What does Honey Boo Boo have in common with Hilary Clinton, Gabby Douglas, Chris Christie, and One Direction? They’re all considered some of the most fascinating people of 2012. At least, according to Barbara Walters, who has put all these folks and Seth MacFarlane, Ben Affleck, and E.L. James on her annual televised interview special’s list.
Now, before you start throwing your televisions out the window and proclaiming this moment as the downfall of modern civilization, let us instead ponder the possibility that including TV’s most-polemic figure is not only a nod to America, but also a necessity. Opinion-havers, start your engines!
There’s been a sea change in the past few years — a shift from a society hyperbolically-obsessed with The Elite to The Others. Thanks largely to reality programming, The Others became the focus: maybe they weren’t entirely regular — we’re looking at you, most of the Real Housewives — but they weren’t preexisting news fodder staples, either. And, as is the nature of the form, things started to go to extremes: Extreme Couponing, Hoarders, Intervention. They also went niche: Duck Dynasty, Parking Wars, Storage Wars. And they largely focused on people who are outsiders to the societal norm: Little People, Big World and Breaking Amish. People wanted to see real stories about regular people and what makes them, well, them. There was no mirror to reflect a life that for so many, is so normal. Cut to: Honey Boo Boo.
Brash, loud, unapologetic, hyper, and perhaps a bit less put together than others, Alana Thompson and her family are—to a certain extent—the embodiment of America. Negative? Positive? There’s plenty of support for either opinion. But ultimately, this much is true: here is a family that loves each other unconditionally. They may not have the pedigree or public-relations training that we’ve grown to expect from our television stars, but what they lack in Media 101, they make up for in acceptance, happiness, and love. Sometimes it’s hard to embrace the flaws — we all have them; if you are a human on this planet — but the family at the heart of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo has no qualms with accepting the “human” part of “human nature.” And for that, they should be profiled. In a time when so many are filled with so much hate, it’s refreshing to see the opposite end of the spectrum — even if it does come with a forklift foot.
Sometimes you eat things you shouldn’t, buy something you don’t need; maybe you even say things you later regret, or don’t know as much about a subject as you want. These things happen. You try to make the best with what you have and play to your own strengths. What this family lacks in former, they make up for in the latter. The life lessons embodied on this show are the same that you would see Lea Michele and a bunch of other faux-high schoolers sing about on Glee: so why don’t more people at least appreciate the inclusion of Alana Thompson on this list? If anything, it’s extraordinary and terribly fascinating that a family this unconventional has ignited such a frenzy over just being who they are — especially when it would’ve been so much easier (and far more digestible for viewers) if network executives simply created a glossy sitcom or 90-minute movie with all the light and polish of the idealized version of “real America.”
Some people find this style of programming unsavory: where are the aspirational aspects? Where’s the perfectly-tailored clothing, the flawless skin? The money and the power? At least, where are the dotted I’s, the crossed T’s? Here’s a question for you: isn’t that general messiness just, you know, the way things are in real life? Walter’s inclusion of Honey Boo Boo on this list speaks to all of these things.
Not only are Alana Thompson and her mother, June, holding up a mirror to a part of the American experience, they’re doing so with a far more accepting view on life and other people than the folks who are often depicted in a similarly-stereotyped lifestyle. (Rednecks, for want of a better term: and because the family uses it to describe themselves.) If anything, they’re helping the stereotype. The show is educating a large audience that are likely unfamiliar with this subset of culture. It’s showing the world that there is more inclusion, acceptance, and love out there than maybe some people previously thought. And isn’t understanding the myriad and nuanced ways we Americans exist part of the beauty of this crazy, mixed-up melting pot of differences? Alana Thompson and her family ARE fascinating, because they embody so much of what it means to live in America in 2012. Another beauty of the freedom of America? If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
Are you surprised Honey Boo Boo made the list? Appalled or excited by Walters’ decision to include her? Sound off in the comments!
[Photo Credit: TLC]
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