She wears a tiara. She plays with a pig. She wiggles and shakes her hips and makes “come hither” movements. She pulls the fat from her tummy and squeezes it for the camera. She refers to herself in the third person. She squeals, she brags. And her mother yells, “shake your butt,” and passes gas on camera.
She is 6 years old.
Two million people watch her.
She is an American star.
Welcome to the latest lowering of a bar that was already deep in the mud. “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which recently debuted on TLC, is one of the most talked about TV phenomenons in a while, and the general disgust over its content makes “Jersey Shore” look like “Masterpiece Theatre.”
That’s because in “Jersey Shore,” the main characters were at least over 18 and presumably responsible for their idiotic behavior.
“Honey Boo Boo” is different. The title refers to the nickname of 6-year-old Alana Thompson, the youngest in a self-proclaimed “redneck” family in tiny McIntyre, Ga. (population 700). Honey Boo Boo is a pageant participant. This explains why her mother buys her two-piece cowgirl outfits, pays for strutting and dance lessons and encourages her child to say things like, “A dollah makes me hollah … Honey Boo Boo Child!”
Honestly, you watch this, and your mouth can’t help but fall open.
All for the pageantry
But nothing should surprise us about a family who watches a pig defecate on the kitchen table and jokes about their mother wanting to eat the pig. How could something like that not be on TV?
Nor is there any point in growing furious over a 6-year-old being exploited this way. It’s hardly new. Alana was previously on a popular TLC program called “Toddlers & Tiaras,” all about childhood beauty pageants. She wasn’t the prettiest. She wasn’t the most talented.
She was merely the most outrageous.
And that got her what other pageant families are privately lusting after: exposure.
Her own show.
So now America can watch Honey Boo Boo chase her pig, say, “I rocked my Daisy Duke,” and wear so much makeup she looks like a mannequin. They can watch her mother burp on camera or her pregnant teenage sister get an ultrasound.
They can see an interview on CNN in which her mother admits to spending $15,000 so far on pageants, but putting nothing toward higher education. Here is a direct quote:
“We haven’t, like, saved, like, you know, any, like, college fund from her, like, winnings or anything like that.”
What a shame. Harvard was so close.
Supply and demand
The reason we cannot get upset over this obnoxious but still pitiable child who is encouraged by her mother to drink her Go Go Juice – a combination of Red Bull, Mountain Dew and Lord knows what else – is that 1) she is just a child and 2) 2 million of us are watching it.
Two million people find this entertainment. Two million! And forget about the train wreck defense. Sorry. People stare at a train wreck and then move on. They don’t set up shop to keep looking every week.
This is entertainment for at least 2 million of us. And as long as it is, TLC will keep pumping it out. There is only one way – there has only ever been one way – to keep trash off of television.
Show no interest in it.
But good luck doing that in a country infatuated with outlandishness. We are increasingly becoming a nation that revels in saying, “Oh my god, did you see that?” We don’t want to think, we want to be amused. We don’t want to try, we want to feel superior. We don’t want to correct people, we would rather mock them. We don’t do, we watch.
This melting of our humanity is witnessed from every cruel YouTube video to the recent death of Tony Scott, whose suicidal leap was filmed by several people, but no one tried to stop him.
Honey Boo Boo isn’t the last word in Lowest Common Denominator, only the latest. And when the world grows bored with her (give it five minutes) she and her family will go the way of Octomom and Kate (“Plus Eight”) Gosselin, left gasping for their oxygen, public attention, and finding none.
We’ll be too busy gaping at someone else.
Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or email@example.com