This was my first time hearing about, let alone watching the show “Alaskan Women Looking for Love.” My confusion quickly went away once I realized it was TLC, which is the reality television’s reigning champion. They are quickly covering every reality the United States has to offer. The episode I watched was the season finale. At times I felt a little disconnected but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was rooting for the Alaskan women and their relationships at the end of the show. The show takes six Alaskan women to Miami, Florida to explore the dating scene outside their homes. The show’s tagline is “Watch as six sheltered women from Kodiak, Alaska, venture for the first time ever to the Lower 48 in search of love.” Like most shows about finding love, the participants are all heterosexual. There were no tweets commenting on this which reveals how, to most of society, heterosexuality is the norm and is rarely challenged.
The live tweeting population was overwhelmingly female. There were a few men, but women definitely made up the majority of comments. Scrolling down the twitter feed and looking at the avatars the people live tweeting are mostly white and relatively young. Most appear to be between 16 and 35. Avatars can be misleading because you don’t have to use a real picture, but most of the accounts of the people on this page use full names and their tweets don’t warrant a false identity because people mostly quoted or commented on the show, they weren’t extremely offensive. The people live tweeting the event seemed extremely invested in the love lives of these Alaskan women. Many viewers had watched the entire season and tweeted about how sad they were that the season was over and demanded a second season.
A Twitter account called TweeParties, Inc (@TweeParties) helps people plan twitter parties. The account used the hashtag #Alaskanwomen to bring people together to talk about the season finale. They also gave away prizes, like an Alaskan Smokehouse Salmon gift set, to people at the “party.” What I found most surprising about the twitter feed was that people from the show participated in the discussion. It seems like TweeParties is responsible for the cast members’ participation. The women responded to questions from viewers, posted behind the scenes pictures and talked about wanting a second season. Although the show is Alaskan women looking for love, one of the top tweeters from the show was actually Henry Wong, one of the men Sabina met in Miami. All the participants seem very eager for a second season or spin off.
Not everyone found love in Miami. At the end of the show, a few of the couples realized they were from two different worlds and it wouldn’t work. Two of the men cried which drew sympathy as well as disgust. Some women thought it was sweet that the men cared so much while others thought it showed weakness. The mixed response shows a growing shift in how we as a society view masculinity. Traditionally, men are supposed to be more closed off emotionally so as not to show weakness, but recently men have been encouraged to show their emotions. The conflicting responses of viewers reflects the ways masculinity is highly debated.
Gender norms were focused on for the women too. The premise of the show sets the women up to be viewed as independent and physically capable (obviously, how else would they survive the Alaskan wilderness of Kodiak!?). So the gender roles seem slightly reversed which bothers some people. The men are both praised and ridiculed for their masculinites. The women we’re mostly praised for being “real” but there were still a few vulgar tweets, like the one above from @kuhndaddio (one of two about frozen vaginas) that clearly objectify the women.
The show definitely has some mixed reviews. For every person expressing annoyance with a show they find trivial, there were twice as many expressing their love of the show. Even some Alaskans joined in. Some tweeted about how much they related to the women or knew them personally but some find the show to be exploitative. It seemed like the biggest criticism of this show is from the way in which these women are portrayed as culturally backwards or behind the rest of the country. The show definitely relies on stereotypes of Alaskan women as naive sheltered and Alaskan men as inept, drunk, and unsuitable partners. The tension of the show leans on culture shock but overall the show is not very controversial. The live tweeting revealed a generally positive fan base for a show that could stir up a lot of controversy because of a clash of cultures (consider Jersey Shore when they go… well, anywhere). Due to the heavily invested fan base and extremely responsive cast, I definitely see a second season in the future.
A few questions I am still working out: How much does live tweeting influence a channel to pick up another season or do a spinoff? TLC seems heavily invested in viewer feedback especially since they leave a hashtag (for this show it said #Alaskanwomen) at the top left corner of the screen throughout the entire show.