Friday, October 5, 2012

How Honey Boo Boo Exposes American Arrogance

By now, most of you probably have heard of the new TLC show, "Here comes Honey Boo Boo."  In case you didn't know, this show features seven year old Alana Thompson aka Honey Boo Boo and her family, who hail from McIntyre, Georgia.  Little Alana was featured on the show, "Toddlers and Tiaras," and shot to stardom when this clip went viral on Youtube.  Alana's show premiered to the tune of over 2 million viewers.

Now, if you've seen this show, you probably have a strong opinion of Alana, her mom June Shannon, her dad Michael Thompson, her three sisters and her pet pig.  If by now, you're thinking "redneck," you are not alone.  I've seen comments on news sites and blogs call Alana and her family, "trailer trash," "ignorant,"and "repulsive."  Some writers referred to Alana and her mother's weight, their speech, their living arrangement and their education.  The critics skewered June, basically accusing her of "whoring" Alana out to pageants and to TLC to make money.  It is safe to say that the general consensus is that Alana and her family highlight what the US wants to hide about certain citizens.

Before you chime in with your own adjectives and criticism, read my thoughts about this family and how I feel about the show after the jump.

I first saw Alana on Toddlers and Tiaras and instantly fell in love with her.  This precocious beauty princess was funny, charismatic, and most importantly as real as a seven year old could be.  She personifies childhood because she is carefree to the criticism of the world and she has fun in whatever it is she does.  In addition, once she dons her ball gown and takes center stage, she performs with the type of bravado and charisma some adults never obtain. In fact, she really looks like a little lady when she's dressed up, but I digress.

Now here's my beef. People are name calling and criticizing Alana and her family mostly because of how they talk, their weight, their looks, their education, and their demographic location.  Would this same sort of criticism occur if Alana was from a wealthy family, spoke with a northern accent, or lived in Beverly Hills?  I can tell you the answer is no.  As a matter of fact it's hell no.

See Americans have a harsh way of treating people that don't fit the traditional constructs of beauty, wealth, and education.  Whenever you step outside these bounds, you are instantly ridiculed, lambasted, and sometimes physically assaulted.  This is whether you are a regular person, a celebrity, religious or not religious for that matter.  For the most part, this behavior begins in grade school.  How many of you remember being in elementary school and getting picked on for being different in any way?  How many of you picked on kids for being different?  How many of you had parents that scolded you for being different from the other kids?  How many of you never dared to be different and fell into the preconstructed roles that your community/family/peers created for you?  I wholeheartedly reject this form of societal behavior.  But then again, I'm a rebel.

So what's the real issue here? I'll get to that.  You see, Alana and her family are from a little country town in Georgia.  McIntyre, Georgia is a poor city and incomes are well below the poverty line.  In fact, the median household income there is $24,000 per year.  To put that in to perspective, the median income in the United States is $50,000.  The median income in Loudoun County, VA is $119,000.  In short, this family is poor and the only thing the have is each other.

Now the critics, and by critics I mean people on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are banding together and slamming this series.  As I stated above, the criticism has become down right nasty and it's ridiculous the way they attack young Alana.  So what value is there in this show?  I'm glad you asked.  When I first saw Alana and her family, I thought, "Wow, they are country."  But then I really paid attention to them and you know what I realized?  This family really loves one another, they are close, and they simply enjoy life.  Ok, so Alana likes to fart on camera, June uses her hand as a tissue, Anna, the older sister had a baby at 17, and Michael seems drunk all the time.  But so what.  They have a blast taking Alana to beauty pageants and they support one another.  Many of us have either done those same things (ok, not on camera) or someone in our family has done it.  Have we gotten so far away from what we came from that we riduicule anyone that reminds us of it?

To further clarify my point, contrast Honey Boo Boo with Basketball Wives , a show that chronicles the lives of mega-rich, spoiled ass housewives.  That show, now in its fourth season, gets a weekly analysis from radio stations and gossip magazines across the country.  Some of the comments are, "beautiful this, wonderful that," and "she don't play, and her hair looked like this..." and on and on.  In short, the large bulk of the comments focus on the material and superficial aspects of these women and their friends.  Now when I watched that show, all I saw were bitter, money-hungry gold diggers who could care less about any other person in the world.  Hell, they didn't care that much for their millionaire husbands, which is why the word "wife" didn't apply to most of them at the time of the show's taping.  In response, I turned the channel never to watch it again.  Even worse, the viewers, who don't have a tenth of the material possessions these women have, soak up every minute of that crap.  But that doesn't stop the insecure viewers from wishing they were like these women. 

Then there are shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians.  I'm not going to take much time analyzing this show because I would lose too many brain cells in the process.  The point of this show is:  I'm a Kardashian.  I am rich.  You are neither.  Get over it.  That is all.  In fact, that pretty much sums up every reality show that includes a celebrity.

So it begs the question. What is the message that you get from these "reality" shows?  Is it "I-have -and-you-don't-so-try-and-be-like-me-and-maybe-people-will-like-you?"  In any case, this is a classic case of American arrogance.  You know, our belief that if I have more material possessions, go to a higher ranked school and look the part, then I am better than you.  In fact, The Janitor made a similar argument in his article, the American Dream Fallacy, where he argued that although there is incredible disparity between the 1% and the 99%, we are constantly chasing the dream.  A dream that most of us will NEVER realize.  My point is, ok chase the dream but don't belittle others in the process.

 We see this all the time regarding the schools we attend, the spouses we pick, the SUVs we drive, and the houses we live in.  The grass is always greener and nothing is ever enough for us.  In fact, this line of thinking helped lead to the 2007 housing collapse.  This type of arrogance transcends all economic levels and education levels.  Ever wonder why kids whose parents are on welfare wear $250 Jordans?  Or how about rich kids who sell dope and try and act like rappers?  Why do they do it?  Because everyone else does it.  And lord help you if you don't do what everyone else does - you end up getting picked on. 

So in case you're wondering - yes, I like the show.  I like the show because it shows real people, experiencing real life.  So what they are not rich (for now).  So what they are not highly educated.  So what they don't speak a certain way.  So what they don't dress the way I do or eat the same foods.  But they go through life doing what they are used to and they don't give a damn about what people think.  In short, they keep it real.  And they have fun as a family.  And I can relate to that.  When was the last time you saw a reality show about a real family really having fun?

So, I'll wrap up my rant with this: America, stop being so damn critical of  everything different from you.  Learn to see the value in people without the same means as you.  In fact, those with wealth can definitely learn something from common folk like Alana and her family.  That family understands the power of togetherness and it's paying off something to the tune of $15k per episode.  So, if the only thing you learn from the show is that nothing can stop a family that stays close, hold on to that knowledge because it is a true gem.  Besides, if you don't like the damn show, turn if off.  Quit acting bourgeoise and elitist.  You know there is a family member like Honey Boo Boo in every family, including yours.


1.  What are your thoughts about the show?

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