For the uninitiated, Honey Boo Boo is Alana Thompson, a 6-year-old white girl, who talks like some black women, lives in rural Georgia and competes in beauty pageants.
In other words, she is a stereotype.
The Learning Channel introduced Honey Boo Boo to its Toddlers & Tiaras’ viewers in January, and they quickly became fond of the reality TV star. Honey Boo Boo is motivated by money: “A dolla makes me holla.” She’s competitive: “They must be crazy if they think they are going to beat me Miss Honey Boo Boo, child.” She’s confident: “I’m all that and a pack of crackers, okay.”
We’ve heard this before. Honey Boo Boo has borrowed her attitude, mannerisms, and language from urban black women. She might as well put her hand on her hip and crane her neck while she delivers her lines and perpetuates the stereotype of the sassy, uneducated black woman.
Yes, children say the darnedest things. Sometimes it’s cute and even funny. Not in this case. Consciously or unconsciously, Honey Boo Boo gives 2.2 million viewers a safe and acceptable way to judge urban culture, poor people, and Southerners. On top of that, she competes in beauty pageants, where she and other girls are sexualized as women.
Each week, viewers see the antics of a little girl who has a pet pig named, Glitzy; her stay-at-home mom, June; chalk-mining dad, Sugar Bear; and her three sisters, one of whom is pregnant.
While on the surface the show may be amusing, it’s also disturbing. Exploiting children is not entertainment, and making fun of people even when they seem to be in on the joke shouldn’t be entertaining.
Is this what we really want for the next generation? Do we want them to become reality TV stars before they can effectively read and write? Do we want our children to dream of having their own reality show?
I don’t want that for my daughters. They don’t deserve such a harsh light shone on them at such a young age.
If all of this reality television had a larger point, say, of teaching us something incredible about ourselves, or sending Honey Boo Boo to college in a dozen years, perhaps it would be tolerable. But the producers of reality television shows are bent on making inexpensive shows so that we can make fun of its characters.
Let’s draw the line at our children. Let’s protect them from exploitation and being used to perpetuate stereotypes, especially when we don’t fully know what the long-term effects will be.