As those of us who reside in the Mid-Valley know, there are plenty of factors that make this a great place to live, but one I think doesn’t get quite the credit it deserves is that the rest of the world, even if they know where Basalt is, doesn’t have any preconceived notions about us. That may not seem like a big deal, but I was reminded recently of how refreshing it can be.
I was fortunate enough to work the week before Christmas on a production that was shooting in Aspen. I’m not sure how much the producers would want me to reveal about the project, which is still in its early stages, so let’s just say it was a professional crew from a big-name media company creating something that may one day be added to the canon of productions about Ute City.
That’s all well and good, but like virtually every production before it – “Aspen Extreme,” “Winter Break,” “Cougar Hunting,” “Secrets of Aspen,” even “Dumb and Dumber” – the latest attempt made no effort to portray the real Aspen and instead just promoted the sort of cliché stereotypes about fancy rich people that most Valley residents are sick and tired of.
(To get a sense of how sick and tired of the stereotypes people are, check out the “Aspen Against VH-1’s ‘Secrets of Aspen’” Facebook page, wherein disgusted locals sounded off about how much they despised the eight-episode show that aired in 2010. To say they were not fond of the program is a gross understatement, judging by how often the B-word was used to describe the cast members. In the cast members’ defense, they weren’t really Bs, but one would never know that from watching the show.)
As an example of how off-base these productions can be, one person involved with the recent shoot I worked on claimed that almost everyone who lives in Aspen also owns other homes elsewhere. I found that interesting because after 27 years in the Valley I still don’t think I know any Aspen locals about whom that’s actually true.
But that’s not really the point. The point is that people out there in the wider world believe it’s true, and so, if you say you’re from Aspen, they’ll automatically assume you’re rich.
Obviously, in a lot of circumstances, having someone think you’re loaded can be beneficial. Folks tend to be a lot friendlier to people they think might bestow some largesse on them. But that tends to backfire when those same folks realize you’re flat broke and then get angry with you for having led them on, even though you probably didn’t.
Here in Basalt, thankfully, we don’t get as much of that. I mean, sure, just about every comedian who graced the stage of The Temporary made the same crack about having never performed for such an affluent audience before, but I just took that to mean they didn’t know what they were talking about, and they just figured they were close enough to Aspen that it might be true.
Beyond the Valley, however, I enjoy it when I tell people I’m from Basalt and I’m met with just a blank stare. The first follow-up question is usually, “Where’s that?” which opens the door for all sorts of half-truths about our neck of the woods. I’m sure I’ve probably claimed at some point that Basalt is some podunk town in the middle of nowhere, and I know for a fact that’s how I’ll describe it to any college admissions people when they’re considering my son in a few years. It might be a tough sell if Colorado Mountain College is the only school he can get into, but I think I’m up to the challenge.
The funny thing is, there actually was a show that trafficked in stereotypes about Basalt, but most people didn’t notice it. The show was “South Park,” season 19, wherein a Whole Foods opens in the village of South Park, and it basically turns everyone in the town into a self-righteous asshole.
That season aired in 2015, just three years after a Whole Foods opened in Basalt, which is a small mountain town that seems to be roughly the size of the fictional one in “South Park.” One could easily extrapolate from the episodes that the “South Park” writers were making fun of us.
“The funny thing is, there actually was a show that trafficked in stereotypes about Basalt, but most people didn’t notice it. The show was ‘South Park’ season 19, wherein a Whole Foods opens in the village of South Park, and it basically turns everyone in the town into a self-righteous asshole.”
So maybe I was wrong when I claimed that the rest of the world doesn’t have preconceived notions about Basalt. At least two people, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, may think we’re a bunch of douchebags ever since Whole Foods came to town. Are we? I like to think we’re not, but even if we are, it’s important to remember that almost nobody who doesn’t watch “South Park” knows it.