Why Honey Boo Boo is a new low
Oh, Edward R. Murrow. What would you think now?
Murrow, a legendary and award-winning CBS newsman who pioneered broadcast journalism, expressed concern about the moral compass of the television industry and the dumbing down of its loyal viewers.
“We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late,” he said.
During the same time period, Murrow also said, “If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.”
He saw those problems and shared those concerns in the mid-1950s.
Last night, while I sat open-jawed and horrified for 30 minutes, I wondered what Murrow would think of TLC’s hit “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
The show is supposed to be about Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, a 7-year-old girl from small-town Georgia who has a penchant for beauty pageants. She was previously featured on another of TLC’s banal programs “Toddlers & Tiaras.”
But this show is less about a child performing in pageants and more about her southern family being used for sport.
Episodes, which seem to have no storyline, largely focus on her 32-year-old mother June “Mama” Shannon. Cameras focus on her making “sketti” and a sauce made from Country Crock spread and ketchup; mixing “go-go juice” –a combination of Red Bull and Mountain Dew; making lemonade with 5lbs of sugar and two bottles of lemon juice; playing bingo; being dragged into a mud pit; attempting to climb an inflatable water slide; and her unsuccessful attempts at doing her daughter’s makeup.
Also included in the show are Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, Honey Boo Boo’s 40-year-old dad and father figure to Mama’s three daughters Anna “Chickadee” Shannon, 17; Jessica “Chubbs” Shannon, 15; and Lauryn “Pumpkin” Shannon, 12. Though the baby hasn’t been featured in the first season of the show, Anna Shannon gave birth to daughter Kaitlyn Elizabeth Shannon on July 26.
I’m sure viewers will meet the baby during the second season of the show. The season one finale airs Sept. 26, and previous episodes have attracted 2 to 3 million viewers weekly.
And, given that last night’s episode ended with Honey Boo Boo sneezing and spouting a large volume of snot from her nose, that scares me to death. Millions of people tuned in to watch a child cover her nose and mouth with her hands, trying to snort the mucus back in. She wasn’t handed a tissue by the camera crew. TLC didn’t cut to anything else, and the show’s not live. It could’ve been edited out, but instead it rolled for more than a minute and earned its own hashtag #booboosneeze.
Is this really what we’ve come to?
I’ve never had much faith in TLC, given the shows in its lineup. But there was a time when the so-called learning channel aired things like “A Baby Story,” which taught viewers about pregnancies and birth. The episodes featured ordinary families and their birth stories.
Then came “Jon & Kate Plus Eight,” and we watched what began as a family with multiples turn into two divorced parents rising to and falling from fame.
Since then, TLC has aired a number of reality shows that push the envelope a little more each time, which is how we’ve ended up with Honey Boo Boo.
TLC has a responsibility to say no to this show, but they won’t as long as it makes money. And it will keep making money as long as people watch it.
So, please, stop watching garbage. Just because someone sells it doesn’t mean you have to buy it.
Our country is in the middle of an important election cycle, our economy is still sputtering, schools are closing and consolidating because they can’t afford to operate, the Middle East is in turmoil because of a YouTube movie, the cost of living continues to increase while wages do not, and people continue to struggle every day in this country and around the world.
But our electorate strums along gleefully as they know more about Glitzy–Honey Boo Boo’s pet pig who pooped on the kitchen table–than their presidential candidates.
When we behave this way, we will get the government we deserve. When we allow human beings to become sport and entertainment this way, we will eventually live in a world where works like “The Hunger Games” aren’t fiction.
Sure, it may seem extreme now. We’d never be a dystopian society capable of watching people fight to their death, right?
Really? Is it that much of a stretch to believe one day shows like “Survivor” will have a little more latitude? Or that TLC won’t air a show that exploits people who have Down syndrome, dressing it up with more absurd hashtags and catchphrases similar to Honey Boo Boo’s, “You better redneckonize.”
The cast of Honey Boo Boo may be proud of who they are, but they are still being exploited and used.
And so are the viewers. When we start watching our country’s problems–obesity, teen pregnancy, poverty and lack of education–as entertainment, then we are definitely cause for Murrow’s concern. Laughing at America’s flaws may be easier than fixing them, but that won’t make them go away.
Last night, to answer my question, I think Murrow could’ve only said, “Good night and good luck.”