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Here comes Honey who?
September 4, 2012 - Erin O'Neill
In the past in this blog I have discussed my love/hate relationship with reality TV. For the most part, watching these shows is like watching a car wreck you can't turn away from, no matter how disturbing.
One of the more disturbing shows that I recently stumbled upon is "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" on TLC (The Learning Channel? Really?). Honey Boo Boo is a spin-off of the super popular and super crazy "Toddlers and Tiaras" and follows the lives of six-year-old Alana and her manners-deficient Georgian family. They all have stereotypical nicknames and the stereotypical car parts in the front yard - just what TLC is hoping rabid and judgmental American audiences will glom onto.
And that is the problem I have with this show. I don't judge mom June for putting her daughter in pageants. I don't judge her for giving the kid syrup in a bottle to "hype" her up. I don't even judge her for allowing her daughter to sleep with a teacup piglet that squeals and uses the bathroom in their communal sleeping area. Are these questionable parenting methods? Well, yes, to me. But that's beside the point.
The producers of the show have gone ridiculously out of their way to make caricatures of these people and hope that the "I can't believe they did that" factor will keep audiences coming back for more. The ratings for the show beat out the Republican National Convention for goodness sake!
If you look past (and it takes a lot, I know) the weight problems, the hygiene and etiquette issues, the fact the the 17-year-old sister on the show is about to give birth - the family seems to love each other when it comes down to it. Little Alana seems to be smart (she would have to be to be able to continue the facade) and full of personality. She obviously isn't starving for attention - or literally. But if TLC were to show a "reality" program about child abuse, child homelessness or starvation, their numbers probably wouldn't be so hot. So instead they manufacture a "real" family in outrageous situations so that we can feel a little better about ourselves.
Since "Toddlers and Tiaras" began airing, pageant moms have gotten a bad rap. I must admit, there are some parents who are waaaay out there. And I don't agree that it is totally harmless toward the children. Making pageants a way of life to the point you are getting a second mortgage on your home ... well...
But, speaking as someone who has entered my child in a couple local pageants, I think there is a misconception that all the moms are crazy and all the girls (and sometimes boys) are vapid and uncontrollable. There are many reasons why parents choose to enter their children in pageants. Sometimes it is just a good learning experience. Sometimes, especially if your child doesn't win, it is good to eat a slice of humble pie when you're an ego-centric 7-year-old. And sometimes, you're just proud of your child and want to show them off.
The Times is working on a story about local folks who participate in pageants - in any capacity - and would also like to get thoughts on Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers and Tiaras. If you would like to contribute, please contact me at 376-5442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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