In praise of Mama and Honey Boo Boo, latter-day Rabelais.

I’m pretty dismayed by the national reaction to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The sadism and small-mindedness towards these amazing people makes me really reconsider the decency of the average woman and man.


I just finished a Bonus Boo Boo marathon, and now— still ecstatic—June and Alana are officially my heroes. It’s a bit of a stretch to say so,  but this parent-child duo are, in effect, the closest thing that reality television— maybe all television— has come to a Gargantua and Pantagruel. A loving, mutually supportive, clever, and creative family, the Thompsons have nevertheless become something of a dunk-tank for America’s meanest class and social anxieties. Is it because they’re promoting “unhealthy” lifestyles and messy eating habits? Engaged in pageants? No. It’s because the Thompsons, like many others not appearing on national television, have refused a certain form of shame. They are bravely living beyond the order of beauty, pride, and propriety that most everyone else, out of fear, has decided to endure and tacitly endorse. The Thompsons, though, have taken another, uncommonly bolder approach.


Consider the pageants, for one. I’ve heard both the Mama and TLC accused of “exploitation” when, as far as I can tell, they’ve turned the entire form on its head. Alana mounts the stage unabashed, baby chub and all, and assumes her self-worth before the world. In interviews, she clutches her belly in self-admiration and says “Look at this big thing. They don’t know a good thing when they see it.” Provided that line is really hers— and I’m going on the premise that the show is not staged— what five-year-old that you know can reel off lines like that extemporaneously? This is pure Rabelaisian grotesque. Do What Thou Willt. To reclaim the body and beauty. To burp and fart and play breath-smelling games on television. To neologize with the best of them (beautimous, redneckognize). To proudly self-describe as fat and redneck, and warmly joke that “they’re gonna need a doggone crane” to lift Mama into the water. To stride into the world and claim your tastes without fear or calculation. To shriek and enjoy Fourth of July fireworks with all your little heart and scream “it’s raining colors!

TLC presents Alana. She is a beauty queen. She likes to go mud-bogging and her favorite food is chicken nuggets.


And God help me, Sugar Bear. This hero works seven days a week, has three Santa Claus outfits that “smell like a chain-smoking goat,” and still finds time to lather happiness into the lives of his family. Alana says, after a daddy-daughter day, “I’m a chalk miner’s daughter, and I’m my daddy’s little princess.” Yet people still seem to have something against the man. I would love to hear people articulate— precisely— what they have against him, or any of the Thompsons— or their tastes and activities: extreme couponing, mud bogging with Crazy Tony, dumpster diving at the “local department store.” These people know how to live. Just watch how much fun they can have in a wig store, or sitting at home together. But I love the circularity with which people marshal tastes as a socially-coercive force: Nascar is stupid because rednecks are stupid because rednecks like Nascar. Southern accents make you seem uneducated because people who talk with Southern accents are uneducated because they have Southern accents. Somewhere in there, there’s just got to be a reason for shame or correction, but I’m having trouble seeing it. Tastes can be different, tastes can be disputed, but Honey Boo Boo and the whole Thompson clan, in phalanx, are doing their very best to tilt at the great social hierarchy of tastes— or the whole, idiotic, vestigial idea of such a thing. Heres Comes Honey Boo Boo is a form of humanism.


The following comes from a facebook thread that challenged sharers to describe the photo (the one above, with June and Alana) in one word and one word only.  Enjoy the entries: