I'd heard of Honey Boo Boo, of course. She's the child beauty pageant contestant in Georgia who, along with her family, is the focus of the reality-TV show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The CNN segment was about the show's huge ratings success and the fact that the titular star is now a household name. This fact was confirmed for me personally when, a few days later, a Southern friend jokingly used 'Honey Boo Boo' as a term of endearment for me.
Next up on CNN was a segment about school paddling. The news hook was that a male teacher in Texas had paddled a teenage girl student (which, no matter where you are on the corporal punishment issue, just feels horribly wrong). CNN flashed a map of states in which school paddling was allowed. Guess what? Except for Virginia, every state in the South allows school paddling.
|Honey Boo Boo: Naughty or nice?|
I became infinitely curious about the child dubbed by at least one blogger as "the redneck Shirley Temple." So I TiVo-ed her show, starting with a rerun of the first episode. A night or two later, Nick and I sat down to watch. We started midway through the pilot episode because of a TiVo recording 'boo boo.'
|Shirley Temple, left. The death of taste and decency, right.|
Our first image was of a bunch of people gathered around a large, red mud hole. Each person took turns getting hosed off before jumping into the hole. Nick and I looked at each other. "Turn it off," Nick said. "Done," I replied, hitting the 'off' button.
The show most definitely appalled but failed to enthrall. It's not that I have a problem with people jumping into mud holes to cool off; they're not harming anyone except perhaps themselves (that mud hole looked shallow). I turned off the show because it made me feel awful, as if I'd just unintentionally insulted a child.
Like many reality TV shows, Honey Boo Boo encourages its viewers to feel superior to other people and laugh at them. I was certainly guilty of such behavior in the past, and I'm not immune to it now. It's practically engrained in our culture. But that doesn't mean it makes me feel good about myself (it doesn't), or that it's something I'll actively devote time to it (it's not). Rather than help me unwind after a hard day of work, a show like Honey Boo Boo makes me agitated and uncomfortable. Perhaps a better name for the show would be American Horror Story: The South.
Based on my brief viewing of her show, I have no idea if Honey Boo Boo is naughty enough to make teachers want to spank her. But I do know this: The producers of Honey Boo Boo could use a little paddling.