These days, it seems like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is everywhere. The show beat out the Republican National Convention in the ratings, South Park already did a send up, and, Tina Fey says she and the 30 Rock writers watch the show, Rosie O’Donnell says she wants to buy the family a house.
While there’s a lot of love out there for Alana and family, there is also a lot of negativity. TLC makes that easy to a degree, what with fat cakes and cheese puffs equating to lunch and dinner, but you can’t really blame them. You can’t put this family on television without telling that part of their story, and besides, a commercial featuring a little girl complaining about how long it has been since she’s had road kill in her belly is going to get people tuning in! Add “sketti” to the menu, and the criticism of Mama June’s parenting is inevitably going to come pouring in. It doesn’t help that Alana wears lots of makeup and glitzy outfits for beauty pageants; that big sister, Anna, had a baby at 17; or that almost everyone in the family could lose more than a few pounds. Joel McHale, making fun of June’s weight, calls her “the human thumb.” Ouch.
So, let’s get out in front of all of this criticism and agree that the Shannon/Thompson family’s nutritional practices are, at best, sketchy and, at worst, horribly unhealthy. You won’t get any argument from me on that. Oh, and they fart a lot. That’s kind of gross, too; but, seriously, y’all . . . we all fart.
What’s remarkable about the show is what shines through these negatives: a big, crazy, loving, wonderful family and the beautiful, brilliant little 7 year old that is growing up in its midst. I am an unabashed and unapologetic Honey Boo Boo fan, and here are a few reasons why.
One thing you won’t see on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is racism. That’s what you’re supposed to see when you make a show about poor, rural, southern people, right? When we go to a little town like McIntyre Georgia, we’re supposed to run into small-minded white folks persisting in offensive preconceptions about people of color and perpetuating oppressive conventions, right? Obviously.
But, no! That’s not at all what we find on the show. A diverse group of kids show up both to Sugar Bear’s Christmas in July, and Alana’s 7th birthday party. The girls walk up to the Flash Foods for snacks, and the black manager of the convenience store gushes about how much flavor the family (and his gold grill) brings to McIntyre. Race simply isn’t an issue on the show. Not even a little issue.
Another thing you won’t see on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is prejudice against anyone in the LGBT community. Ask Uncle Poodle or Anderson Cooper. I wonder what folks thought they were going to witness when the show promoted the episode where Alana’s gay Uncle Lee (aka Poodle) came to the house to help choreograph Alana’s pageant routine. Surely, a poor, rural, southern family wouldn’t embrace a gay man. Surely we’re going to see some ignorance an cruelty, right? Nope. There’s none of that in Mama June’s house. In fact, Alana triumphantly proclaims, perhaps more poignantly than she even knows, that everyone is a “little gay.”
And, how about when Alana accidentally outed Anderson Cooper before he decided publically to come out? She was repeating something offensive that she’d heard about homosexuality in her small-minded little town, right? Wrong. Alana seems to have had accurate enough gay-dar to call a poodle a poodle, but there was no judgment in it for her. Anderson was a nice poodle. She liked him. It was what it was, and that was all there was to it.
Perhaps the most important, over-arching thing you won’t see on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is cruelty of any kind. Racism and sexism are specific and predictable within the stereotypes generally perpetuated about the backwardness of southern culture; but they’re just particular types of cruelty. They’re non-issues for the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo family because cruelty, itself, has no place in their family’s way of being in the world. Perhaps the most poignant example is the way the family embraced baby Kaitlin’s extra thumb in the face of the inevitable ridicule that it brought to their very public family.
We’ve embraced it. It is what it is. We move on. It’s no big deal. She’s just special
Preach it, Mama June.
On Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, you’ll find a family that supports each other, often awkwardly, but always sincerely. Sugar Bear’s “putting together skills” might not be too good, but that doesn’t stop him from wrestling with an above ground pool kit until his girls have a place to cool off from the Georgia sun in July. June might not have the prettiest toes in the world, but they don’t stop her from donning socks and taking her kids to a water park. Alana might not have dreamed of getting hot sauce and dish soap from her sisters for her birthday, but that doesn’t stop her from thanking them graciously.
This is a lovely family. Full of people who are truly sweet and good to each other. They are genuinely committed to supporting each other and being considerate of everyone they meet. Whether you live in McIntyre GA, Hollywood CA, or anywhere in between, you could do much, much worse. We all could learn a lesson or two from this family, especially about civility in the face of difference. Perhaps, for starters, we should try showing Honey Boo Boo and family some small measure of the respect, not to mention kindness, they so effortlessly show to everyone in their world. If you’d like to go the extra mile, maybe you should join them in support of their anti-bullying charity: The Brand UR. June Shannon’s family is teaching us to be kind to each other, and many too many of us watching the show are completely missing the point.
So they don’t eat healthy food? So what.