While other cities across the nation are being occupied, my hometown of Culpeper, VA may be in line for a slightly different honor. It seems that the famous Oprah Winfrey has decided to invade, or perhaps I should say select, a town of roughly 15,000 persons and start a new reality TV series there. (As a side note, how exactly did the type of television that has least in common with reality come to be known as “reality TV”? I think that question should be lodged along with the old driveways/parkways conundrum.) Anyhoo, it also seems that Culpeper is one of the finalist towns in the running to be selected as “Lovetown, USA”, in which case singles can apply to be matched up and filmed as they fall in love, or something, over a thirty days. I’m not too clear on the details because I don’t intend to watch the show even if it is set right down the street from my house. In any case, I don’t own a TV.
One thing does spring to mind for me, though. It’s agreed that most cities and towns have character of some sort. Where does that character come from? Obviously in most cases it is built up over time, as the folks who live there start behaving in a certain way, valuing certain things, building unique and recognizable homes and businesses and landmarks. Then other people who find that character appealing are attracted to the place, and the character grows stronger over time. In recent decades the idea of local character has retreated quite a bit. Most everyone recognizes that any old suburb anywhere in the country looks a lot like any other old suburbs anywhere else. So each individual town and city has a lot less to think of as unique.
One of the few things that can still make a place unique is when a celebrity either shows up from outside or materializes on the inside. For instance, the town of Maysville, KY, which is not far from where I grew up, still has a notice proclaiming that Miss America 2000 was born there on the official town sign. Culpeper is not lucky enough to have such an illustrious native. As far as I know, the most famous person born here was Eppa Rixey. Yet somehow it feels a wee bit undemocratic when a bigwig from outside can condescend to take our town and put it on the map merely by the power of celebrity.