Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: A Reality Review
Why is this show on television?
I like to think that my wife and I are easy going, tolerant people. We respect our fellow human beings, simply because they're human. BEING human is hard. We're not going to snob out on the Thompson family, we're not going to condemn them as tasteless rednecks.
The point of televising the lives of the Thomson family is that they ARE tasteless rednecks. Many recent reality shows are predicated on the idea that an audience will enjoy watching people who are more stupid and fucked up than themselves. "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is one of those series built around pathetic dysfunction.
For fifteen minutes we found the show to be unintentionally funny. Who cares whether we're laughing at or with the characters? It's still funny. Mother's cross-eyed empty gaze is excruciating. She looks as though she's trying to monitor the growth of the huge zit that's erupting at the corner of her eye. Alana "Honey Boo Boo"Thomson is the designated driver of the family. She has the most energy, the most confidence. She's a "Beauty Queen". No matter that she's an untalented and unattractive little brat. She is now a star on a Reality Television show.
I could feel my wife's jaw drop when Alana (Honey) spoke shamelessly about her "vigajig". We understood that this is the Thompson family's peculiar vernacular, that Mom and the three sisters refer to their Vigajigs. There's only one male in the house, Dad, and he's so wasted that he may as well not exist. The girls have a veritable dictionary of slang terms for their genitalia. The term sounded so surreal coming from the mouth of a six year old, who was speaking in front of a camera crew and ultimately before a viewing public. It wasn't so much inappropriate as it was alarming.
Reality TV series are cheap to produce. Some of them are compelling but they are also frustrating because they are so loaded with Filler. Every episode begins with a recapitulation of the entire season. Then the story slips into gear. Then there's a commercial and the week's episode is recapitulated for three or four minutes before a bit of fresh footage is leaked into the story. This way a forty two minute television show is whittled down to about twenty minutes of written and filmed content. The "stars" don't make much money unless the show sustains itself as a multi-season hit.
We watched "Deadliest Catch" for several seasons and enjoyed it. Still, there was the filler and the commercials and the recaps and the same footage shown again and again while the stories edged forward, oh so slowly. A Reality Show has to operate on a strict budget. Not much of that budget is going into the writers' pockets.
In the last couple of years the trend has been towards sleaze shows with the state of New Jersey featured heavily in a selection of series in which the characters vary from laughable to reprehensible.
"Honey Boo Boo" is an offshoot of "Toddlers And Tiaras".
We missed that one. The whole pedophilic beauty pageant phenomenon has been examined by our culture since the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in 1996. Nothing has changed. The unsolved mystery is an unresolved issue. Toddlers are still togged up in provocative makeup and hosiery and encouraged to wiggle and dance on stage in a way that would have shocked the shoes off my parents and grandparents.
In any case, Honey Boo Boo is not a contender for any major prizes in the pageant world. She attends tawdry little events where fifteen or twenty mothers stuff their little girls with fantasies. Everything's been said and written about sexualizing little girls too early. I don't need to add anything to this body of opinion. I can only say that I have no plans to tune into any more episodes of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo".
I'm thrilled for the Thomson family's success. I'm ecstatic for Alana's sudden stardom. I know that her family has given her solid emotional grounding and psychological balance. Fame won't damage Alana. No sir, not Honey Boo Boo, with her baby fat love handles popping out the sides of her two piece leotard. She'll be just fine.