Here’s a little TV moment that I’ll be reliving in nightmares for a while. Apparently, “Honey Boo Boo” is the nickname of Alana Thompson, the breakout star of TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras beauty pageant show who will now be featured in her own TLC spinoff, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, starting tomorrow. The star and her mom stopped by CNN’s Starting Point this morning to plug the premiere.
I was vaguely aware of Toddlers & Tiaras because we used to watch The Soup, but I didn’t realize it has been on for five seasons. Clearly, Newt Gingrich was a prescient genius when he pointed out years ago that we no longer need PBS, since our magic marketplace now fills all of our educational needs via cable channels such as Arts & Entertainment and The Learning Channel.
You may wonder why Honey Boo Boo is being interviewed on CNN, which was originally conceived as a news network, but John Berman soon grounds the segment in relevant reality by bringing up the subject of sexualization in child beauty pageants. No one ever said serious journalism wouldn’t be awkward.
Yet despite the “eyeliner, mascara, blush, and lipstick” that six-year-old Honey Boo Boo is wearing, I don’t think sexualization is quite the center of the problem here. Ryan Lizza gets closer to it when he wonders about exploitation — about whether “TLC is almost mocking this family.”
What’s most disturbing to me is that this little girl seems very poorly educated, she’s suffering from speech problems which make her so difficult to understand that TLC subtitles her, and she’s already overweight and likely headed toward the gross obesity of her mother June, thanks to all the “go-go juice” she reportedly swills. Rather than trying to help her, TV is giving Honey Boo Boo her own show so the whole world can laugh at her and her ignorant family.
It’s one thing when an adult like “Snooki” Polizzi agrees to be America’s laughingstock in exchange for big TV bucks, but it’s a cruel path to push a child down. If Honey Boo Boo’s parents can’t comprehend this, that still doesn’t absolve the TV machine.
Hopefully, there is at least some moral embarrassment behind Brooke Baldwin‘s laughing jag after Honey Boo Boo declares “We’re a redneck” and “You better redneckognize!”