by: Joshua Isaacson
If you have not taken a minute to stop keeping up with the Kardashians and to catch up with the Shannon family, I highly recommend you do. Alana Shannon, more commonly known as “Honey Boo Boo” from Toddlers & Tiaras, is the star of her own show on TLC (appropriately named Here Comes Honey Boo Boo), which showcases HBB and her family in their hometown of Mcyntire, GA. Her mother, June, has also been featured on another TLC show, Extreme Couponing where she uses the money she saves from couponing to enter Alana into pageants.
I will admit that I have seen most of the season of HCHBB, and one thing that strikes me as un-stomach-able is the way the TLC has allowed this family to be portrayed on national television. TLC has taken a family that is very close (you can tell by watching that this family has fun with each other and they get along better than most families these days), and exploited them to the n-th degree. On any other reality show, you never see the stars burp or fart or anything that you generally would not do in public yourself. That is not the case for HCHBB! TLC has tons of footage of the family farting and burping numerous times throughout each episode.
This is all to get some laughs and to get viewers to tune in next week and see just how disgusting people from Georgia “really are” — or so they seem. The exploitation of this family is just appalling, from the beginning of the show you can tell that TLC only gave this family a show because they knew people would laugh at them and that the family would be a “good” representation of what the mainstream thinks about people from the south. (You know: dumb, smelly, loud, rude, and things like that.) In essence, the show really just drives home the stereotypes that society has of the southern community. (If you have not seen the show, the opening sequence is the family standing in a V formation with light music in the background; then Alana’s mother farts, and everyone laughs. Cue the stereotypical redneck banjo tune.)
One episode in particular strikes me as unnecessarily cruel. In this episode, June decides to take the family to a water park to reward the family for their attempts at losing weight. Not bad right? However, at the water park, the girls (“Pumpkin,” “Chubbs,” and “Honey Boo Boo”) taunt their mom to show them her “forklift foot.” June goes on to explain that when she was working in a warehouse she had her foot ran over by a forklift and her toe has not looked the same since that event. After enough taunting and harassing, June agrees to take her sock off and show the girls and between you and me, it’s really nothing spectacular. A little messed up toe-nail, thats it.
However, this clearly was not good enough for TLC, because they decided it would make a better situation if there were flies buzzing around her toe when she took her sock off — in the middle of a water park where there are no other bugs in sight. The girls comment on the supposed gnats around her toe, but I have a hard time believing that there are gnats actually COMING OUT OF HER TOE. “Reality” TV can be mighty scripted sometimes, as we all know (cough, The Hills, cough), but this is something else.
Another way that TLC really takes the exploitation cake is with the apparent need to put subtitles whenever someone talks. They are from Georgia. They are speaking English. They should not need subtitles, TLC. I am pretty sure that everyone can understand what the family is saying. It’s my view that TLC just wants to make sure people know the things that are coming out of their mouths so that they can judge their intelligence based on their vocabulary. It’s just disgusting the way the TLC has portrayed this family.
TLC has announced that there will be a second season of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, so there will be plenty more chances to see the exploitation for yourself. The one thing that I have found out about this family is that they refused to let TLC provide them with a new home because of the show, because June said that she likes to decorate for Christmas and wants to keep her house for that reason. She has also stated that she is very involved in the community they live in. Does this sound like the kind of family that needs to be exploited every week on national television? I didn’t think so either.
Joshua Isaacson is a student working on a double major in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Minnesota (starting spring 2013). He is also a volunteer and mentor for the Trevor Chat program through the Trevor Project, working with GLBT youth dealing with sexual identity/orientation questions. Josh doesn’t know what “spare time” is right now, but during the scraps of it he can find you can find him reading philosophy books and doing homework.