Why is Honey Boo Boo, breakout star of TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” and star of her own new show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” so popular?
Slate magazine has offered one explanation The author believes the popularity has to do with the faltering economy and the rise of the Hillbilly.
“As Anthony Harkins observes in Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon, one of the hillbilly’s signature moves is to peak, popularity-wise, just when Americans sense that things in general are headed south. Its first true zenith came in the depressed 1930s, a handmaiden to the birth of commercial country music. Another arrived in the turbulent 1960s, when The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres and Hee Haw were in their prime. (Those are hardly the only examples, of course: It also popped up in the Ma and Pa Kettle films of the 1940s and 1950s and Paul Webb’s 1930s Esquire cartoons about “The Mountain Boys,” among other places.)”
“Though the term first referred to mountaineers in the Appalachians and the Ozarks, the hillbilly trope spread to cover pretty much all non-urban territory in America, joined by its cousins in cultural iconography, the “redneck” and “white trash.” Today, people even apply that last term to residents of certain New Jersey beachfronts, for instance. Yet, as Harkins points out, no matter where an alleged country bumpkin comes from, he will be derided for his crass behavior. And such ridicule has always been politically coded: The hillbilly figure allows middle-class white people to offload the venality and sin of the nation onto some other constituency, people who live somewhere—anywhere—else. The hillbilly’s backwardness highlights the progress more upstanding Americans in the cities or the suburbs have made. These fools haven’t crawled out of the muck, the story goes, because they don’t want to. …”
“As that distribution of power becomes more and more unequal, it’s no surprise to see the hillbilly here again—on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, on Jersey Shore, on MTV’s 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom franchises. These shows reassure us that our struggle is worth it, all economic evidence to the contrary—if only because we would never belly-flop into the mud on cable television. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo casts this socio-economic divide in especially sharp relief, since the show is rooted partly in beauty pageant culture, which, in its own idiosyncratic way, indulges the American belief that you can work and spend your way to greatness. If you can afford the entry fees, the glitter, the makeup, the coach, and the stylists, you will be the Ultimate Supreme, as they say in the business. You’ll have the sash to prove it.”
I have not seen Honey Boo Boo’s new show, but I did see Honey Boo Boo on “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Just the commercial for Honey Boo Boo’s show makes me uncomfortable. My 5-year-old just stares at the commercial: “What’s that squealing in her house?” Me: “It’s a pig” Lilina: “Well that doesn’t seem right.” So even the 5-year-old knows that doesn’t seem right.
We used to love the “Beverly Hillbillies” growing up. I still use Jethro jokes about my math (naught plus naught equals naught). But I am extremely uncomfortable with the Honey Boo Boo show, and I guess it’s because she is from Georgia, and I don’t want people to think all Georgians are like that.
(I do think that Honey Boo Boo’s family is hamming it up for the camera. I hope they are.)
When I was little I visited friends in Connecticut. Their friends asked me if we had indoor plumbing. “Well of course we do.” They wanted to know if we had cars. “Um yes. “
I just don’t want the world thinking that all Georgians are like Honey Boo Boo.
How do you feel about Honey Boo Boo’s show? Do you think it has to do with economic confluences bringing back the Hillbilly icon? Do you worry that people outside the South will think that’s how we all are?