A new meme has been going around Tumblr in which GIFs from the critically acclaimed documentary program Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are mashed up with deep, philosophical quotes. I guess this is funny because those quotes were written by smart people and Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson and her family are generally thought of as stupid, but this one actually seems pretty fitting.
Taken from French communist philosopher Alain Badiou, the quote encapsulates how many members of the radical left feel about the world’s current economic system, and calls out to the insane amounts of political discourse that have piled up around this show. Central to a lot of people’s apparent hatred of Honey Boo Boo is the idea that being a “redneck” (i.e. a poor, usually white, person; also described as “white trash”) is a choice. Search Tumblr for the tag “Honey Boo Boo,” and the first page contains this:
Why the fuck do people love honey boo boo so god damn much? She and her mom are just white trash, I live around this kinda shit and I see it all the time it isn’t even funny anymore, just annoying.
And here is something written by someone who actually got paid (by the Onion AV Club, no less) to be incredibly condescending to Mama June Shannon (emphasis mine):
In actuality, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo really doesn’t have a lot to do with the titular figure herself in the two episodes that premiered tonight. At the center of this horror story posing as a reality television program is “Mama,” the matriarch of the family and center around which the entire program revolves. Not having seen Toddlers and Tiaras, it’s hard to know if she’s naturally an attention-seeking woman or if TLC realized she was a 300-pound malapropism waiting to happen. Motivations matter little in cases like this. What’s important to note is that more than half the time in each episode is dedicated to her worldview, which involves preparing Alana for pageants, going to auctions to buy junk food for her family, and generally doing the minimum amount of parenting to prevent the state from taking her children away.
Okay, that’s a little unfair: It’s not so much that Mama actively abuses her children so much as provides perhaps the worst example possible of how to live a life with a bit of respect, or at least decorum. Not since Wuthering Heights has there been a better battle of nature versus nurture in a popular art form. I exaggerate, of course, but the actually interesting parts of Honey Boo Boo come in the moments in which the vaudeville act performed by the Thompsons drops away and accidentally reveals some kernels of truth and humanity underneath. It’s not that the Thompsons have to be this way. They either don’t know how to change or don’t understand that change is even an option.
But guess what? June Shannon cannot snap her fingers and magically become wealthy. Just because the family deals well with their poverty and manages to have fun anyway, does not mean that they are not oppressed and compelled by it. And as I’ve reported, the family isn’t getting any of the money TLC is paying them, but putting it into trusts for June’s four daughters.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Assuming she’s able to overcome her county’s lack of sex ed and keep from getting pregnant long enough to finish high school, Honey Boo Boo will hopefully be able to go to college. Where, if she’s interested in such things, she will learn that she grew up the way she did because she drew the short straw in a system based on inequality and exploitation. She’ll wonder why her dad had to work seven days a week in the chalk mines just so she could eat sketti, while other kids’ dads obtained their riches through shady finance deals and protected them (legally) from taxation in offshore bank accounts. She will know firsthand that her family is not any less innately smart, loving, or deserving than those of her wealthy classmates, and she’ll also know that the only reason she’s even there in the first place is because she got a one-in-a-million shot at changing her social class via the dubious honor of being on reality TV. Maybe she’ll even read some Alain Badiou, and some of that sass will turn to righteous anger, prompting her to use her skills as a “people person” to lead a glorious proletarian revolution. “Here comes Honey Boo Boo” will no longer be the name of a TV show, but a fearful cry issuing from fat cats’ mouths as her redneck army advances with torches and pitchforks. Here comes Honey Boo Boo, indeed!
Or maybe her unlikely success via reality TV will convince her that the American Dream is real and capitalism is the way to go. Who knows? But I think I’m right.