The Learning Channel (TLC) recently announced the upcoming premiere of its new series “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” featuring Alana, the “breakout star” of “Toddlers & Tiaras.” Alana, as some viewers will recall, is the little pageant queen whose mother June gives her “go-go juice,” a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, to give her that special energy she needs to perform. Doing so brought June severe criticism, but that hasn’t stopped her from placing her entire family in front of the camera for what TLC describes as “the unapologetically outrageous family life of the Honey Boo Boo clan,” from rural Georgia. Here’s a taste of what’s to come:
A quick read of the TLC press release lets me know that the most unapologetic people involved with this series, debuting in August, are the producers at Los Angeles-based Authentic Entertainment who developed the show, and The Learning Channel, its distributor. TLC, owned by Discovery Communications, claims it “celebrates extraordinary people.” So, the company is “celebrating” Alana and her family, is it?
What the folks at TLC are celebrating in this tragic production is that a ripe plum for exploitation fell right into their laps. It has all the elements of the depraved South, which production companies like Authentic Entertainment create for public consumption and profit. Rural Georgia? Check. Rednecks? Check. Do they roll around in the mud? Check. Are there people with nicknames (besides “Honey Boo Boo,” there’s “Sugar Bear,” “Pumpkin,” “Chickadee,” and “Chubb”)? Check, check, check, and check.
The kicker is this line in the press release, which says as much about the producers as it does the family: “When she’s not chasing after crowns, Alana’s with her family in rural Georgia doing what her family does best: four-wheeling through mud pits and picking up road kill for the family cookout.” Really, this is what they do best? And how about Authentic Entertainment and TLC?
“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is an unabashedly shameless series that scrapes the bottom of the reality television barrel, and it is unsurprising that the rural South is used to make it happen. Videos that parody this little girl and her mother already populate YouTube, an indication that the show may do well for TLC. Yet those parodies suggest something worse going on here, as they predict that Alana grows up to be a pathetic, drug-addicted adult. One can’t help but find a kernel of truth in this, and she may well have TLC to thank. I am not suggesting that Alana’s mother June get a pass for exploiting her child, but neither should TLC or its partner in crime, Authentic Entertainment.