In Defense of Honey Boo Boo

So this salacious headline just came up on my Twitter feed: “The real Honey Boo Boo: What reality TV did to the pint-size pageant queen.”

I realize this is clickbait and entertainment news and quite possibly partially or totally fabricated by the Honey Boo Boo marketing machine to drum up publicity for the new season of their show… Buuuut it is on Salon and I feel if you’re writing for that sizable a publication some minimum standards for common sense should apply.

First of all the title. What reality TV did to the pint-size pageant queen. Does that evoke images of JonBenet or Honey Boo Boo with a syringe sticking out of her arm and a fist full of Mountain Dew and pancake syrup in her hand? It’s kind of setting itself up for some sort of dramatic transformation. But pageviews, traditional journalism is dead, blah blah blah, I can let it go.

I was at the recent “Tonight Show” taping where Fallon interviewed Honey Boo Boo, and I couldn’t believe what I saw

Okay, getting a little bolder.

Then a couple paragraphs about who Honey Boo Boo is and who Jimmy Fallon is and how the author really does not want to be there and only came for Barbara Walters and expanding upon her credentials as a former audience seater which she tries to play off with the the term “full disclosure” a phrase that is virtually never used in a place it is necessary, and how television was once a place of esteem, and how everything good is dead, and blah blah blah.

And then Honey Boo Boo entered. When she first walked out onto the stage, my immediate thought was – of course. Of course she is swinging her arms like that and wearing that leopard print outfit. Of course.

I assume she meant by this that it was immediately obvious the interview would play to Honey Boo Boo’s television persona, an ostentatious, sassy little girl.

It was almost like watching a cartoon come to life.

So Pootie-Poot is werkin it and drawing our reporter in, where she thought she would fall flat as a one-dimensional, overly-engineered caricature acted by a child who is probably not old enough to understand the consequences of her actions.

And then she loses me, hard. Like taking a hard corner in a Jeep without a seat belt kind of hard. 

“For example, the friendship bracelet moment seems cute and quick on TV, but in person, it was actually kind of agonizing. It didn’t just happen once, but several times, and the more it was discussed, the more openly hostile Boo Boo became.”

This is referring to some sort of bit where Jimmy Fallon asks Honey Boo Boo for a friendship bracelet, and she shuts him down. I’m not sure if this is meant as a neutral recounting of events, or if Honey Boo Boo’s reluctance is meant to be viewed with a certain degree of horror. Isolated, the comment seems innocuous enough, but in the context of the rest of the article, there’s an odd percentage of responsibility assigned to Honey Boo Boo, who, as a reminder, is nine years old. What child, or adult for that matter, isn’t irritated when someone repeatedly tries to manipulate their behavior? I’m assuming the exchange went something like:

Jimmy Fallon: Hey Alana, can I have a friendship bracelet?
Honey Boo Boo: No
Jimmy Fallon: Are you sure you don’t want to give me a friendship bracelet?
Honey Boo Boo: No
Jimmy Fallon: Aren’t The Roots great? Can I have a friendship bracelet?
Honey Boo Boo: No

Yeah, I don’t get how a group of people who regularly start screaming when asked to put their shoes on are upset by some mild badgering on a television set in a room full of strangers. If anything, I’m impressed by Honey Boo Boo’s intelligence, half the celebrities on TMZ can’t figure out they’re being asked the same question when it is rephrased.

In addition to the friendship bracelet crisis, the episode left out some deeply uncomfortable spats between Mama June and Alana. You see it a bit in the broadcast, but Mama June was continually either answering questions on behalf of Boo Boo or mumbling answers to her.

What. How is this shocking even by entertainment news standards? She is NINE YEARS OLD.

“The quick wit we’ve come to expect from Honey Boo Boo was nowhere to be seen, but instead it was fed to her by her pageant mom.”

We’re saddling a fourth grader with responsibility to carry an engaging conversation? Are we going to complain she doesn’t make the gin and tonics strong enough and her couch is tacky next? My real problem is that if she was a four-year-old, this would be adorable. If she were a twenty-eight-year old actress, and she was being fed lines by her momager/publicist/image consultant, this would be ‘standard practice.’ But Honey Boo Boo is at that awkward age where she’s too old to be cute, and not old enough we feel comfortable objectifying her. She’s no good to us right now, and O’Shoney seems to agree.

The truth is, she’s growing up, about to enter puberty, one of the most confusing periods of human existence. She is not the spunky little cherub running around in pink dresses anymore, or at least she shouldn’t be. But this is what we’ve come to expect from her, and the reality-TV-industrial-complex wants her to keep on delivering it.

There is the place Honey Boo Boo’s childhood intersects with our own. The weird age where the power starts to transition and we take on more and more of our own decisions. It might be a strange thought, but I wonder if Honey Boo Boo’s theoretical on-camera adolescence will really be more damaging than any of our own. Is throwing a fit in front of Jimmy Fallon really all that different from rolling your eyes at Uncle Mike at the family dinner at Chili’s. Is having millions of people watch you really different from feeling like they are already. Our adolescent experiences can be radically different and we still all walk away feeling like they were simultaneously completely exhilarating and total shit. Godspeed you Honey Boo Boo, and good luck, you’re going to need it.

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