A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to a new television show called “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”. The creators capitalize on Alanna (aka Honey Boo Boo) and her family’s outlandish “redneck” behavior much like a train wreck you can’t look away from. The family is uninhibited and unfiltered; they are blunt and oftentimes crude. The purpose of the show is definitely entertainment; although it sometimes seems as though you are watching a family who must live on a foreign planet and learning about their strange cultures and traditions. Because the show is a spinoff from “Toddlers and Tiaras”, the creators have attracted viewers who are fans of the show and fascinated by the phenomenon of child pageants. The audience is probably predominated by women, although the crude humor might draw in a few male viewers.
As someone who has lived in the south her entire life, I take pride in my culture. Although I find the show hilarious, it feeds the negative stereotypes associated with the “backwoods, redneck folk” often associated with the southern states in the U.S. For example, the entire family is overweight. Most noticeably would be the mother of Honey Boo Boo, June. Previous episodes featured commentary on her “neck crust” (crumbs, etc. that get stuck in the fat rolls on her neck) and this week’s episode showed her making lemonade with five pounds of sugar and “sketti”, which is spaghetti and her “special sauce” made of ketchup and butter. It’s not exactly breaking news that the obesity epidemic is a major problem in our country today. Rates of obesity have risen over 20% in my home state, Texas, over the past two decades and the “fattest states” are primarily in the south. (Adult Obesity) The family is shown eating their “sketti” as they all sit in front of the TV. Watching TV while you eat is proven to decrease self-awareness, so you mindlessly consume more than is required to reach satiety. (Baumeister) One family member made a comment that they “never sit at the dinner table”. (Time for Sketti) This habitual behavior contributes to consistent overeating and ultimately the family’s weight problem. The family is aware of their unhealthy behaviors, but engages in humor as a method of coping. June jokes that “the town of McIntyre is going to have a diabetic attack” upon drinking the lemonade at Honey Boo Boo’s stand. (Time for Sketti)
The show’s creators aren’t necessarily trying to prove anything, but as they capture the oftentimes unintended comedy of Honey Boo Boo’s family I find that the viewers are laughing at, and not with, the family. The creators employ mainly implicit argumentation. By letting the family and their actions speak for themselves, the creators use editing and airing only the most ridiculous clips to portray the family, and ultimately Southern culture, in a negative light. The show is framed from a voyeuristic standpoint; the family seems completely unaware of the cameras and crew so it almost feels as though you are peeking in on this strange family. This viewpoint automatically makes people feel as though they are superior. We engage in self-comparison constantly, so much so that it is oftentimes unconscious. By choosing this family to film, almost any American viewer will feel superior and receive an automatic ego boost. (Baumeister) The producers frame the scenarios to highlight the family’s lack of education and social etiquette at their own expense. I doubt that the producers of the show are from the south as you can see their subtle stabs at southern culture through the portrayal of the family. They pan out and show the family’s small, white house that features Christmas lights year round, situated snuggly between a busy railroad track and a gas station, which the girls treat like the neighborhood playground by frequently stopping by for junk food. The show features subtitles for the majority of the characters’ dialogue, suggesting that they speak so poorly and with such thick accents that the common American would be unable to understand them otherwise. Despite the shock value that I believe hooks many viewers, Alanna and her naive nature are a shining light in a family of gruesome rednecks; she captures your heart and drives you to tune into future episodes.
“Adult Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html>.
“Time for Sketti.” Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. TLC. 12 Sept. 2012. Television.
Baumeister, Roy F., and Brad L. Bushman. “The Self.” Social Psychology and Human Nature. Brief ed. Vol. 2. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, n.d. 57-96. Print.