I have a confession to make: I watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
You are now taking a sip of water, clearing your throat, and preparing your diatribe about the sorry state of American culture, the anti-intellectualism that has taken over our society, and something about how the movie Idiocracy is totally coming true and “Honey Boo Boo” is proof.
I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying I get it, I’ve heard it, my husband says it every day, and I don’t care. I like watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: the Thompson-Shannon family have some disgusting habits. They burp, fart, and swear. They play a game called Mystery Mouth. (You don’t wanna know.) Each of the four daughters of “Mama” June Shannon has a different father: eighteen-year-old Anna (single mother herself to an infant daughter, Kaitlyn, who was born with an extra thumb on one hand) is the daughter of an ex-con. Sixteen-year-old Jessica’s father is a registered sex offender in Georgia. No one seems to know – or want to tell – who thirteen-year-old Lauryn’s father is.
Eight-year-old Alana, aka Honey Boo Boo, is the only one of Mama June’s daughters who has a relationship with her father. June and Sugar Bear have cohabited for nine years, and recently pledged their devotion to one another in a televised woodland-camo-bedecked “commitment ceremony.”
June lived for years off a combination of government assistance and child support checks from the girls’ various fathers. She’s no stranger to arrest herself – passing bad checks and stealing from McDonald’s as an employee will get you busted. So will robbing hunting camps – ask Sugar Bear, who was sentenced to five years.
So they’re not the Cleavers. Granted. My purpose here is not to defend them as parents. Most of us don’t think it’s a great idea to give a seven-year-old a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, with a side of Pixie Stix. I for one don’t think it’s a great idea to feed your children – or yourself – “sketti,” a recipe that calls for naught but spaghetti noodles, margarine, and ketchup.
But just how horrifying are these people really?
A reviewer for Forbes said it well: “TLC is trying its hardest to portray Alana’s family as a horde of lice-picking, lard-eating, nose-thumbing hooligans south of the Mason-Dixon line, but it’s not working. It falls flat, because there’s no true dysfunction here, save for the beauty pageant stuff.”
Truth is, behind the bodily functions and junk food is a family that actually loves each other and has a good time in general. In a television wasteland littered with manipulative, self-involved heiresses and neurotic, nipped-and-tucked housewives, watching a bunch of regular fat people laugh at each other’s jokes and legitimately enjoy life is, I have to admit, pretty refreshing.
Hank Stuever of The Washington Post said of the show: “[It] feels as real to me as the Great Depression images shot by the WPA photographers.” And I can’t argue. These people – for good or ill – are real people. Not “real” as in “reality TV.” But real as in real – “neck crust,” foot odor, extraneous thumbs and all.
So what does this have to do with the sanctity of life?
June Shannon, a single welfare queen with assorted baby-daddies, is exactly the type of woman who would be encouraged by fauxminists to abort her baby. I’m no advocate of a welfare state or serial anonymous baby-making. But I’d like to point out that baby number four, Alana, a baby that was a bad idea on paper, is something of a wonder.
Alana is magnificent. In many ways, she’s a product of her environment: she says things like “bling bling” and “honey chile.” She is also, inexplicably, really smart. Her precocity is sometimes a consternation to the adults in her life. (Witness her trying to convince a manicurist to tell her what menopause is.) And, sure, she can be a bit bratty.
But look: you don’t get your own show at age six without having something – and she’s got it in spades. She’s intuitive, bright, and possessed of not only a sense of humor, but an enviable sense of comedic timing.
Abortion advocates would have applauded the killing of Mama June’s fourth child as a “responsible choice,” and the world would have been deprived of June and Sugar Bear’s little blonde anomaly, a child who against all odds has emerged from the obscurity of rural Georgia to become a household name.
Sure, being famous at six years old has its drawbacks, and there’s no guarantee Alana will ever have a normal life, or that it will remain as happy as it appears. But with her intelligence and pluck, she has a shot. And we all deserve a shot.
Abortion advocates would also have encouraged then-seventeen-year-old Anna to abort Kaitlyn, the adorable blonde baby girl with the extra thumb. The family evinced nothing but delight at Kaitlyn’s birth. Barely a mention was made of her “deformity.” They accepted her the way they accept themselves: with love and glee.
One of my favorite things about the Thompson-Shannon family is their acceptance of themselves. Yes, it has a dark side, but we’re all human and we all sin, and maybe it’s just refreshing to see sloth and gluttony represented on “reality” television – we’ve no dearth of pride, envy, wrath, lust, and greed. In fact, I just summarized an entire season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
It’s borderline heart-warming to view on TV a family of people who admit to being fat and lazy (except Sugar Bear, who works his butt off as a chalk miner) and really don’t mind it. There is no sense of self-loathing or envy whatsoever. They are utterly accepting of what they look like and who they are. And, you know what, it’s really nice to see that.
I suspect at least some of the sniffy, self-satisfied “disgust” expressed by critics of the show is pure posturing. Talking about how “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is repulsive gives some the same kind of superior feeling as saying grandly, “I don’t even own a television.” And much of the no-holds-barred hatred expressed towards the family – and especially little Alana – is nothing but ugly snobbery. Calling an eight-year-old a piglet and suggesting she should have been aborted is far more repulsive than being poor and obese.
I’m not defending June Shannon’s past (or current) choices, except for one: whatever her reasons, excuses, or mistakes, I’m glad she brought these four crazy and beautiful girls into the world. Yes, I said beautiful. The sketti-based diet and total lack of refinement isn’t doing them any favors, but underneath it all, Chickadee, Chubbs, Pumpkin and Honey Boo Boo are pretty. They’re fun. They’re funny. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I’m glad they exist.
And even if I wasn’t glad they exist – even if you aren’t – you can’t deny their right to be alive.