate the power of an evil genius to manipulate it all to disparage individuals and the community.

    Despite what I suspect are long odds, you might end up with a show you are happy with. What a coup that would be! It may be such an unusual occurrence it would be a story worth telling on a realty TV show! Maybe you could prepare for this possibility by secretly filming your behind the scenes strategizing about how to manage the story line and plot twists?

    I don’t see a reality TV show as an effective way for CS to “get the word out”. I suppose there is a chance that a progressive viewer or two will see through the fiction and be excited enough to visit and join. I imagine it will be more likely to generate unwelcome drop-ins and drive-bys.

    Looking forward to reading about your decision and, if the filming happens, many exciting posts!

    Ed ex-T.O.

    p.s. Thought about you this week as I showed a new friend the echo chamber at the Johnson Museum. They have an amazing art instillation on the outside roof that forms the floor of the upper section. It is an ever changing light show, sometimes cosmic, sometimes Atari game like, always interesting!

  8. Shiloh says :

    The paradox it great with this venture. I think what would be a most before the community said yes to their lives being taped, that there be a contract of truism, That the goal of such a TV show is to educate first, then to entertain. It’s hard to get Hollywood to fund such a thing, but hippies living outside the box does make for really good TV. Or at least when I lived there. Just think if we did it in CO we could make it cannabis related and that would make for great TV.
    Just some thoughts.
    Much love

  9. ed says :


    Forget reality T.V. What you should try to do is collaborate with Annie Baker. See the story about her in the Feb 25th New Yorker Magazine and the mention of her one brief foray into cable television.

    If you could catch her interest, the positive result would be hard to imagine!


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