For a long time, my attitude toward Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was much the same as my attitude toward the Kardashians, or any of the spoiled kids from My Super Sweet Sixteen. A general sense of hostility, mixed with contempt and a little disgust, made them the perfect target for the occasional punchline, while the rest of the time I could forget about them and probably be better off for it.
But in light of recent contemplation and the release of Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson’s single “Movin’ Up,” I have reconsidered my opinion.
I want to make something clear: I have no problem with the lifestyle of the Honey Boo Boo crowd. Watching their show, you can tell they really care about each other.
They have problems and a certain degree of dysfunction. Sure, most of the members of that household are overweight. And yeah, their speech is so regional that it requires closed-captioning to understand. But these are things that have more to do with poverty than with their character.
If you stick people in a tiny corner of the country with little opportunity for education or upward mobility, this is the kind of thing that happens organically.
No, my problem is with the fact that the show itself exists. When watching, it becomes clear that the show is intended to highlight the worst excesses of this family. The camera records every misspoken word, every awkward moment, every little nuance of their lives that betrays their lack of sophistication.
This is just poverty tourism. One could make comparisons to the buses full of white South Africans that would tour Soweto in the days of Apartheid, ogling at the squalid conditions of their black countrymen. Sure, there’s no racist component to Honey Boo Boo, so I guess that’s nice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exploitation.
And what’s worse, it probably won’t go away for little Alana. This kid, before she’s ten years old, has already been subject to the heavy gaze of the American viewing public. Imagine if there was a film crew there to see you in all your glory when you were six years old, and that every person you met after that would know who you were and where you came from before you met them. She can never go back to not being Honey Boo Boo.
That’s what’s so disturbing about “Movin’ Up.” Even after the show was cancelled, she’s still playing the character. While she’s straight-up yelling her vocals into the microphone and some guy in a floral shirt (who I’m assuming is the Devil) holds her lyric sheet for her, it’s hard to envision a much brighter future for her. And what happens once the whole diminutive pageant queen thing stops being cute?
I recall hearing once that the family was saving the money they were making with the show to put toward Alana’s college fund. I applaud this decision, I really do. But that doesn’t really undo the damage this whole circus has probably already done. Even if she ends up as an astronaut and saves the Earth from an asteroid or something, the headlines will still say “Honey Boo Boo Saves Humanity.”