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Why Does Honey Boo Boo Child Make So Many People So Mad?

September 25, 2012

All this week we will be celebrating National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, as discussed by Dr. Deah earlier this month.

I’m taking an intense class about the 1960s and 1970s, centered on the Vietnam war. Last night, the class discussion focused on the media and its influence on people. Somehow, the topic of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo came up. In case you have somehow missed this cultural gem, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a spin-off of Toddlers & Tiaras, and focuses on the Thompson family from Georgia. Honey Boo Boo is Alan Thompson, age 7, who is a mostly-unsuccessful (so far) beauty pageant contestant. Her mother June, though, is the star of the spin-off.  Here they are.

So, let’s get this out of the way. June has four daughters with four different fathers. She lives with Alana’s daddy, Sugar Bear, but they aren’t married. He always has a huge wad of chew in his cheek, but it looks like he works pretty hard. June’s oldest daughter is 17, and just gave birth to a little girl with an extra thumb. The family bought a pet teacup pig, a boy they named Glitzy, who squealed like it was being roasted up for dinner all day and night. They like to play in the mud. A lot. June is one of those coupon queen, borderline hoarders. All of the kids, except (ironically) the very pregnant one, are on the chubby side. Mama is fat. Apparently, this family sometimes eats roadkill. And, they dress their littlest daughter up like a Barbie Doll and parade her around national TV in a bid for a crown, after filling her up with something called Go-Go Juice, and lots of cheese puffs.

Did you get all that?

One of the women in my class certainly did.  She spent a good ten minutes ranting about how horrific this family is. It was kind of fascinating, in a sociological kind of way, to see how personally she takes the Thompson family. Like their very existence is designed to offend her. She had three main complaints:

  1. They are so fat.
  2. The oldest girl is pregnant.
  3. They live in a trailer. (She actually whispered the word trailer. I’m not kidding.)

Anna Thompson, Alana’s oldest sister, is hardly the first or the last pregnant 17-year-old in America. It’s a sad fact that teenage pregnancy happens. It happens in rural Georgia. It happens in the most sophisticated cities in the country. It happens in poor families and wealthy families. It happens.

And while I’m pretty sure that the Thompsons live in a house, and not a trailer, the idea that a family who lives in a trailer is somehow less respectable is so offensive. The Thompsons don’t actually come across as particularly poor to me in the show. Those pageants aren’t cheap. And, I’m fairly certain they’re paid enough for being in the show to make them not poor now even if they were before.

But it’s that first statement I want to address. I’ve watched a couple of episodes of this show. I’ve seen little Alana say, “My mama says that pretty comes in all different sizes.” And June say that her little girl will probably be short and fat when she grows up. After all, her mother is short and fat. And then there are references to putting paint on the barn, or something, that I didn’t fully understand. But, that’s okay.

For many reasons, ranging from my own feminism to a built-in aversion to wasting money, I’m not into the kind of beauty pageant that June Thompson wants her daughter to succeed in. As a result, I wouldn’t ever put my own similarly-aged daughter in one. (Never mind that Alana loves the glitz enough to name her piggy Glitzy, and my Ruby is mortified that her bike is pink. My little tomboy doesn’t do girlie girl stuff.) Do I think Go-Go Juice, which I believe is a mix of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, is a great idea for a little kid? Or a grown up? Not so much. I wouldn’t even know how to make roadkill edible, but I don’t think I’d do it even if I did.

In other words, I don’t take lifestyle tips from the Thompsons. And that’s okay, because they don’t take any from me either.

When I watched a few episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, I was struck by how okay with themselves the Thompsons are. In fact, they seem so comfortable in their own skin, that some of the stuff that’s supposed to be funny just kind of falls flat. And maybe that’s what upset the woman in my class so much. Fat people aren’t supposed to be okay with themselves. Poor people aren’t either (even if the poverty is only a perception). Certainly not rednecks who fart on TV and scratch their bugs and let tiny pigs poop on the dining room table (then laugh about how the poop looks like a burned hot dog) and have teenage daughters who get pregnant, then have the nerve to give birth to less-than-perfect babies.

Referring to Alana Thompson, Joy Behar recently said to the Huffington Post: “She’s going to be a fat kid; she’s going to grow up to be a big fat woman. She is, I can tell. She’s just a kid, but you see the genetics are right there. She’s going to have large boob boobs — Honey Boobs Boobs.”

Big boobs? Scandalous. Check out the comments on that post. They’re vicious. Vicious, and in many cases directly aimed at a 7-year-old girl whose biggest crime in this case is taking after her mother.

The woman in my class was personally offended by this family. I was dying to ask if she’d be so upset if June Thompson wasn’t fat. Would Joy Behar be so hateful toward the Thompsons if they weren’t fat? If little Alana didn’t have a thing for squishing her tummy fat to make her belly button talk? If these were slender, conventionally pretty people, would they raise such a ruckus?

I don’t know, but I’m curious. And I’m curious to know what you think.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Ada Mangoes permalink
    September 25, 2012 9:23 am

    I don’t think there would be so much hate directed their way if they were all conventionally thin-bodied. And I also don’t agree with a lot of the things the family does, but, like you, I am not looking for lifestyle tips from them.

    Growing up in a poor family where putting meat on the table was not guaranteed, and who lived in suburban and far rural areas, we did eat roadkill. I don’t talk about it much because because of the immensely negative stigma attached to it, but I would do it again now as an adult if the right opportunity presented itself (i.e. I hit the animal, saw it get hit, or otherwise reliably know when it was killed). I also grew up hunting, though, and so have a working knowledge of animal anatomy and how to identify when trauma has made the flesh inedible, which is knowledge I know most folks do not have and do not desire to have.

    My major beef with the show is completely different from what I’ve seen and heard from most so far. I loathe how it glorifies white folks’ appropriation of AAVE language and mannerisms. When Alana says and does certain things, which she has obviously learned from her mom and similar family, she is lauded for it and called extremely cute and adorable. If an equally cute and adorable little black girl were to say and do the same thing on national television, she would be called everything *but* a pretty little black girl, told that she’s basically trash, and sent home.

  2. vesta44 permalink
    September 25, 2012 9:34 am

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your analysis that people are outraged because Alana’s family are comfortable with who they are – and those same people are probably outraged because Alana’s family are making money off what others see as outrageous behavior but they see as normal.
    Personally, I’ve never seen their show, and probably never will (and I don’t watch Toddlers and Tiaras either). Those people who are outraged by this show? Have the same choice I do – no one is forcing them to watch, no one is saying these people are paragons of virtue and you must follow their lifestyle or take tips from them. Whatever happened to live and let live? (And I happen to have lived in several trailers, and all of them were decent housing options at the time).

  3. eric permalink
    September 25, 2012 9:35 am

    A believably realistic family. One for all all for one. Chubby sure. Not a crime.They seem sincere and genuine and love one another. As for fresh venison roadkill yummy. No added
    chemicals or preservatives better than anything available in the supermarket.

  4. sue wright permalink
    September 25, 2012 9:55 am

    It is not the fat part that bothers me. It is the crudeness of the family I cannot tolerate. Being a Southerner myself, I feel that it reflects badly on all Southerners. How can they raise normal, socially acceptable children when they seem to concentrate on 1) farting, 2)sneezing, 3) bodily odors (the breath smelling episode)4) spitting tobacco, and discussing bodily parts: their vaginas are their “biscuits” June says. The whole thing is gross, gross, gross, and I can’t imagine a network that would air it. But as someone said, it is like watching a car wreck–you can’t look away. So, I guess the bottom line is, as in all things, it makes the network money.

  5. lifeonfats permalink
    September 25, 2012 5:25 pm

    I definitely think if this family were thin and not in a lower socioeconomic class there wouldn’t be so much outrage. Look at all those “Real Housewives” shows. The women on there also act outrageous and are stereotypes of a certain population, but it seems the public is more forgiving because they’re more visually appealing. If they were all fat, it would be nothing but concern trolling and body-shaming.

    The majority of society will only seem to accept fat people on TV if they are self-loathing and trying to lose weight like the Biggest Loser contestants. The moment you get a confident fat person on there that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about their weight, it’s the worst thing ever. As I said on another blog, seeing fatties content in their own skin scares people because it shatters their superior attitudes and forces them to realize not everyone is interested in being “visually acceptable.” Yeah, the Southern family stereotype, the child beauty pageants and the go-go juice is very problematic, but their size really isn’t. They can turn the channel if it offends them so much.

    • Dizzyd permalink
      November 26, 2014 3:57 pm

      To quote you: “…seeing fatties content in their own skin scares people because it shatters their superior attitudes and forces them to realize not everyone is interested in being ‘visually acceptable’. To which I say a hearty “Amen!”

  6. The Real Cie permalink
    September 28, 2012 10:10 pm

    No doubt people are more hateful because they have bigger body types, and that’s just wrong. But now I’ll go on my rant about why I hate this kind of show. I think that the mother is an attention whore who is using her children to bring on that attention. Kind of like a Munchausen by Proxy situation. I deplore child beauty contests. This show is a spin off of the vile Toddlers and Tiaras.
    This is all about getting attention, attention, attention. It is not about showing the daily lives of a bunch of good ole folks from the South or any such thing. It is a spectacle, a side show. Many child stars have ended up miserable as they reach adulthood and are no longer “cute.” This child isn’t even a real star. I don’t foresee a good future for her.

  7. October 9, 2012 11:07 am

    I think this is the overlap of classism and fat hatred. And when the two mix, hijinx will ensue. It’s all part of our national love of putting people in their place. Interestingly, I don’t think Honey Boo Boo, or her family, are likely to be put in any place they don’t already want to be.


  8. Crabby permalink
    October 19, 2012 3:14 am

    The producers of the show play it to the hilt to “milk it” for all they can. Obviously they seem to be a loving family they do things together they laugh together. IF any of us allowed cameras into our homes I am sure we would want a lot of our realism edited out. As far as the obese thing goes. I do think June should start feeding her family a heathier diet because Alana has gained too much weight.Nip it in the bud. Maybe just cut out some starches sweets and increase fresh fruits and vegetables. As far as “roadkill” deers get hit by cars and salvaged for the venison all of the time. What is wrong with that? When you say roadkill it is not like they are picking up dead puppies for their stew:)

  9. Fab@54 permalink
    October 19, 2012 10:23 am

    Cut n paste from my comments on Huff Po regarding Honey Boo Boo and family:

    “I have developed a strange but genuine fondness for Alana. (Honey BooBoo).
    Last night as I watched the latest episode, I found myself smiling and even chuckling now and then at Alana’s antics and expressions. She is one goofy, but genuinely sweet kid.
    They are, without a doubt, pretty g-damn REAL compared to sit-com versions of “family” we see all the time.

    There is real love between the sisters and the mom. Real love – even though that includes yelling and scuffling and getting mad at each other now and then.
    Yes, they range from thin to chubby to obese.
    Yes, they are sometimes crude or unsophisticated in their words and ways.
    Yes, they are poor enough to have a working railroad track about 15 ft from their back door. Yes they are proud to be American and proud to be “rednecks”. They are who they are and that’s R.E.A.L.
    Yes, in a way they are being exploited for their entertainment value by TLC… no doubt.
    Yes, you can laugh along WITH them, or you can smugly laugh AT them. But if you are laughing AT them, well, that says more about you than it does about them, now doesn’t it?”

    I got some support for my comment and observations, however, I also got the usual run-of-the-mill concern trolling and downright fat-haters speaking up as well. ::shrugs:::

    I honestly believe if each family member was closer to a “size 8” in appearance, the shock and awe generated by this show would be cut by 80%. But the undercurrent of this show, that sneaking “hidden agenda” and mindset of those behind the camera, does seem to want to push the idea that “Fat, Stupid, Uneducated, Crass, and Poverty all go hand-in-hand.”
    THAT’S what really sucks about this show… that undercurrent — Not the family it showcases.

  10. Korlee permalink
    December 15, 2012 3:39 am

    I know the honey boo boo show would be more acceptable if the family was slender. Then it would just be considered cute. I like the show myself. It’s about time they put a less then perfect family on tv. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws. I could careless that they are overweight. But i don’t agree with some of the crude humor. But hey. I still watch it. Little Alana is so cute. And has tons of personality. I’d watch it before i chose to watch Desperate housewives. Simply because old women robbing the cradle and sleeping around, is alot worse then watching a little pageant girl, and her hilarious family. What it boils down to, is that we live in a superficial world where everything is about looks, and heads on stick figure bodies. Reminds me of bobblehead dolls. People vie for perfection, and when they see Honey boo boo’s family. They get pissed off, because the Thompson family is comfortable in their less then perfect skin. And they aren’t. What makes those people even madder, is the fact that the Thompson family has their own show. I say, “Go Honey Boo Boo Child”!!!

  11. AmoRidere permalink
    June 8, 2013 12:17 pm

    Naturally, I do not like the show, on the grounds that it is, like the that bullcrap Toddlers and Tiaras show, exploitation and, while I do not agree on some of their habits (like feeding a kid a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull), I do not judge or hate them and I’ve only seen them once and believe that they shouldn’t have been given a television show. I mostly go like this, sure, I don’t like the show (actually I hate the show but not them) but at least Mama June loves and cares for her family and isn’t like most other pageant moms. However, being that they have a tv show, I wish TLC would stop milking it for ratings just like they did with Toddlers and Tiaras, in fact, that is all they’re doing so I think that is a reason as to why I hate the show because that is all it is, just another way to get ratings, and their exploiting this unconventional family.

  12. Shelby Cody permalink
    July 17, 2013 6:53 pm

    I’m outraged at the fact that all it takes to be famous is to have absolutely no talent and something wierd about you or you’re family. It’s not just honey boo boo it’s the real housewives and those rednecks that go on vacation for money and the list goes on and on. It’s disgusting how people get famous for being ignorant and stupid in front of a camera when there is some 7 year old working thier ass off on a piano so that they can some day just make a living doing what they love. It hits a personal spot for me because I am an artist. Maybe not the most talented but no one is. But I work hard and I go to school to learn the trade and I’ve come to the realization that I’m never going to be famous and that’s ok cause I simply want to do what I love. But it makes me mad that my competition for recognition from the public is this mind liquefying trash reality tv. And it’s one of the reasons I’m ready to get out of Georgia. I’m sorry if I offended anyone but I just really needed to get it off my chest.

    • frogginator permalink
      February 28, 2014 10:19 am

      I agree, very well spoken.

  13. September 5, 2013 8:17 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I had to share this: I recently posted a meme of honey boo boo on my facebook feed, with the girl in a two piece swim suit (one of those tankinis, like, a one piece with a slit in it, basically) saying “my size is cute!” and a now-former friend of mine posted “her size is fat pig, and she should be wearing a one piece.” i asked her why it was so important that alana thompson wear a one piece, and she said “fat people should be modest.” i said “no, fat people should wear whatever the fuck they want to wear, and you are insulting and shaming an 8 year old child.” she unfriended me. good riddance!

    • September 6, 2013 7:53 am

      Cara Mia- wow. Well see? I guess fat people, even fat innocent little kids can bring out the ‘hate’ in some people. How sad the haters are…. Absolutely good riddance!

  14. September 6, 2013 11:05 am

    To be honest, my interest vaporized a couple of years back when I first heard of this show, as soon as I heard the words “Beauty Pageant.” My teeth grind automatically at those two words and all they represent, no matter who’s participating. I’d completely forgotten its existence until you brought it up.

    Thanks for the reminder of why I avoid HuffPo like the plague, though. Well, that, along with their Democrat Party hackery (I’m a Green.) and the fact that their site runs like molasses in winter on my beat-up old computer…

  15. frogginator permalink
    February 28, 2014 10:10 am

    I would detest this show even if the family were a pack of aerobic instructors with a GNC sponsorship. While i do acknowledge and admire the family’s love and appreciation for one another, what ever happened to teaching our children manners and class? Especially, the importance of these lessons to little girls, and since WHEN has this “I don’t care what anybody thinks of me, I’m gonna act like a hot mess cuz i think it’s fuuuuny, ehehe” attitude become socially acceptable? My father taught me to carry myself like a lady and that peoples’ impression of me is important to the degree of, well, i dunno… LANDING A JOB for instance. or how about seeming as though you have “home training”? Since when is it acceptable to promote a personality that makes everyone assume you must do or did very poorly in school? My 7 year old daughter has a very large vocabulary, and is very well spoken, thus a very good reader. But the language came first, YEARS before the reading! All because i promote an environment that teaches her and encourages her to live up to the best of her abilities, whereas honey boo boo’s mother has been quoted saying things like “my daughter’s gonna be short and fat like me. It’s in her genes.” and “she might be a good mother, but not a great one.” (referring to her 17 year old who just had a child). Is this what we want to ‘learn’ from THE LEARNING CHANNEL?

    Vote with your remote, and just say no.

  16. Mark permalink
    March 6, 2014 6:47 pm

    They’re happy and love each other, there’s no violence and they have fun. In that aspect this family is a good example of how people can live and respect eachother the way they are, even if they’re behaviour can be outrageous at times. I like them. A lot.

  17. Natalie permalink
    June 3, 2014 11:22 pm

    It seems to me that people who are comfortable with themselves bother people. It’s like we’re not to ever be content. Or, maybe it means that that person can’t be made to feel inferior to them. I mean, how dare a person who isn’t society’s physical “ideal” be comfortable with themselves and their lives? I say, because they get it. That’s TRUE happiness.

    • frogginator permalink
      June 23, 2014 12:36 pm

      It’s not about them feeling confident and proud; that I applaud. It’s the way they show it that has me ill.

      I believe in reality shows that don’t parade idiocy and lewdness. If you’re going to be proud to be dumb and crass, then this isn’t my cup of tea. I notice that people love watching others make fools of themselves, but why? Is it to make you feel better about yourself?

      I think that most everyone who will NOT watch were raised with the ideal, “You carry yourself with respect and you will get respect in return.”

      Vote with your remote.

  18. June 24, 2014 3:45 pm

    I know this is a really old post, but I find this family to be relatively normal. We balk at the farting, cheese balls, pig poop, burps…but really, I dress up to go out, and you know…there’s some stuff my family does in the house that we’d turn beet red if we found a camera was on us. The family is happy. They joke with each other. The pageant thing is weird–because Alana never wins! lol, but she loves it. It’s great to see that it’s the personality that counts–that you can “paint a barn” and make it just as pretty as the fancy ones.

    I live in a rural area with people that would make the Thompsons look like high class aristocrats.

    When thin, beautiful people fart or play in the mud, we find it endearing. I think this family rocks. It IS precisely because they are just normal people that makes them so interesting. The funny thing is that they are more normal than any of us wants to admit.

  19. Jane Jetson permalink
    November 28, 2014 1:27 pm

    I wonder how much of the hijinks are pumped up for ratings and controversy. I also recall what Roseanne once said (I do not approve of the term white trash and do not use it myself.)

    ”We’re America’s worst nightmare: white trash with money!” Maybe people who do what they like and don’t worry about social convention are a nightmare for Americans. At least middle class Americans.

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