The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 12, 2012

Fall of the South? Much ado about Honey Boo Boo

By Kelly Kazek
kelly@athensnews-courier.com

— It’s been 80 years since those living in the Great Depression focused on Shirley Temple to lift them from doldrums.

In 2012, in the midst of the Great Recession – the one Bernanke claims ended in 2009 but that keeps showing its ugly hindend at my house – Americans have a new bubbly, curly-headed icon to take their minds off their woes: Honey Boo Boo Child.

No need to re-read that. I didn’t mistype.

Yep, entertainment has changed in eight decades and nothing is a better illustration than the new TLC show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” about a 6-year-old pageant contestant from rural Georgia – and by “rural,” I mean way the heck past the swamp, Lizard Lick and the city limits of normal.

Other than appearances, Shirley and Honey Boo Boo have something else in common: an abundance of charisma. I mean, this child was rolled in attitude and dipped in cute, although it’s probably the kind of cute that would fray your last nerve after an hour alone with her.

I imagine Honey Boo Boo is like Snooki as a baby if she’d been blonde and Southern – you know, before she was old enough to stumble drunkenly from Jersey Shore beaches in handcuffs.

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” premiered Wednesday on The Learning Channel and, while the knowledge may disgust or even frighten you, you will learn.

Passing gas as a weight loss strategy? Forget Jenny Craig – this method doesn’t require buying packaged foods or exercising.

You will also learn new words like “beautimous” and “vajiggle jaggle”  — the first is a term Honey’s heavyset mother uses to describe herself, the second phrase she uses to describe big girls who let their “vijiggle jaggle” hang out of skimpy outfits. My favorite Honey Boo Boo saying is, “You betta redneckonize,” which I admire for its clever turn of phrase, sort of like when rappers rhyme “stupid ho” with “shot off my toe,” and stuff like that.

The true star of the show, though, is “Mama,” who in real life goes by the decidedly normal moniker June Thompson, not to be confused with June Cleaver, who never, to my knowledge, washed her hair in the kitchen sink.

June is the Confucius of McIntyre, Ga., offering tidbits culled from deep thought – or something deep – such as, “Granted, I ain’t the most beautimous out of the box, but put a little paint on this barn and shine it back into its original condition ’cause it shines up and looks like it’s brand new.”

You have to admire that kind of candor.

June and her husband “Sugar Bear” have three other freakishly nicknamed daughters, Pumpkin, 12; Chubbs, 15, and Chickadee, who is 17 and pregnant because, really, can you have too many redneck stereotypes in one show?

The brilliance of Honey Boo Boo, who landed her own show after shaking her little countrified ruffles on “Toddlers and Tiaras,” is that she and her family take conditions many of us would deem “white trash” in stride, and, in fact, with pride. Those of us bemoaning our lack of cash flow will recognize the dollar-store clothing and buy-in-bulk pork rinds. It’s a little more relatable to us normal folks than, oh, say, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Bloggers went nuts Thursday, many commenting the show degrades Southerners. It seems some people feel scenes of armadillo roadkill and children bobbing for recently butchered pig’s feet make Southerners seem somehow backward.

Oh, please. I was more insulted by Nicholas Cage’s attempt at a Southern accent in “Con Air.”

I’ve been more disgusted at a family reunion. I guarantee there is a pig’s-foot-eater in every Southerner’s lineage, and maybe even a moonshiner, chicken thief or a person who substitutes uncooked instant grits for rice to throw at a wedding — oh, that was just me?

Let’s not judge our sister belles. June embraces the stereotypes and seems savvy enough to get the joke, even if it’s on her.

I’m not a fan of reality television so I doubt I will tune in to watch Honey Boo Boo grow into the Dog-the-Bounty-Hunter-type star she is destined to be — although I wouldn’t be surprised to find her running for president someday. On the Redneck ticket, of course.

I don’t begrudge the Thompsons their stardom. It’s not like there’s much to do in McIntyre if you’re not starring in a reality show that is sure to embarrass the entire town.

Besides, I kind of enjoy picturing all those skinny, high-maintenance pageant moms from “Toddlers and Tiaras” seething that their glitter-laden princesses won 30 sparkling crowns but lost the starring role with the megabucks contract to a plump, rough-around-the-hedges Georgia hick.

That’ll put a crimp in their hair-sprayed curls.

And little Honey Boo Boo can laugh all the way to the pork rind jug.

You betta redneckonize.

Email Kelly Kazek at kelly@athensnews-courier.com.