anne_mikolay_2012_120“Redneckognize!”

If you are unfamiliar with the word “redneckognize,” you have not yet “met” Honey Boo Boo Child.

Honey Boo Boo is six year old Alana Thompson, star of  Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, TLC's reality program profiling the little McIntyre, Georgia resident and her colorful family, including three older sisters and parents June Shannon and Mike Thompson. Honey Boo Boo shot to fame on TLC's program Toddlers & Tiaras, which spotlights child beauty pageant contestants and their families. I'm not a fan of child beauty pageants; to me, watching little ones parading around in heavy makeup, sequins, and Dolly Parton wigs is a bit disturbing. So is Honey Boo Boo.

When I first heard the name Honey Boo Boo, I thought it was an adorable moniker - for a dog. Thanks to YouTube, however, I learned Honey Boo Boo is a child star, a beauty pageant veteran and a television sensation. On a recent visit to New York, Honey Boo Boo drew crowds of adoring fans; some sang songs they penned just for her, others begged for photographs.

I don't get it.

Alana Thompson is hardly Shirley Temple. She's an exploited child, a buffoon totally created and encouraged by a misguided mother who regularly gives her “go go juice,” a concoction of Red Bull and Mountain Dew that fuels off-the-wall behavior rivaling any out-of-control preschoolers' sugar rush. Mama June dresses her daughter in tight denim shorts and coaches her to “rock her Daisy Dukes.” Thus, Alana says, “go go juice” helps her win pageants and “a dolla” makes her “holla.” In addition to promoting and rewarding precociousness, June has taught her child to depend upon an external substance (go-go juice) rather than internal strength in order to excel, and sassy, sexy behavior is acceptable and desirable. June Thompson has turned her daughter into a living cartoon, a human cabbage patch doll viewers either love or loathe. Critics claim Alana is exploited for money (Child Protective Services visited the Thompson home in March 2012 to investigate June's “go go juice”, and a YouTube of Honey Boo Boo dancing for money on a table in a college bar stirred controversy), but supporters believe Alana and June are redefining what is considered beautiful and talented in society.

Ethical issues aside, something more bothered me about Honey Boo Boo...something I could not quite put my finger on. Was it the erratic behavior? The go-go juice? The pageants? The fact that Alana and her mother are self-proclaimed “rednecks” urging the populace to “redneckognize”? A recent episode of South Park put things into perspective for me; how ironic that the iconic television cartoon explained the ridiculous cartoon that is Honey Boo Boo.

Say what you will about South Park, but creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker do not shy away from harpooning deserving celebrities and highlighting truth. In their recent episode “Raising the Bar,” the creative team credits Honey Boo Boo and the TLC network with lowering rather than raising the bar for what Americans will accept as entertainment. Kudos to Stone and Parker for pointing out the ever declining quality of television programming and its power to lower viewers' expectations and obliterate moral standards. 

I feel sorry for Alana Thompson. I hope she puts her television earnings ($10,000 per episode) to good use (if there's any left) in the future and lives a happy, decent life. When she looks back on her Honey Boo Boo persona with more mature eyes, will she be mortified, disillusioned by her mother's influence, or will she be grateful for the income and notoriety? Will she follow in Shirley Temple's footsteps and become a United States Ambassador to a foreign country? (Do Ambassadors “redneckognize?”) Or will Alana slip under the same fickle bar that granted and prolonged her fifteen minutes of fame in the first place?

I'm curious. What do you think of Honey Boo Boo? Please post your thoughts on The Armchair Critic's facebook page. If you watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, why? If you, like me, do not, tell us why.