The Times West Virginian


August 27, 2012

Slate: What 'Honey Boo Boo' says about American culture



June Shannon is a reappropriator par excellence. One of her signature phrases on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is a call to, as she puts it, "Redneck-ognize." And yet all the cultural chatter that's attended "Honey Boo Boo" has been less than affectionate. The word of the day across the media is "apocalypse" — that is, the show is a sign of it. It's not just the caffeine highs, either. It's a family of six chopping up a roadkill deer for dinner, belly-flopping in the mud, and — those with delicate constitutions may want to avert their eyes for this next part — passing gas in public. Even critics who enjoy the show do so from a crouched, defensive posture. People seem to think this has all gone a little too far. Even the "Today Show" is starting to wonder if reality television just might be "exploitative."

I'm not a "Toddlers & Tiaras" fan, so I missed out on Alana's big splash on that show earlier this year. Beauty pageants in general are foreign and noxious to me: I can barely muster the energy to put on lip gloss and mascara. But I watched "Honey Boo Boo" out of curiosity about the fuss, and found myself, somewhat surprisingly, relating to Alana and her milieu. I have fond memories of that Dwight Yoakam song playing softly on my parents' radio as we drove home through the dark from a visit to my grandparents' house in rural Quebec. My family isn't from the South — we're not even from the United States — but I know enough of the land "Honey Boo Boo" lives in to be dubious of simple accusations of bad parenting and worse morals.

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