I get why people freak out about a show like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC. It’s exploitative, it’s crass, it’s everything we hate about reality TV…
Or is it? Could there possibly be a defense for Honey Boo Boo?
A Muddy Cross-Section of America
I am under no illusions about the “reality” of reality television. I know they set up half of everything we see on camera. In the case of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, there are more than a few moments that have to be fake — if nothing else, these people obviously eat more than chips and candy for meals. They’d all be dead if that were the case.
Still, the Thompson/Shannon family of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo does reflect a reality we rarely get to see on television. They have a low-income and are undereducated, but they aren’t beggars on welfare. They get by. Like literally millions of Americans, life is a day-to-day struggle to pay bills and raise a family. This is reality. It’s just usually not interesting enough for us to care and watch on TV.
Don’t agree that Honey Boo Boo has redeeming qualities? Then check out this article in which I argued that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo heralds the coming of the apocalypse.
What Exactly Are They Doing Wrong?
Other than eating cheesy puffs for dinner, I mean.
We laugh when the girls flop in the mud and shriek. We marvel at the “backwards” activities that occur when rednecks get together. We are shocked when a family processes road kill for food. We call Mama June a hoarder when she obsesses over the coupons that keep her family going.
But, if you think about it, what have any of them done wrong here? Are they bad, foolish people deserving of our pity, or are we — the disdainful, “better” people watching in our living rooms — actually in the wrong here.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo features people who know the realities of poverty and of teen pregnancy. There is no privilege in this world. People survive with what they have. And if what they have is a TV crew filming them acting silly, then so be it. If we’re being honest with our own values, we should celebrate this family’s embrace of opportunity.
Say what you will about the Honey Boo Boo family, you can’t say they are lacking in love.
Mama may have ridiculous nicknames for her four girls, but she utters them all with true affection. The kids respond to this. They’re not just playing “family” for the cameras — these are people who love being with each other. And why not? They laugh and talk and try new things together. It’s kind of exactly the way a family should be.
We even see how they face adversity. Anna, only 17 years old, is extremely pregnant on the show (and has now given birth). On most reality shows, this would be cause for “serious talks” and yelling and blame. On Here Comes Honey Boo Boo what do we get?
We get love. The whole family goes to Anna’s doctor appointment. The girl gets a baby shower. No one questions the morals of an unwed, teen mother. They just get ready to welcome another family member into their home.
The Nicest People on Reality TV?
Think about this:
Who on reality television would you like to know in person? The Real Housewives? The Kardashians? The backstabbing, deluded men and women of the Bachelor world?
Wouldn’t you rather spend your time with a loving family that knows how to laugh at itself? Forget the awful, plastic people we’re used to on reality television — I want to hang out with Honey Boo Boo.
(Image courtesy of TLC)