I didn't even know what an Uncle Poodle was until Tuesday, when I discovered he's Honey Boo Boo's gay uncle. I'd been researching potential topics for a short, farcical play about fairy tale characters and wondered if Honey Boo Boo might be potential fodder. After all, one of the definitions of fairy tale is "a made-up story usually designed to mislead." If that doesn't describe reality TV, what does?
So I Googled 'Honey Boo Boo' and discovered Uncle Poodle. I've seen perhaps three minutes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It was an episode in which everyone was getting hosed off before jumping into a red-clay mud hole. (I wrote about it in my October 2012 post "Does Honey Boo Boo Get Spanked in School?") Three minutes was all the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo I could consume. I felt it presented negative, country Southern stereotypes so that viewers could feel superior to them (as if most people don't already secretly feel superior to Southerners).
Uncle Poodle and My Great Nephew
But now, I'm intrigued by Uncle Poodle, who apparently got his nickname because Honey Boo Boo calls all gay men her "poodles."
|Uncle Poodle and Honey Boo Boo|
A Southern family's acceptance of a close gay relative isn't especially new, at least in my experience. Many people outside the South forget that Southerners, as a rule, are big believers in family. And if your uncle or brother or sister happens to be gay, so what? They're family. This is why it's not unusual in the South to meet a woman who votes Republican, listens to Rush Limbaugh, and yet loves her gay brother and his partner. I should know; I'm lucky enough to have such a sister, and three other equally supportive sisters.
One of my favorite examples of my family's "what's the big deal?"attitude occurred in the early-mid 1990s. I was talking to my great nephew, Banner, who grew up in a town outside Greensboro, N.C. Banner, who was about five or six then, suddenly pointed to a home nearby and said, "See that house? The guys who live there are gay." I breathed in, waiting for him to say something unkind. Instead, he shrugged his shoulders. "That's cool," he said.
The Liberace of Littleton
The acceptance of gays in the South extends beyond families, of course, and this isn't exactly 'new news,' either.
In the early 1980s, when I was a reporter for the Roanoke Rapids, N.C. newspaper, I became involved with a nearby small town theater company (thanks to Nick). In this town, Littleton, lived a flamboyantly gay man who played piano for the theater company's productions. Appropriately enough, he was nicknamed "The Liberace of Littleton." Despite his status as an unapologetically flaming queen in a small Southern town, countless Littleton parents hired him to give their kids piano lessons. This was a small farming/paper mill Southern town, and the parents adored the gay piano teacher. And not once did I overhear a resident speaking badly about him behind his back.
I hasten to add that many people who live in or are from the South have not had the most positive experiences being out. At the same time, we can't assume that someone who grew up on the 'more enlightened' West Coast has had an easy time being gay, either. I know of at least one gay man who grew up outside San Francisco and whose parents, after he came out to them, had nothing to do with him for 15 years.
But back to Uncle Poodle. According to recent news articles, he wants his own reality TV program in order to show what it's like to be "gay in the South." If he succeeds, and I hope he does, I'll have to watch at least one episode. But I suspect my own tolerance boundaries--for reality TV--will be severely tested. Especially if they start hosing each other down and leaping into mud holes.