Here Comes Honey Boo Boo premiered this week and 2.2 million people watched it. That’s a lot of people! Even without the numbers, this is the type of reality show that brings up the old sawhorse argument about what this means for AMERICA and our CHILDREN and our FUTURE and our CULTURE. And so E! asks if it’s a guilty pleasure or “the worst thing ever.” People asks if this is America’s new sweetheart or “its worst nightmare.” And so on and so forth. New low! Giving Americans a bad name! WE ARE ALL GUNNA DIE! Here’s the thing, though: TV is not our culture’s problem. I just feel like, you know, I totally get it. Yes, this show, which I have not watched, is an exploitative freak show aimed at the lowest common denominator of our cultural impulses, and the reality TV trend has been moving in ever more sensationalistic and egregious self-reflexive cycles for years now. Then again, you also have Breaking Bad, and Portlandia, and Mad Men, and Justified. For every step we take towards terrible television we take a counter-step towards great television. But that’s not even what I’m talking about! What I think it is important to remember is that we live in a world with REAL PROBLEMS: poverty, racism, homophobia, misogyny, human rights violations, war, religious persecution, starvation, biological warfare, etc. And here’s something else: IT’S NEVER BEEN BETTER THAN IT IS RIGHT NOW. Never. Not ever in the whole history of it. Oh, there are things that we should really start putting some thought into. But you don’t have to go that far back to remember a time when it was totally legal to just THROW A BLACK PERSON INTO THE OCEAN IF YOU WANTED TO. That’s an example I made up that may or not actually be offensively counter-productive now that I think about it, but things have always been terrible is my point. There was a study I read about the other day that I can’t find now, but if someone finds it please link in the comments, but it was about a survey done in, like, the 1800s that found that most Americans couldn’t locate Europe on a map, or whatever, but basically the same way we make fun of dumb dumbs on Jay Leno now has always been the case. Nobody knows nothing and they never have. Pants used to be made out of asbestos. Cigarettes used to be medicine. Women are allowed to vote and drive cars NOW but they weren’t always! And we still live in a world where not everyone is allowed to marry the person they love, so who gives a shit about a TV show? You see what I mean? We’re not in danger from Honey Boo Boo Child. It doesn’t matter. This is not the danger, the danger is the danger.

Comments (63)
  1. If you look in a mirror and you’re ugly, it’s not the mirror’s fault.
    TV is the mirror.

    • Yes and no. A major effect of having so many channels available is the balkanization of entertainment, which means we can all find out own little niche (or mirror) and enjoy the shit out of it. Sure, 2.2 million people watched this show I’m the first week, but that still means in the big picture hardly anyone watched it. And the number will drop off a lot in the near future.

      I guess what I’m saying is that some people will watch it, but most won’t, and so characterizing this show as a mirror of our society isn’t really fair our accurate since 99% of us didn’t watch it.

      • And yet I know more about it than any other show that came out this week (excluding Weeds, the only show I watched this week). I didn’t see it, I don’t think I even know anybody who DID, and yet I already know more about the Honey Boo Boo clan than I want to. It’s not just about how many people watches it, but who those people are, and where and how often it’s being discussed.

      • RELATED: Yesterday I wore my “Achiever” shirt in public because laundry day approaches, and it occurred to me that while 100% of my friends know this is a reference to the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers, I bet close to 98% of the people who saw me just thought I was some kind of asshole, possibly accusing them of being non-achievers. I got worried about that and just wanted to start shouting at strangers, “NO! AMERICA IS BALKANIZED! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT??”

      • I didn’t mean that if you watch it, it mirrors your life. I’d be that most of the people who watched it did so “ironically,” ie through vicious, smug schadenfreude.
        Rather, I meant that reality shows like this – their creation, promotion, and reception, as well as the actual events depicted – show an unpleasant side of American (and to an extent, Canadian) culture.
        It is a celebration of ignorance, and an exploitation of the same. The Honey Boo Boo family doesn’t come out of this looking great, but neither do the cynical TLC producers or the look-it’s-a-freak-show viewers.
        Gabe is right that this is not as big a problem as, say, ebola in Uganda or flooding in the Philippines, but duh , of course it isn’t. That doesn’t make it not bad, though.

    • Reality TV isn’t a mirror of our society. This show, and other shows like it, don’t reflect the average American. They hold up some contemptible idiots as objects of ridicule for everyone to gawk at, feel superior to, and simultaneously emulate.

      I don’t think shows like this are the harbinger of the apocalypse, but I wouldn’t want my kids to watch it, lest they think these people’s behavior is acceptable.

  2. well, if the E! network is wondering if your show is the “worst thing ever,” you’ve got to be pretty close right?

  3. I feel like that thing about the people in the 1800s is a bit misleading. Sure, they might not have been able to locate Europe on a map, but most of them didn’t have maps. If they even wanted to SEE a map, they had to wander through streets full of carriages and people dying of consumption until they found a library, and then look around until they found what they were looking for. Given that information is considerably easier to come by, and we’re still not any smarter, I’m not sure that this level of stability can be seen as a good thing.

    • I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to locate Europe because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps, and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and The Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, our education over HERE in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa and should help The Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future, for our children. Whether that future is in 1800 or now, facetaco.

    • People are much, much more knowledgeable now than they were in the 1800′s.

  4. It’s weird that I don’t have my own reality show. Every episode would be 8 hours of me in an office, 2 hours of me driving a Mazda, and 6 hours of me sleeping. The exciting rest of it would usually show me using a computer, watching a bad movie, making coffee, picking out a whiskey, lots more computer, circling for decent parking, and occasionally just sitting on my couch staring off into space for, like, 40 straight minutes. I think a lot of Americans would identify! So it’s weird that I am not a big star like the Honey Boo Boos. Or am I misunderstanding how pop culture works?

  5. i need to watch this. but i am europeaneanistic. so where can i watch this on the webs? help please.

  6. Did you guys know that the mom on this show is only 32 years old? I’m a couple years older than her and everyone I know in my age group looks at least 10 years younger than her. Including us balding dudes! I realize there are issues of privilege involved and yadda yadda yadda, but I was honestly kind of floored by that fact.

    • My friend told me at 25 that I needed to invest in a really good moisturizer with a high SPF. 10 years later, I’m still getting carded and am old enough to seriously consider buying a rocking chair to sit in and tell young people to get the fuck off my lawn. So yeah, privilege. But also stay out of the sun, don’t smoke, don’t have kids and use Keihl’s with SPF.

      Brought to you by Whole Foods.

    • I’m pushing 40, I smoke/drink, and I also look way younger than her. As do most people I know that are my relative age. I’m sure genetics has something to do with it, but I also think it’s safe to say that maybe we’ve made some different dietary choices?

    • She is 2 years older than me, and will be a grandmother soon. My husband and I are the couple from Idiocracy, waiting until the market is stable to have kids. And this lady has created two generations of people!

  7. I just can’t wait until this show is cancelled mid season so I can use my “And there goes Honey Boo Boo” joke I just wrote.

  8. Collectively, “WE” are not in danger from Honey Boo Boo. Pageant moms and terrible children have roamed the earth for as long as their have been pageants and children. And actually, from the Salon article I read today, this mom doesn’t even sound as awful as I suspect many of the Toddlers & Tiaras style pageant moms to be, but that’s neither here nor there.

    HOWEVER, to the extent that this program encourages other irresponsible parents to give their children a concoction of Mountain Dew and Red Bull because they think it makes their children funnier or more likely to land a spot on TV, well, those poor children may very well be in some sort of danger through no fault of their own. Such is the genetic lottery. Of course, people have been complaining about the negative effect that TV and rock music and books(!) have on our youth pretty much forever, so maybe I’m overreacting.

    I think it’s the willingness of the parents to put their kids through this that bothers me. It’s one thing to see the guys on Jackass run electricity through their nutsacks and decide it’s something you think would be great fun to try. It’s another to glorify grown adults subjecting their very young children to this (what may or may not be) humiliation and subtly encouraging others to do the same.

  9. Worst thing in the world? Probably not. Worst thing in the world of entertainment? A top candidate.

  10. Is the problem that the Bing ad video on the side of the screen has changed from cute dogs surfing to terrible people “jamming”? Because that is a problem for me. :-(

  11. “On the upside, we don’t even know what a Kardashian is!” #goodolddays

  12. My Direct TV DVR box broke this week and started smoking and smelled really terrible. I think this is a big problem!

  13. “Vajiggle Jaggle” is my new everything…

  14. I hope this gets cancelled mid season so I can use the “Aaaaaaaaand there goes Honey Boo Boo!” joke I wrote.

  15. OK, so this is probably not going to be seen since this article is, like, a million years old in internet time, but I still felt compelled to respond to it since nobody has said what I want to say.

    Gabe, I REALLY LOVE Videogum, and I think you’re a super smart dude, and some of your writing has actually challenged me to think in new ways blah blah blah, I’m sure you get it, I dig this site.

    But I think you’re kinda off-base with this one. The problem IS NOT in your idea that Honey Boo Boo isn’t some measuring stick by which we can gauge our culture (it ain’t, obviously). The problem is sort of in your implied idea that “Pop Culture” doesn’t matter, because we’ve got bigger problems to worry about.

    Well, yeah, in a sense, you’re kinda right. It’s an idea that pervades this blog, where the idea that the Kristen Stewarts cheating on the Rob Pattinsons is somehow important is rightly mocked.

    But when it comes to the idea that TV doesn’t matter… well, how can you say that? Sure there are BIG PROBLEMS in the world, but can’t you see that television can be both a reflection of those problems AND a means of addressing those problems? Can you see how ideas introduced through our TV boxes can pervade their way into the culture at large? How, let’s say, misogynist ideas can seep through the screen and have an impact on the audience. If TV doesn’t matter, then NO MEDIA matters–not books or magazines or comedy show jokes about rape.

    And let’s just put aside the argument that since something is MORE BAD we should ignore the thing that is LESS BAD.

    Our media AFFECTS US. You can’t really get around it. And this is a long and pretty dumb argument to make on a post about “Honey Boo Boo” which, honestly, like you say, doesn’t really matter. But it sorta sounds like you’re dismissing the importance that “Pop Culture” has on American Life, which I would argue is NOT INSIGNIFICANT.

    I mean, I like to think that pointing out the connections between Pop Culture and society at large is something this blog does well. But this post is way off.

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