Despite criticism, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" continues to draw audiences and reportedly beat the Republican National Convention in the ratings for viewers 18 to 49. Perhaps Sugar Bear should run for office. The reality show has an undeniable appeal similar to fictional shows like "Mama's Family." Most of the laughs seem to come at "Mama" June Shannon's expense, but she is definitely in on the joke.
"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" plays up the hillbilly clichés as the family revels in activities like the Redneck Games and struggles through challenges, such as basic etiquette lessons. The show focuses primarily on Alana's pageant preparations while family situations add suspenseful cliffhangers. Yes, it is a bit formulaic, but their outrageous antics seem loving and genuine. (Who could fake a forklift foot?)
The show's greatest weakness is the way it amplifies June's foibles, virtually forcing the audience to judge her in those awkward moments. The camera lingers during her loud sneezing fits, when she wipes her nose, shoos bugs, and scratches herself. When she steps on the scale, there is a long delay worthy of "The Biggest Loser" before the display finally eeks out a number. The sound of a banjo plays when she shops at a food auction.
Unlike jilted contestants on "Celebrity Apprentice," June does not purport to be a hapless victim of editing. After participating in "Toddlers & Tiaras," she made a slew of talk show appearances, answered critics directly, and wore an adult-sized version of little Alana's pageant gown. Her self-awareness and confidence erase any possibility that TLC somehow exploited her.
Better living through television?
In the 1970s, the first reality family, the Louds, disintegrated on-air during "An American Family." The parents divorced, the eldest son revealed his homosexuality, and they struggled to redefine their relationships. Lance Loud later famously quipped, "Television ate my family." More recently, reality TV seemed to take a toll on the stars of shows such as "Jon & Kate Plus 8."
June's shady past, complete with a mug shot and CPS investigation, recently made headlines; however, TV is not likely to consume her because she is so steadfast in her choices. If Alana's Facebook page is any indication, the family has a devoted, supportive fan base.
Surprisingly, reality TV seems to enhance the family's lives as they trade their lazy summer for one with fun activities and goals. The gals enjoy a spa day together, they diet, and Alana trains to win her first big title. June even seems receptive to negative feedback about her obnoxious coaching methods.
"You'd better redneck-ognize!"
With their homemade Slip 'n Slide and indoor pig, the family of self-proclaimed rednecks is the living embodiment of Jeff Foxworthy's comedy routines. He describes being a redneck as having "a glorious lack of sophistication" and that aptly characterizes the Shannon-Thompson family, as well.
Besides his charm and masterful use of his twang-tinged voice, Foxworthy is so popular because of his comedy's nearly universal appeal. Being a redneck isn't exclusive to a particular race, culture, class, or educational level. It is an inescapable spirit that reflects a "Git-R-Done!" attitude with the ability to take care of business and enjoy life instead of obsessing about appearances.
In an era of Kardashian domination and plastic surgery for teens, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" stands out because of its heart more so than June's flatulence or mangled foot. Whether the viewers choose to laugh at or with the cast is their decision, but June is surely laughing the loudest.
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