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'Honey Boo Boo': That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
Isn't it about time TLC was held accountable for making the world a worse place?

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And the neat trick is that everyone who watches can't really call bulls**t on the practice -- precisely because they're accomplices in the success of selling and promoting trash.

For the longest time, this is why I never watched. I'm a big believer in the concept of "vote with your remote." Hate it? Don't watch it. End of story.
 
But there's something peculiarly reprehensible about Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It's not simply that Alana is going to need to melt down every cheap trophy she wins or do some extreme couponing to pay for therapy, it's that there's seemingly no punishment for TLC in producing this without conscience. (Yes, I know, we're well past that point with TLC. But still.)
 
Having caught up with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo -- after trying to put her and her family out of my mind and vacuumed from the cultural part of my soul after seeing them on "Toddlers & Tiaras" -- I realize I'm not as jaded as I thought. Translation: I guess I never thought a reality show would be this transparently heinous.
 
Mama is 33. She's massively overweight (last count, 303 pounds -- down from 309 after a three-week "diet"). She's involved with Mike, aka Sugar Bear, who couldn't be more Central Casting from Deliverance if you did a national search. Mike basically sits there, dumbfounded. That's his role. In the opening credits to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Mama farts and laughs about it. In the last episode, one of her three overweight daughters (including one who's pregnant, of course), laughs and says: "That crust on my mama's neck, I don't know what it is." Turns out it's exactly what everyone thinks it is: an egregious amount of dirt stuck in the fat rolls of her neck.
 
"I ain't trying letting myself go -- I just look good when I want to look good," Mama says, unconvincingly. In one episode she tells the camera she needs to blow her nose, then takes a face cloth and does just that. Then smiles.

The show uses subtitles, because the apparent lack of education and the Georgia accents mesh together like some kind of indecipherable Scottish accent. 
 
Is Mama a hoarder? Of course she is, with all that extreme couponing. She says it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to do it. Neither does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that this redneck exploitation is a step or four too far in our culture. But it won't stop anytime soon -- unless everyone stops watching.
 
And why would they? Honey Boo Boo just got a pet pig (irony lost) called Glitzy. Honey Boo Boo says, in apparent seriousness: "I hope Mama don't eat Glitzy. She eats everything else."
 
In one scene, Glitzy craps all over the dinner table. One of the daughters yells about Mama: "She was gonna eat it! It looked like a hot dog to her. A burnt hot dog."
 
Yep. We're there. At that depth where no one imagined we'd go, even the cynical ones.
 
One of Mama's daughters is nicknamed "Chubbs." Another is nicknamed "Pumpkin." The other one is pregnant. "Anna's baby daddy ain't in the picture," Mama explains helpfully, noting that she had Anna when she was 15. For her part, Anna tells the camera less than convincingly that she'll probably be a good, but not great, mother.
 
Which is encouraging.

This same episode has the family jumping on a makeshift Slip N' Slide. "Heat and big people don't mix, period," says Mama.
 
"Rednecks take a bath, waterslide and mud bath all at the same time," Mama notes.
 
Honey Boo Boo hasn't been on a great roll at the pageants lately. She's lost a few. That's why they got her the pig. And a new pageant coach who is -- wait for it -- also ridiculously obese. The new dance number for Alana has her trying to be Elvis. "Do you know who Elvis is?" the pageant coach asks. Says Honey Boo Boo, "He's Santa Claus' helper."
 
God help us all.
 
So here's the deal: You know this show is exploitation. TLC knows it. Maybe even Mama and HBB know it, deep down in their rotund bodies. "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is a car crash, and everybody rubber-necks at a car crash, right? It's human nature.
 
Yes, except that if you play that card, you also have to realize that human nature comes with the capacity to draw a line, to hold fast against the dehumanization and incremental tearing down of the social fabric, even if this never-ending onslaught of reality television suggests that's a losing effort. You can say no to visual exploitation. You can say no to TLC. And you can say no to Honey Boo Boo Child.
 
Somebody has to.

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" airs Wednesdays on TLC.

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