Field Guides

The First-Timers Field Guide to Honey Boo Boo

I’m generally pretty up to speed when it comes to pop culture. I know the names and ages of more celebrity children than I’d like. I probably could tell you whom a supporting character from a teen movie is dating in real life. Clearly, I’m not opposed to trashy entertainment. But I’ve never been that into reality television. It’s a glaring hole in my pop culture consumption. I’ve watched The Hills, Real Housewives, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians on occasion, but never with devoted regularity. Those are probably too glossy to qualify as reality anyway.

With a lot of my favorite regular programming in re-runs due to the election, I decided to venture into this personally unexplored territory and go straight to the realest of the real: TLC. I’ve been too terrified to even stumble upon TLC shows while channel surfing. I don’t handle being disturbed to my core well, so I’ve avoided the likes of Hoarders and 19 Kids and Counting—the latter of which seems like birth control in the form of television programming. However, it seems like everywhere I turn, someone is talking about Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

For those who are also new to Honey Boo Boo, let me be your guide.

Official Name: Alana Thompson

Common Reference: Honey Boo Boo or Honey Boo Boo Child. At first, I thought the name ‘Honey Boo Boo’ was a type of doughnut. I’m still disappointed that such a doughnut doesn’t exist—and I’m hungry for it.

Origins and Identifying Characteristics: The Thompson clan hails from McIntyre, Georgia, but their reality television roots date back to another TLC gem, Toddlers and Tiaras. Speaking of things that disturb me to my core, child beauty pageants absolutely fall into that category. It probably has something to do with coming of age when the JonBenét Ramsey case was constantly in the media spotlight. I will forever associate the sight of a child in professionally applied lipstick with tragedy. Therefore, I obviously skipped Toddlers and Tiaras and missed out on the world’s introduction to Honey Boo Boo. I fixed that by spending nearly an hour watching Youtube clip after Youtube clip of Honey Boo Boo on Toddlers and Tiaras (I’ve had a really busy afternoon). I definitely understand why Alana became the show’s breakout star.

Alana actually seems to enjoy being in pageants. Sure, that enthusiasm could have something to do with her mother June feeding her ‘Go Go Juice,’ a mixture of high-caffeine soda and an energy drink which could certainly be called a questionable parenting choice at best (but not as questionable as say, putting your child in a BEAUTY PAGEANT). But regardless of the sugary fuel, she seems like a kid having fun.

That spirit carries over into Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and the entire Thompson clan. Now, I haven’t made it through the entire season, but from the few episodes I’ve watched, they seem like a fun-loving bunch. And even better, they appear to genuinely love one another. Honey Boo Boo, Mamma June “The Coupon Queen,” Sugar Bear, Pumpkin, Chubbs, and Chickadee are a close and supportive family. The whole premise of the show appears to be trying to showcase how unevolved the Thompson family is. But there they are, welcoming Sugar Bear’s gay brother Lee, aka ‘Uncle Poodle,’ and accepting each other for who they are—without question.

Part of my initial aversion to viewing even an episode of the show had to do with feeling like the intention of it was to exploit and mock the Thompsons. The farting. The use of subtitles. The Redneck Games. It felt like the producers were saying, ‘America, please laugh at this road kill-eating, crude family with us.’ I can’t handle that kind of television. It’s too cruel. I cringe with discomfort when fictional characters are humiliated. When actual people are? Forget about it. There’s a line between laughing at and laughing with, and TLC was aiming for the former. I’m happy to say that despite TLC’s effort, the Thompsons managed to turn the show into the latter. They spend their days laughing at themselves, so the joke is really on TLC. As Mamma June told Ryan Seacrest, ‘A lot of our fan base tell us that when they have a bad day they can be able to watch our show and be able to get a good laugh. I actually laugh at the show too, because it is kind of funny, because we know that it was fun filming it. And it’s just all about having fun and making memories.’

Observation Tips: EVERYWHERE. The show’s August 29th episode had almost 3 million viewers, beating out coverage of the Republican National Convention and Paul Ryan’s speech among adults 18-49. That’s right, America. I only hope this Honey Boo Boo craze will lead to a Christopher Walken cameo next season.

Image via TLC.

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