Happy in McIntyre: A Review of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Happy in McIntyre: A Review of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo


Honey Boo Boo Holiday pic resized with source.JPGReality shows are all the rage these days.  They cover many topics:  surviving on an isolated island or in the Siberian wilderness in the winter, racing around the world, selecting a mate, or just living as a group of strangers in the same house.  Then there's    Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a spin-off of the TLC reality television program Toddlers and Tiaras.  It follows the life of Alana Thompson ("Honey Boo Boo"), a children's beauty pageant competitor, and her family.  Alana's not your average participant, lacking grace, rhythm, and polish, and is known for her brash behaviour.  She gained notoriety in 2012 following an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras where she drank "go-go" juice, a concoction of Red Bull and Mountain Dew intended to give her energy for the competition, but threw her into a frenzied state.  Mother and daughter wound up on the talk-show circuit defending the use of the caffeine-loaded drink

The program takes place in McIntyre, Georgia, and follows the antics of the family of seven, all of whom answer to odd nicknames.  Queen of the household is June Shannon ("Mama") a 33 year old mother of four girls from four different men: Anna, 18 ("Chickadee"), Lauryn, 16 ("Chubbs"), Jessica, 13 ("Pumpkin"), and Alana, 7 ("Honey Boo Boo").  Living with them is June's partner of 8 years and Alana's father, Mike Thompson, 41 ("Sugar Bear") and Kaitlyn, Anna's newborn daughter.  These people are overweight, uneducated, and completely unrestrained.  They burp and pass wind without shame.  Their southern Georgia accents are so pronounced that subtitles are required.  Their diet is poor; they happily chow down on such delicacies as cheese balls, "multi-meals" (casseroles), the odd bit of road kill, and everybody's favourite "sketti", a combination of spaghetti, ketchup, and butter.  Vegetables rarely make an appearance unless released from a can.  In fact they are so disliked, in a recent episode, eating vegetables was used as punishment for swearing when a 25¢ fine proved to be unsuccessful.  When given a slice of cucumber to eat, Alana asked, "What is it?"

Mama June constantly frets about leaving the girls on their own because they behave badly when unsupervised.  In one episode, after having broken a swimming pool, they dug a hole in the ground, filled it with water, and rolled around in the mud in an effort to cool down on a hot day.  In another, three of the girls covered themselves in garbage bags, spread butter over one another, and slid across the kitchen floor.

Viewers tune in to these shenanigans and can't help but feel superior.  They cringe at these people's ignorance, laugh as they mangle the English language, and tut-tut at every bad behaviour.  "Horrible," they say.  But is it really?  Scratch the surface a little and there is much more going on.

What we really see is a strong family bond.  This is a unit where the dynamic is such that everyone feels comfortable and safe; able to be themselves. While Mama June rules with an iron fist, or more so a booming voice, her concern for her family is very evident.  June does not let failure get her daughters down.  When her youngest daughter, Alana, lost the "cutest redneck" competition to her niece Kaitlyn, she started feeling the stress of losing her spot as the baby of the family.  This did not escape June's attention and she immediately addressed the situation.  She arranged a date with Alana for some mother-daughter bonding time and reassured her that she was still her baby, her little "nootie-noot".

Almost every activity is a family affair; a reason to spend quality time together.  True, the girls balk at leaving the house and complain and fight constantly, yet they go along for the ride anyway.  Each family member takes turns looking after little Kaitlyn as if the child is their own; the love evident in their eyes.  After each adventure someone invariably says that it is good to be back home.

Sugar Bear (Mike), the lone male in the family, puts up with the screaming and histrionics because, he says, "I love my June and I love my girls.  I wouldn't have it any other way."

What started out as a typical reason for viewing this program, turned into a comfortable weekly peek into another average family's life.  We all burp, pass gas, argue, and engage in horseplay; they just happen to do it on television for all the world to see.  Such displays of love, togetherness, and support are rare in today's television programming.  This family is not so different from ours.  They love each other and say so.  We could do with a lot more of that.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo airs on Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. on TLC.

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