“Dolla make yah holla, Honey Boo Boo!”
Jaws agape, eyes wide in disbelief, I stood in front of the television as a bedazzled 7-year-old writhed and twitched in sugar-fueled gyrations.
TLC’s newest reality television show follows Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, a 7-year-old pageant queen known for silly quips and hyperactivity. Included in the show are her mother, father, three older sisters and various town folk from McIntyre, Ga.
Be assured, my offense to Honey Boo Boo and Company does not stem from some irrational hatred of those Caucasian people who seem worlds away from a university’s intellectual standard. After all, I’ve done my share of critter shooting, pork-rind eating and NASCAR watching.
The real bother comes from our society’s obsession with the antics of a rude, crude and self-involved child who has been sold—by her parents—to the curiously named Learning Channel.
Honey Boo Boo’s mother, known to all as “Mama,” declares she cares little for table manners, as Honey walks along the kitchen countertops, hollering insults at her sisters. Honey has lived her first seven years however she so chooses, as evidenced by Mama’s lack of discipline and readiness to comment on her child’s antics with a shaking head and a dismissive grin.
In any episode, the initial subject of the scene may be one of her sisters or parents, but Honey’s statements, questions and requests seems to supersede anything said or done by anyone else.
Those behind the camera seem to anticipate her every action. From belching to insults to flatulence or dancing, whatever Honey has to offer, the camera will receive, no question asked. Of course, this is the point of the show: showcasing the behavior of a humorously misbehaving child.
As a 7-year-old kewpie doll, Honey Boo Boo seems all giggles and dancing, peppered with orneriness. Adults often find this comical or cute, at least when the child is 7 or 8 years old.
But how about when they turn 13 or 17?
Granted, Honey Boo Boo could find a saving grace in some “Fried Green Tomatoes”-esque character who gives advice based on penitent observations made after years of selfish indulgence and trivial vanities.
Or her parents could wise up and realize it may behoove them to equip their daughters with a sense of civility and self-restraint.
I fully trust this could happen, just as I trust that I could not have a chunk of flesh removed from my body if I locked my unarmed self in a room with rabid shewolves.
Aside from the fact that those watching the show are, by proxy, condoning the behavior of the Boo Boos, I wonder why Americans watch a show like this in the first place?
There were early forms of reality television, like “Big Brother” and “Survivor.” These facilitated competition, though the shows often made an effort to display a person’s more bizarre tendencies.
MTV’s “Real World” brought together a diverse group of people for a rudimentary study of sorts. While not the headiest of shows, it demonstrated unity in variety—a lesson of possible use to a modern society.
Some shows are billed as instructional. The History Channel and Discovery are notorious in this reality sub-genre, producing shows like “Ice Road Truckers” and “The Deadliest Catch.”
Countless other shows demonstrate the characteristic of controlled (yet consensual) experiment, friendly competition or education, yet something in the reality TV cocktail took on a bizarre flavor.
But in the last five to seven years, reality TV has become a dimension unto itself, in which television becomes the ring where the most unusual champions are adorned with honors.
During this time innumerable shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” have been produced. Some of the most famous include “Mob Wives”, “Bridezillas”, “Jersey Shore”, “The Real Housewives” and “The Bad Girls Club.”
In such shows, people do not compete or educate. Rather, they display their lives, in seemingly uncontrolled, unscripted and basically real situations. But can we relate to them? What do we, the audience, learn when watching this reality? Are we learning how not to behave?
In order to know the difference between crassness and decorum or cruelty and kindness, must one watch children insult their parents or a middle-aged mother drunkenly assault another person? Is this the sum of our society? Is this how we—the inheritors of consensual government and thus, the liberated of humanity—have decided to exercise our rights?