Where Have You Gone, Honey Boo Boo?

Whatever happened to Honey Boo Boo?

Just when I was beginning to figure out who she is and what the fuss is all about, I can’t find TV’s youngest reality star anywhere but on You Tube clips. I joined
the legions of Honey Boo Boo fans late, partly because I run screaming from the
room at the very thought of watching TLC. Short for “The Learning Channel,” TLC lets viewers enjoy not only “Honey” but hour after hour of such wholesome
entertainment as “Welcome to Myrtle Manor,” “Gypsy Sisters,” “My Strange
Addiction,” “Long Island Medium,” and “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”

Okay, okay. I confess that I do watch “Hoarding.” Every chance I get. But that’s the subject for another column.

Today I want to focus on seven-year-old Alana Thompson, Honey Boo Boo’s real name, who rocketed to stardom on another TLC hit–“Toddlers and Tiaras.” That show features little girls and their mamas who are obsessed with entering beauty/talent pageants. Alana is a little different from most other pageant contestants. A little plumper. A little bolder. A little more “out there.”

But I suspect that, more than Alana, it was her mother–June “Mama” Shannon–who first made the viewing public sit up and take notice. June and Alana live in a
small frame house near a very busy railroad track in McIntyre, Georgia
(population 650). Sharing the house are Alana’s dad, Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, June’s three older daughters—Anna “Chickadee” Shannon, Jessica “Chubbs” Shannon and Lauryn “Pumpkin” Shannon—and baby granddaughter Kaitlyn.

The house, as you might guess, tends to be crowded and noisy. Especially when Alana has a new pet, like Glitzy the pig or a full-grown chicken named Nugget.

I first learned about “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” several months ago through some Internet chatter. Some folks loved the show. Others were outraged by it. But everybody had an opinion. So I figured I needed to take a look for myself. One cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, while flipping through the TV channels looking for a basketball game, I found “Honey Boo Boo” instead. Not just one episode, but three. I had hit the mother lode.

If I told you I spent that gray afternoon catching up on the ironing or dusting the bookshelves or cleaning out the pantry while keeping one eye on the television, I’d be lying. For three solid hours, I did nothing but sit on the couch and watch Alana and her family with horrified fascination.

I watched the girls joke about their mama’s “neck crust,” which apparently results from June being so overweight that she can’t wash between the folds of fat on her neck. I watched Alana practice her Elvis impersonation for an upcoming pageant. I watched Sugar Bear pull dozens of Christmas decorations out of storage and set them up in the front yard.

But mostly I studied June. June, who has such a heavy Georgia drawl that the show’s producers feel obligated to use subtitles when she talks. June, who doesn’t seem the least bit reluctant to be filmed cussing or sneezing or burping or wearing a bathing suit to the water park or peeling off her socks to show off her foot crud. June, who prepares her family’s favorite meal—“sketti”—by melting a tub of butter in the microwave, stirring in lots of ketchup, and then pouring it over pasta. Pasta that’s she’s tested for done-ness by throwing a noodle or two against the kitchen wall.

For some reason I can’t understand or explain, it’s impossible to look away from this show. So when I discovered Honey Boo Boo’s Facebook announcement that new episodes will resume in May, I was glad. In a crazy sort of way. As were, I’m sure, her other 2.3 million fans—including those in Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg and Latin America–who tune in every week.

Go figure.

(March 24, 2013)




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