Tuned In

The Morning After: Honey Boo Boo Don’t Care

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TLC

Alana Thompson, star of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

The theme song of TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a fart. Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s about four seconds of guitar noodling as the camera pans down to the Thompson family of Georgia, posed cheerfully in front of their house, until the tranquillity is broken by a loud, sound-effect BRAAAAP! that we’re meant to believe is issued from “Mama” June, the family matriarch. (The two episodes that TLC premiered Wednesday night used two different fart sounds in the sequence. Maybe it’ll be the equivalent of The Simpsons‘ couch gag.) And … roll the opening titles. America, meet your new family-comedy royalty!

Honey Boo Boo is nominally a spinoff of TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, the horrifying judgmentfest about child beauty pageants and the sugar-buzzed girls and obsessive parents who populate them. “Honey Boo Boo” is the self-given nickname of Alana Thompson, a 6-year-old ball of corn syrup and ambition who minted poetic, unsettling catchphrases like “A dolla’ makes me holla!” (Another quasi–Toddlers spinoff, Eden’s World, aired on Logo earlier this year.) So that’s “Honey Boo Boo” as in: “Girls must be crazy if they think they’re gonna beat me honey boo boo child!”

But the pageants are secondary in Honey Boo Boo, which is less like Toddlers and Tiaras than it is a reality-show version of The Fatties: Fart Two, the Klumps-like fartsploitation movie-within-a-movie starring Jack Black’s character in Tropic Thunder. The real focus is gawking at the redneck-and-proud world of the Thompsons, who buy pork rinds and cheese balls in bulk, discuss passing gas as a weight-loss strategy (I did not make that up) and have their dialogue subtitled throughout — sometimes necessarily, sometimes just to mockingly reinforce how alien they are.

Just in case you didn’t get that, in the first episode, the Thompsons visit the Redneck Games, an annual party/competition in South Georgia that June says is “similar to the Olympics but with a lot of missing teeth and a lot of butt cracks showing.” Her comparison is more dead-on than you might think: the Games were started in conjunction with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as an in-joke about the kind of Olympics the outside world might think the South would put on, complete with mud-pit belly flops and bobbing for raw pig trotters.

Honey Boo Boo basically serves up this image for 21st century reality TV, minus the knowing satire. If you ever need a mental image of what it looks like when the boundary between ironic self-parody and the actual embrace of a stereotype collapses, it is a teenage girl dunking her head in a plastic tub to snap up an animal’s severed foot.

The show is like the long-lost collaboration of Flannery O’Connor, Mike Judge and Larry the Cable Guy, sometimes lovingly tweaking the family, sometimes serving them and their community up — belly flab, teen pregnancies and all — as object lessons of American decline. There is probably no other ethnic group in America TLC could caricature so blatantly and get away with it. Next to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Jersey Shore is The Godfather II, The Real Housewives of New York City a John Updike novel.

That’s the show’s selling point: holy crap, would you look at these people! And yet, while I was creeped out by the way Honey Boo Boo was framing the family and presenting them to us, I couldn’t help loving the Thompsons themselves. The real focus of the series is not Alana so much as June, pageant mom and extreme couponer, who — her gas-passing introduction notwithstanding — turns out to be dryly funny and self-aware enough to know what viewers are probably thinking of her. “You like us or you don’t like us,” she says. “We just don’t care.”

It’s the just-don’t-caring that’s infectious. (In this way, Honey Boo Boo recalls another video-phenomenon honey, the honey badger. Honey badger don’t care.) The Thompsons have already been on TV, and they’re clearly smart enough to know how people perceive a show like Toddlers and Tiaras, and yet they show an unalloyed joy in a life of junk food and dress-up. They are who they are, memorably and unapologetically. At one point in the Redneck Games, Alana joins in the mud-pit flopping, and it’s a fantastic image: an overexcited little girl TV star in a beauty-pageant sash jumping up and down in a wallow of mud. USA! USA! USA!

Alana herself is unfiltered, competitive and vivaciously mouthy. Told by June that she can’t swim in a river crowded with people because of the posted danger of bacteria (“I would prefer my kids not to be in the redneck bathtub”), she shouts at the swimmers: “I hope y’all are getting that flesh-eating disease! I’ll laugh!”

But overall, she has a kind of sassy sweetness to her. In the second episode, she gets a pet teacup pig as consolation for losing a pageant and decides to dress him as a girl, which she says will make him gay. The ensuing argument with her older sister is both ridiculous and oddly wise in a 6-year-old way: “It’s not gonna be gay.” “Yes it is, because we’re making it a girl pig! And it’s actually a boy pig!” “O.K., but it’s not gonna be gay.” “It can if it wants to. You can’t tell that pig what to do.”

You can’t tell that pig what to do. See, you can look at that scene, like you can most of Honey Boo Boo, several ways. You can laugh at the intensity of Alana’s conviction that she’s right. You can tut-tut at the gender-role signals this pageant girl must be getting to conclude that you can “make” someone or something gay by dressing it in girl clothes. But you can also see something kind of remarkable in it: a little country girl, whatever confusion and misinformation she has in her mind, fervently arguing a teacup pig’s right to determine its own sexual identity.

Now, I’ve watched enough reality TV to know that, if I see the Thompsons transcending Honey Boo Boo‘s mocking format, it’s because TLC has edited the show to allow me to see that. And I’ve watched too much reality TV to presume that, by watching TLC’s edited picture, I can discern which aspects of the Thompsons are “real” and which are a performance. (Is June being honest when she tells her teen daughter, who wants to diet, that she’s “happy with [her]self,” or when after later weighing in at 309 lb., she says she wishes she could lose weight?)

But there’s enough in Honey Boo Boo to see what the producers feel will be the attraction of the show — the train-wreck, freak-show aspects — and to be creeped out by that assumption. In the second episode, for instance, there’s a typically reality-staged sequence in which the Thompsons “decide” to sign their daughters up for etiquette lessons with an Atlanta teacher. Because imagine them trying to act like proper mannered gentlefolk! Hilarity must ensue! When the family loads up on junk food at a discount “food auction,” banjo music plays. During an interview, when June has a lengthy sneezing fit, the camera lingers on her as if she’s a bear being pestered by bees in a nature documentary.

At moments like that, Honey Boo Boo is most uncomfortable to watch. But more disturbing, when you think about them, are some of the ways in which the show makes it comfortable to laugh — in particular, when June visits the Redneck Games and cracks wise on her heavier, more uncouth fellow attendees: “Women that are of voluptuous size — put some clothes on. All that vagiggle-jaggle is not beautimous.” Because June turns out to be sharp and observant — and a wizard at lyrical coinages — she gives you permission to laugh at those other rednecks, further down the hierarchy of redneckitude. Because hey, even she’s laughing at them! It’s cool!

Which might lead you to say the Thompsons are being used in Honey Boo Boo. I don’t know if that’s true; they seem savvy and happy enough, they’re getting paid, and I’m not sure they’re so unaware of, or concerned with, how TLC viewers are perceiving them. The depressing thing, really, is the TLC viewers, or rather, the way the show seems to assume that those viewers will look at this family and the world.

I don’t feel sorry for the Thompsons. But for me — for the presumed me, anyway, that some producer anticipated laughing and gasping and tweeting OMG, shaking his head smugly at an America full of people getting pregnant too soon and putting their toddlers on display and stuffing themselves with fried pigskins and wallowing in the bacterial rivers of a ruined landscape? I feel sorry for that guy.

73 comments
Jessicariddld
Jessicariddld

Worst show ever... Portrays Americans as fat, lazy, and illiterate. Cannot believe people are entertained by this humility. Totally embarrassed to have watched one episode. No wonder kids are so messed up emotionally and physically, if this is what is filling their heads as a normal life.

WellyLiz
WellyLiz

I was prepared to hate this show, I could never watch "Toddlers and Tiaras." HOWEVER I really enjoy it. And I actually ADMIRE "Mama June" -- her dedication to her family, her independence, and her savvy. Yes, of course the "redneck" thing is played up for the camera, but what is undeniably real is the love and bond that this family share. And I enjoy the SUBVERSIVENESS of entering a child like Alana into those kiddie pageants -- a real chubby, loud, genuine kid who acts like a kid -- in the midst of the other typical skinny creepy doll-like pageant girls. 

FranLinkMurray
FranLinkMurray

This is the absolutely the worst show ever allowed on TV.  What do you think it teaches the children watching the show?  It teaches them bad eating manners, disrespect to not only their parents, but to the general public.   I do not understand how you can allow this sort of program on TV.  Some people may find it funny, but most do not.  I saw a segment of the program when the family was having a meal.  It showed this "Honey Boo Boo" stuffing her mouth full of some kind of pasta...looked like spaghetti...and it was falling out of her mouth and really made me sick to my stomach.  What were her parents doing?  They were laughing at her, knowing she was on TV and thousands of children were watching.  She is allowed to do whatever she pleases and receives no parental guidance or reprimand.  This is good for our children to watch??? 

Afi Keita James
Afi Keita James like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is absolutely not only the worst reality show ever made, but more painfully, it is also one of the worst tv shows of the 21st century, displaces jersey shore and the rest of them, except even much worse and truly disgusting.

Afi Keita James
Afi Keita James like.author.displayName 1 Like

 Except this is even more disgraceful than Those two reality shows, at least those two look like citizen kane and Melrose Place.

Linda Clark
Linda Clark

I really love this family. They are pure. They care about their kids. They're not pretentious. Alana is adorable.

John McLemore
John McLemore like.author.displayName 1 Like

It disgusted me to watch the exploitation exhibited on this show. I am from Georgia and I can assure you, we are not all like that! However, we do have trashy shameless people just as every state does (Jersey Shore anyone?) I do not intend to abuse my IQ  by subjecting myself to any further episodes of Real-life Hee Haw. 

TLC used to be informative. Alas, it has been assimilated by reality/garbage TV for the money ratings bring in. What has happened to us as a society? As for me, The Science channel still has great programming (i.e. Through the Wormhole), which challenges the mind and causes one to ask questions. I will stick to watching that, until it follows suit and trades the good content for more reality-scripted crap like Oddities.

NM2000
NM2000 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I certainly feel sorry for them, especially the girl. People are laughing AT them, not with them. And with the internet keeping everything alive forever, that girl may wish at 16 in high school that she could bury her past and move on, but she won't be allowed to. 

Tomasz Pelczar
Tomasz Pelczar

He,he,he, almost like Lucky Luke or sometimes John Wayne and Clint Eastwood ...

stannd
stannd like.author.displayName 1 Like

These people are disgusting, and regardless of what *some* people think, this family most certainly is acting and being as redneck as they can possibly be to get you to tune in.  They're playing you and you're falling for it, hook, line and sinker. 

Additionally, what I've seen of "Honey Boo Boo" (very little thank God), I can't even imagine how she even got accepted into a pageant, never mind winning any.

cimunique2
cimunique2

Ok, I will be the first to admit! I LOVE Alana (Honey Boo Boo). She is a burst of southern energy. It's real life amp; the family isnt trying to hurt, harm nor impress no one. I watch the show amp; anticipate what is gona be said next. If you want to learn something from TV, I suggest you read books, amp; rent dvd intellect. Because nothing on TV is about learning now a days. Everything is reality tv (which sucks 60% of the time). So Bravo to you Alana (Honey Boo Boo). You are full of esteem amp; you keep being yourself!! Who cares what society THINKS.

stannd
stannd like.author.displayName 1 Like

Bravo to you as well, and the other semi-illiterates in this country.

kepps8758
kepps8758

did anyone not find the "Darlene" as gross as i did? these people can afford all the costs that go with these pagents but they get their food off the side of the road? "road kill" that was not necessary to put in the show.

thomas w
thomas w

 This actually closer to the bulk of America than one would like to admit. Foreigners beware. Add in the social butterflies on Jersey Shore and this will be showing at a theater near you soon enough.

csbLA
csbLA

I too agree with the comments that label this show discussing, blatantly exploitative and yet another mile marker on the road to the decline of our society.....but still we watch.  Do you think TLC would put this garbage on the air if no one watched?  Instead of tuning in and then complaining about how awful it is, how about just turning it off?  Go outside?  Read a book? 

FranLinkMurray
FranLinkMurray

@csbLA I don't watch.  I have only seen enough of it (5 min.) to see exactly what it is.  All I have seen since has been commercials and I turn that ASAP/

Mark R. Pachankis
Mark R. Pachankis

The "Learning" channel. The L in TLC is like the M in MTV. No longer relevant.

I hope that people who watch this how become sterile.

wildrose4kal
wildrose4kal

To The Learning Channel - The Thompsons and other exploited families that you employ are nothing more than fat, highly paid, uneducated, rude  adults spawning more of the same and should be shut down. It gives "redneck" a bad name and I hope to God that people won't watch.  Dump the show and go back to grassroots of TLC.

Bluz Kat
Bluz Kat

I am from the South and find this show an embarrassment. No one I know-or ever have known my entire life lives or acts this way. Where do they dig up these idiots? Shows like Toddler and Tiaras, Dance Moms are not quality programming, nor are they entertaining. They are using kids and exploiting them. The few episodes I have seen from both these shows is outright dehumanizing. Has our society sunk so low that we will stop at nothing to entertain ourselves?

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

When the bottom line becomes the be all and end all of programming, this is the result.

And people wonder why I pulled the plug on all cable TV shows more than a year ago?

KP,MD
KP,MD

sadly, i watched some of that show. ok, some of the first two shows. it is the most disturbing thing i have seen on tv in years (right after Toddlers). while i realize TLC is no longer trying to teach anybody anything, this is so far off the chart of outrageous that i suddenly long for the Duggars. and that's really going some.

Talendria
Talendria

Will the "reality" sleaze fest never end?  I can't even turn on my TV anymore.

Afi Keita James
Afi Keita James

Sadly not anytime soon.

it's like the DREADFUL talk show era of the 1990's.

MsMoon53
MsMoon53

I can't believe that TLC has stooped so low, yet again. Instead of showing programming that depicts family values to model ourselves after, they show irresponsible family planning and redneck fart humor. That network insulting us with its freak show mentality. They are dumbing down America with this... Yes, it's Idiocracy 2 for sure!

I would much rather that they return to the showing of informative, useful programming. 

Guest
Guest

It's very unkind of TLC to take these desperate-for-attention and clearly somewhat developmentally delayed people and offer them up as an "amusement" for mockery and profit.  The parents are bad enough, but they're doing to that kid's development and socialization skills is borderline abusive. Just because someone is too dumb to know they're being screwed over doesn't make it OK to do so. 

Mac McKenzie
Mac McKenzie

This is the saddest, most repulsive, and disgusting waste of time I have EVER seen! I was raised in South Georgia, and this is utterly disgraceful to this geographic area. We have a rich culture which is NEVER shown on television, rather people want to show Georgia in the same spot light that they would show the mentally-challenged people of their own home states. Yes, we have rednecks, but so do all 50 of the United States... Someone, please cancel this show and report the parents to DFCS!!!

Melinda Darnell
Melinda Darnell

I live in Georgia myself, and finding out this family shares the same state as me was a slap in the face. I 100%  agree with all who say that these are NOT the kind of people we want to be representing our state, or the south as a whole. Not that it would do any good, but I would LOVE to let TLC know how insulting/disgusting this show is. Watched the intro and about 5 minutes afterwards before my stomach started turning. They're speaking English and still need subtitles for crying out loud!  

Grace Anne
Grace Anne

Toddlers and Tiaras is not as exploitive as you think. If you actually watched it once, you would see that most of the little girls are excited and happy about competing and adore pageants. The parents usually take care to mention that the minute their daughters say they are done, they're done. I know when I was 3-10 years old I would have loved to put on those sparkly dresses and sing and dance and maybe get to wear a princess crown and makeup.  I can admit a lot of those parents are terrible examples and teach their children to be bratty and  spoiled, but plenty of them are good parents cheering on their daughters in the things they love to do.

Margaret Burke
Margaret Burke

 honey boo boo   is only a child but oh my what an ugly child no manners just gross like the family is this what reality tv has stooped to but yes even i could not wait to watch this show just a new twist to watching freak  show the mother got to be the ugliest low life   form of human being and children look just like her but yes they are all being payed by tv so they dont mind showing off bad manners bad breeding and looking like fat pigs and yes we will watch  in horrific awe i do feel bit sorry for this child she is being made think she is pretty when she is being set up to be laughed  at and ridiculed

medelo20
medelo20

Who are you to call anyone ugly?  To even think that anyone (especially a young girl) is ugly is just disgusting in my opinion.  Just because this family doesn't act like you think they should does not mean they are lower than you on the social status.  The last time I checked we were all equal.  I mean the only thing ugly I see around here is obviously your grammar. 

crocostimpy
crocostimpy

Are you sure you're responding to the correct post?

medelo20
medelo20

Well I was but it appears that the comment was removed. haha

Sara Rose
Sara Rose

To me, reality shows like this one are simply updated versions of the carnival "geek shows" that outraged middle America well before the advent of cable TV. The only difference is that the rubes and suckers don't have to wade through straw, mud and elephant dung in order to be appalled by the geeks.

Erin Lane Blevins
Erin Lane Blevins

I liked this show...I feel that it is funny(and sometimes staged), but I like them. I don't think they are nasty and I don't think that June is a bad mother. People are judging her for encouraging teen pregnancy,or for putting her child in beauty pagents, or loading her children full of junk food, but they aren't the only ones. Teen pregnancy is an issue all over America, and most people let their kids eat junk food, including rich educated people...we only see what the show allows us to see , for all we know they eat well balanced meals. I agree that TLC used to be the learning channel but you people are being closed minded...how is Toddlers in Tiaras or any other show on TLC any different...this show is teaching you about how other people in the country live. Also I know a lot of people that are just like them and I don't see anything wrong with it...ps I don't think that anyone thinks they represent everyone living in the south...but ther must be a lot of pepole out there like it or they wouldn't have had the redneck games to begin with.

Nacholibre2012
Nacholibre2012

I was horrified by the "biscuit" conversation... and then the Mom's graphic description of it.  Admittedly, I was interested in seeing the show after seeing the ads with Alana talking her game.  OMG, I was more shocked at the mother (and I think that's what TLC wanted me to feel) and her crudeness and crassness.  I couldn't finish watching after the "biscuit" part.  It was much too nauseating at that point.  UGH.. TLC won't get my attention again. 

celticat17
celticat17

EEEEWWWWW! I only hope the little piggy (the 4-legged one) gets away from that family unscathed.

chimps
chimps

Is this real??

Looks like Idiocracy 2

Indianafossil
Indianafossil

Give the child credit.  She has an awesome, nasty personality!  

 Just like Mom.

Boo!

Bethany Edwina Jordan
Bethany Edwina Jordan

I don't agree with child pageants, I don't agree with furthering stereotypes but was it only me how surprisingly well adjusted Alana is? Most of those pageant brats call each other names and are down right mean brats. Alana was sitting there cheering on her competitors as she watched herself loose. What spunk and character for a six year old to have!

mypointofview1
mypointofview1

While this family is being exploited by producers who seem to think they have one-upped the audience with so-called clever editing...there is a lesson to be learned here, in spite of the efforts of the producers greedy and shameless need to demean human beings:

This family, this "reality show" has shown more smiles, more laughter, more family time, more hugs, more joy than I have seen in most families in a very long time. Yes, I had to watch just because I was curious to see the subtitles - couldn't understand the little girl. I am not a fan of reality shows - but just in reality itself - how many families have fathers who are even around to "play"? 

How many families actually care so much when a member loses an event that they all pitch in to cheer that member up? A new bed for the piggy? Painting the toenails before he (now 'she') is even brought home, the sisters trying to put the bed together with mom?

No, not my kind of life....no pig, no belly flops, or going to food auctions in my life...but some broken families in America could learn from this family...love, both parents in the home, and lots of laughter. Just wish TLC would have some honor (and the guts) to actually highlight these qualities instead of going for cheap laughs.

absatou
absatou

what did I just read? 

Don R. Paradice
Don R. Paradice

I agree with Dottie, I too live in South Georgia and am truly embarrassed  by this show and it certainly does NOT represent the majority of people who live here!  Unfortunately, many viewers of this redneck trainwreck of a family will make the assumption that all of us down South are just like them... Far from the truth!  TLC, please take this off the air and send all of us Southerners an apology!

Kelly J Studer
Kelly J Studer

This is a new low besides there toddler pageants. DISGUSTING. Talk about exploitation and unmeaningful garbage. It shows that this station does not care about its viewers. Those who watch it are just as bad.  Those who have to watch this must not like their own lives so they watch this for drama and whatever else they long for.  This country keeps getting worse. This child is going to need some serious therapy. She knows not what she does. The parents are, I can't even think of a proper word. They are not worthy parents. This is so not real. Parents of these kids have no idea how to parent anymore. It's all for themselves, not the child. They are teaching the child the wrong ideas about life and self esteem.  That's another reason why this country is in deep peril. That's why the US is looked at as a bunch of morons thanks to shows, stations and people like this.

Guest
Guest

Can "The Learning Channel" learn to stop exploiting helpless children? It's disgusting and lower than the average level of decency. The parents are fair game but the children are below the age of consent to have their lives put on display. From this spinoff of their child prostitution Toddlers and Tiaras to the Kate plus 8 they've made so much money off of exploiting children and their innocence. "The Learning Channel"? What are they teaching besides it's okay to film the stolen innocence of children?

S Michael DeHart
S Michael DeHart

Another way for people to stereotype southerners and in this case, rightfully so.  This child will be a hellcat in her teenage years.  It is a totally sad commentary on a "so called" family.  Did not and will not watch.  Only saw the ads for the show and that was enough to make me sick.  I am a proud West Virginian and I am used to the stereotypes, but as I said before, this time it is earned by these Georgians.

vortmax
vortmax

Brain-dead entertainment for a brain-dead public.

Sara Rose
Sara Rose

True. A segment of the public is permanently brain-dead. Another segment wants to be brain-dead for the length of a reality show. Which leaves the rest of us, and our numbers are dwindling.

ImNoDhimmi
ImNoDhimmi

The intentional dumbing down of America, and sadly, of Canada too.