Honey Boo Boo reveals the intolerance of "tolerant" people
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 21:10
This happens to me all of the time: I start hearing the name of some new celebrity with alarming frequency, so I go to my older sister and ask her what’s up with this new phenomena. I first heard about Honey Boo Boo in my American Literature class when the professor found a moment to express, “Honey Boo Boo… talk about white trash.” I figured he was referring to a stripper. I can’t imagine any one being named “Honey” never mind “Boo Boo.” One Internet commenter said, as “The mother is a mentally challenged woman with four kids and she still manages to lavish a lot of attention of her little girl… Honey Boo Boo.”
Finally I decided to watch the show. If it was really this bad of a show, then I could just turn it off. First of all, “Honey Boo Boo” is her nickname and a term of endearment. Her real name is Alana Thompson. Secondly, the mother isn’t mentally challenged. Her worst crime is being overweight. And finally, the most “redneck” elements of this show are the accents the Thompson-Shannon family speaks with.
Everything that makes us think about “rednecks” is absent. The Thompson-Shannon household is impeccable. The yard is free of trash and refuse. The family bathes regularly despite being a house of six people and only one bathroom. There’s absolutely no drug use or manufacturing.
I tried so hard to hate this show. I watched three episodes figuring, “Ok, it’s going to hit the fan soon.” But what I saw was a mother who genuinely loved her kids and a family dedicated to making the best of a bad situation.
First, I saw the oldest daughter (17) pregnant. I thought, “Wow that’s terrible.” But we miss the family discovering the pregnancy. Given the nature of the family, I can’t imagine anything except fears of being a teenage mom, of being financially able to support another mouth, and being ostracized by the extended family. Instead, we’re introduced to her in the last stages of her pregnancy when the family throws a baby shower with all necessary things: clothes, bottles, and diapers. Even grandma is excited to help care for her new granddaughter.
Secondly, almost everyone in the family is overweight. June Shannon, Alana’s mother, weighs 300 lbs. But Alana’s sister says she wants to lose weight so she won’t be teased at school. June then agrees to lose weight with her daughter to help encourage a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the worst thing I gathered from this part of the show was how devoid of healthy food options low-income families in the Deep South actually are. The Shannon family attends a “food auction.” Families bid for food that’s dangerously close to the expiration date. There are no healthy options. Cheese balls and snack cakes are the norm.
Finally, Alana’s first TV appearance was on Toddler’s and Tiaras: a show made famous for the exploitation of young girls and the vicious attitudes mothers adopt as they force their children to the spotlight. Alana seems to actually enjoy the competitions. It seems bizarre that a six-year old can have her own will, but the family is nothing but loving when it concerns Alana’s involvement. In one episode, she loses a pageant and cries. Some people have looked at this as the mother’s influence on her daughter’s incapability to win. But the reality is, she cries because she’s a six-year old girl who lost something she worked hard for. Children do that.
The series can be summed up in one scene where Alana’s father, Mike Thompson, holds the family’s new pet pig and says, “This pig will fit right into the family, all he needs is love.” It’s an incredibly profound thing to say, but TLC decided that stupid and degrading was better than profound. So they added a banjo for the entire half-hour of the show’s runtime. “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is about a loving family living in the Deep South, that makes the best of a bad situation, while their producer, Authentic Entertainment, turns their lifestyle into a mockery by emphasizing aspects of their life that simply aren’t there.
Maybe Authentic Entertainment realized a functional family isn’t good for ratings. There’s a reason we like watching the sex and violence of Jersey Shore. By comparison, a story about a functional family is kind of boring.