What We’re Really Talking About When We Talk About “Honey Boo Boo”

People who know me and also read this blog have asked me a couple times now what I think about TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” I haven’t been able to respond because I really wasn’t sure what I thought. I needed to marinate. Also, I hadn’t seen the show until I watched the 3 episodes available online the other day. (I ditched cable. I regret it.)

I became familiar with Honey Boo Boo Child when my friend Andy posted the original “a dolla makes me holla!” video on my Facebook page with a message that said  “that kid you gave up for adoption is on Toddlers and Tiaras now.” Jokes! Of course I watched it about 4 times in a row, and I felt a strange mixture of horrified, charmed, amused, depressed, and worried. When she grabs her belly fat, I just…I can’t. In case you haven’t seen it (or have blocked it from memory), here it is:

People get so worked up over reality TV. And, in a way, I get it. It’s worse than a carnival freak show because unlike the freaks in a hot, sweaty tent, we only watch; we don’t have to make eye contact with them. (Which I accidentally did at a South Florida fairground freak show. I need to write about that.) And yes, I think a big part of reality TV’s appeal is the “at least I’m better than them” factor.

But what really makes me clutch my pearls and do the whole “who will think of the children?!” routine is the thought that Charlie fucking Sheen enjoys the level of fame and riches he does. Until very recently, Charlie Sheen was the highest paid man on television. He was making 1.25 million dollars per episode of that hideously unfunny show he was on. He even managed to make money off of his spectacular meltdown. And he’s on TV again! Barf. That troubles me far more than the kids on Jersey Shore allowing their drunken hookups to be filmed.

I read a quote from Phoebe from Friends Lisa Kudrow the other day where she said she loved watching The Real Housewives because she thinks “it’s important to watch the end of the world happening.” Oh please. For one thing, Friends was funny but I hope she’s not actually placing herself that far above the Housewives. C’mon. Really, Feebs?

The other thing I think of when people flip out over reality TV (besides the fact that there’s also war and famine and shouldn’t we maybe be more worried about that) is shows from the “Golden Age of Television” … like Amos ‘n’ Andy. Is anyone actually arguing that Toddlers and Tiaras is more damaging to our culture than that little gem? It’s not that I think TV is better now, just that it’s not worse.

But back to Honey Boo Boo. Don’t try to tell me that isn’t a happy family. They’re dirty and crude and overweight and happy as hell. They genuinely enjoy each other and the warmth between them feels real. I think maybe what people are the most troubled by is the fact that they’re not ashamed. Think about it: they are everything that we’re supposed to be afraid to be and they LOVE it.

Just like everyone else, I’m tempted to think that Mama June (make no mistake: she’s the real star of the show) couldn’t possibly be happy being that fat. Maybe what scares me more is that she actually IS content being that size. Maybe unlike pretty much every other citizen of the United States, she’s actually happy just as she is and sees no reason to join in the exhausting race to improve herself. While we’re stressing out about our kids having a sip of high fructose corn syrup, she’ll be on the couch eating cheese balls and laughing with her family.

And I think that might be the most threatening thing about the show. We’re so used to seeing people on TV bleach their teeth, excessively exercise, fix their nose/eyes/lips, and put extensions in their hair that we don’t blink. That’s actually considered normal. We don’t know what to do when we see someone who is over 300 pounds, not attractive by most any standard, genuinely enjoying her life. I almost think people would approve of June and her brood more if they would at least act like they’re embarrassed. Nope. Not happening. They should be ashamed and they’re not and that bothers us.

[I can’t comment about Honey Boo Boo using speech patterns and mannerisms more commonly associated with black people than rednecks. All I can say about that is it that living about 50 miles from HBB and fam, it doesn’t seem that odd to me. Anyway, that seems like one of those things that bothers academic types so I’ll leave that to them.]

My only real concern about Honey Boo Boo is Season 2. So often the first season of a reality show is gold: the subjects are unself-conscious and don’t try to portray themselves as anything other than exactly what they are. Then the show airs and they start getting recognized, they read blog posts about themselves saying how ugly and fat they are, and the people around them figure out they have money and start asking for it and it all implodes and the family falls apart and it’s horrible.

So let’s hope a dolla doesn’t really make Alana holla.

gif (as always): T. Kyle Mac at realitytvgifs.tumblr.com

17 thoughts on “What We’re Really Talking About When We Talk About “Honey Boo Boo”

  1. I love that you love trash TV. It relieves my shame! LOL. You are right, they do seem to be happy, but Mama June and the girls are on a diet….

    • reallyrealatlantahousewife says:

      Yeah, the farting diet! I’m happy I can relieve your shame. It’s been a slow process for me, coming to terms with loving it…

  2. Forever 51 says:

    Well I should be really damn skinny by now-I fart all the time!

  3. NeverHadABeard says:

    Interesting take, RRAHW. One of my (many) issues w/ “reality” shows is the unfortunate curse they seem to place on the participants: jail, suicide, overdoses, murder, death, madness. The warm, inviting spotlight eventually fries them to a crisp; they’re discarded & replaced w/ the next amusingly desperate narcissist. The fact that this show revolves around a child seems to raise the stakes.

    • reallyrealatlantahousewife says:

      Well, you’re right about all of that. I read the other day that the death count for participants on Celebrity Rehab is up to 4. Yikes. They’re addicts, so the numbers are higher anyway, but it’s troubling nonetheless. June’s tweets (don’t judge!) make it seem like they’re eating it all up right now, but I do worry what comes next. Does seem to be a pattern. Le sigh.

  4. Beth says:

    Oh, I had the same trepidation when I first watched this show (being from Georgia and all). And then I was surprised to see how happy this family is and I actually enjoyed the show (the one where they went to Dublin for the redneck festival). Lib, your assessment is spot on,as usual.

  5. Carlita says:

    Toddlers & Tiaras is my television vice of choice, which is where I became acquainted with lil miss Honey Boo Boo. I have no problem with this new show in general, but I will not be watching it, and here’s why: Honey Boo Boo freaks me out, like, for real. The rest of her jolly redneck family: no problem. But I feel like there is something really not right about that child and that makes it hard for me to enjoy watching her antics.

    Children are very rarely diagnosed with personality disorders, but check this out anyhow:

    DSM-IV-TR specifies nine diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). For the clinician to make the diagnosis, an individual must fit five or more of the following descriptions:

    –He or she has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates accomplishments and demands to be considered superior without real evidence of achievement). CHECK
    –He or she lives in a dream world of exceptional success, power, beauty, genius, or “perfect” love. CHECK
    –He or she thinks of him- or herself as “special” or privileged, and that he or she can only be understood by other special or high-status people. CHECK
    –He or she demands excessive amounts of praise or admiration from others. CHECK
    –He or she feels entitled to automatic deference, compliance , or favorable treatment from others. CHECK
    –He or she is exploitative towards others and takes advantage of them. CHECK (how else does a 6 yr old land her own TV show?)
    –He or she lacks empathy and does not recognize or identify with others’ feelings. CHECK
    –He or she is frequently envious of others or thinks that they are envious of him or her. CHECK
    –He or she “has an attitude” or frequently acts in haughty or arrogant ways. TRIPLE CHECK

    Granted, this pretty much describes most reality show players….but generally not at age 6!!!

    Usually I do fret a bit about how reality shows affect involved children….but I don’t worry about Honey Boo Boo because it’s obvious that little girl knows how to advocate for herself better than lots of adults do. Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

    • reallyrealatlantahousewife says:

      I should be getting kids ready for school – whoops! – but have to reply real quick. My friend who posted HBB on my FB page so long ago is a psychologist. His take on it was that possibly her IQ was exceptionally low and that disturbed him. I’m simultaneously amused and disturbed by the criteria for NPD. Mainly because I think so many people fit it!

  6. Carlita says:

    I suspect HBB’s IQ is just fine, actually…and the AJC calls her an “excellent reader”. http://blogs.ajc.com/the-buzz/2012/08/21/my-day-with-honey-boo-boo/?cxntfid=blogs_the_buzz
    I don’t know….check back in on her in about 10 years and it will be clear then whether or not there is something psycho going on. As far as NPD–so true that the criteria fits so many people (like I said, most of the casts of reality shows)–but what strikes me about it in this case is that HBB is only 6. That’s awful damn young to appear to be meeting all 9 criteria of NPD….omg, I can’t believe you have me spending this much time thinking about HBB! Madness! 🙂

  7. Beth says:

    OMG, I briefly saw the beginning of tonight’s episode (sadly, couldn’t watch the whole thing) and howled at this: “I hope Mama doesn’t eat Glitzy [the pet pig} ’cause she sure eats everything else.”

    • reallyrealatlantahousewife says:

      Saw that too! I wonder if they feel so free to talk about their mom’s size because they can tell she isn’t ashamed? I don’t know…

  8. Beth says:

    Maybe Mama is a new kind of feminist hero that we’ve been missing = free to REALLY be whatever/however she wants and lovin’ it!

  9. Beth says:

    Yeah, I have lessons to learn from Mama, I thinks.

Talk to me.

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