Here comes Honey Boo Boo, there goes the neighborhood

By Caitlin Piper

I love Godzilla movies.

Before you pull out the torches and pitchforks, I know they’re stupid. I know they’re cheesy. I know they basically amount to two guys in rubber suits (and occasionally a crude piñata held aloft with visible wires), beating the mutated snot out of each other in the middle of a plastic city that is apparently supposed to be Tokyo.

Meanwhile, a frazzled, poorly dubbed Army general in a bargain-bin Halloween costume screams into a radio that those toy tanks need to be aiming at the giant lightning-breathing lizard and not at the bridge clogged with panicking evacuees. Yes, it’s stupid, but I love every poorly choreographed second of it.

I say this because, in a way, I know what it’s like to be a fan of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” TLC’s newest reality show. A spin-off of the already reprehensible “Toddlers and Tiaras,” it focuses on seven-year-old beauty queen Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson and her family in their rural Mcintyre, Ga. home.

Very few fans actually believe these sorts of shows are genuinely good. Some watch them because, to paraphrase H. L. Menken, they are so bad that a kind of grandeur creeps into them. Others watch them just to feel better about their own lives, which is certainly nothing new. Jerry Springer and Maury Povich took advantage of that phenomenon for years and are currently skiing over mountains of cash in their gold-plated mansions.

But that doesn’t make the show any less horrible.

There’s something you should know about me before I continue. I come from a long line of hicks. I don’t mean like the “Beverly Hillbillies,” but without all the money. It’s a bit more like “Deliverance,” but without all the horrific sexual assault.

I have several relatives like this, but for now I’ll just talk about one of my aunts. If nothing else, the woman can cook. She is the only person I know who can make a rockin’ fruitcake. I actually look forward to getting one every Christmas. She makes everything from scratch and grows most of her ingredients. Pretty neat, right?
She also makes her fruitcake in a trash can. Nothing else is big enough. She has so many hounds that, when I drop by, I feel like I’m visiting the Bumpuses from “A Christmas Story.” She wakes up some mornings to beat fully grown gators off her front porch with a broom. Her husband only wears overalls and actually has a wooden tooth. He’s a crack shot with a beebee gun and regularly uses it to hunt squirrels for supper. They have a fridge, full-sized and fully stocked, directly blocking their front door, meaning they have to walk around the house to actually get inside.

What I’m getting to is that, even with a background like mine, I still find this show horrifically stereotypical.

I know people like this exist. I’ve watched my grandmother dig a hole in the ground, line it with a plastic tarp, drop a running hose in it and call it a swimming pool. I’ve actually gone shotgun fishing. If my life had a soundtrack, it would be nothing but “Dueling Banjos” on an endless loop. Rednecks are funny. We love to laugh at them and their hi-larious antics. “Hee Haw” was a success for a reason, and it wasn’t good acting or solid writing.

But this isn’t just poking fun.

Barring the fact that they are exploiting their child through reality TV, I don’t actually have a problem with the Thompsons themselves. They take pride in who they are, even while the rest of the country is laughing at them. I can respect that.

I do, however, have problems with the producers and the writers. This is just the latest in the current trend of telivision perpetuating negative stereotypes. “Jersey Shore,” “American Gypsies,” “The Real Housewives” series — all of these shows are just transparent grabs for money by greedy TV executives. And frankly, it’s sickening.

One episode in particular really stuck out for me: through the magic of “reality” TV, the daughters “spontaneously” sign up for lessons in etiquette. Isn’t that cute? These brainless hicks actually think they can act like civilized people! Let’s all point and laugh at their inability to grasp proper social behavior. Oh look, the farting pig is back! Those crazy rednecks! What will they possibly do next?
At least, that seems to be what the writers want you to think. Charming. Almost as charming as the massive fart that marks the start of every episode, in lieu of a proper musical sting.

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is not a good show. I don’t even think it has the “charm” that those other exploitative reality shows have. Sure, I wanted to shove forks into my eyes every time Snooki decided she needed to apply another layer of spray-on tan while the cameras were rolling, but that just made it all the more satisfying when she finally got punched in the face by the only woman on the continent that had more parasites than her.

That’s not the case with the Thompsons. They’re gross, they’re exploiting their children for monetary gain, but they seem to have this strange sincerity about them. June, the matriarch, occasionally spouts a shockingly self-aware line, hinting that she’s not as happy with her life as the writers will have you believe. Jessica, Honey’s sister, seems genuinely concerned about her weight.

It’s actually rather heartwrenching, when it’s not turning your stomach.

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