Friday, 28 September 2012

Dear American Readers who watch TV...

... please explain "Toddlers and Tiara" and, especially, Honey Boo Boo Child.

My dad's from Chicago. I used to vacation in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. You can tell me. It is safe. I will not sneer or be judgmental. I think girls and women who can rock whatever pudge they happen to bear are enviable, and if that is how confident women in small towns south of the Mason-Dixon line are, that's cool.

I just want to understand.


Maria said...

Honey Boo Boo a reality TV show about a little girl who was on Toddlers and Tiaras. She is famous for jiggling her stomach fat in her hands. Her family has no hygiene, no manners and they're very strange.

Jam said...

I thought the point of those shows was to sneer and be judgmental? I've never watched them though to be fair.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I think for many people they are a guilty pleasure or a chance to laugh at others. They are not necessarily that, however, and I guess that folks may also tune in wanting to laugh and yet see that these are real folks, etc.

I have seen a bit of T&T and don't care for it. Beauty pageants for children are a bit ridiculous and highly contrived - not to mention that the 80s want their hair back.

My little sister likes Dance Moms... I wish she wouldn't watch it.

amlovesmusic said...

ROFL Seraphic!!!!

I am sorry....but that last sentence is gold. Because I don't understand either....and I am FROM America. I pride myself on having fairly decent taste without being TOO much of a snob.....

I think we as Americans have lost all sense of intelligence in entertainment, and just look to base triviality to numb ourselves....or to laugh.

Clare said...,29734/

Jackie said...

Oh Seraphic! Are you sure you want to know? Your blog seems like the last place one would read about this! ;-)

"Toddlers & Tiaras" is a trashy reality show devoted to the world of child beauty pageants. We're talking very little girls here (and the occasional boy)-- as young as 4 years old.

I only watched half an episode, so this will probably be incomplete.

It follows as the children compete in the pageants --usually having some stupendous title "Miss Grand Supreme" for a group of kindergarten-age children.

Which are incredibly expensive, by the way. (The "glitz" dresses can easily run in the thousands of dollars.) In addition to the dresses, there is professional-level make-up, "flippers" (fake plastic dental inserts you flip into place to make it look like you have cosmetically capped teeth; which, obviously, none of these kids an have as they are still losing baby teeth!) and training in presentation and "talent" (usually some kind of dance or lip-sync).

Ironically, while these young children look doll-like while in pageant mode (a full set of stage make-up and a glamour gown will do that!), their moms are the antithesis of all this.

The moms typically are -- I hate to say it-- quite overweight, wear sack-like garb and tend to "let themselves go" and appear to be living vicariously through their daughters. They LIVE for these pageants.

I had to turn it off, despite my morbid fascination, since it seemed so, so wrong.
Now, as to "Honey Boo Boo"-- these people are honestly fascinating as they turn the pageant trope completely on its head:

HBB is really named Alana, and is a chubby 7 year old who has more than the legal limit of spitfire and appears to be channeling an older sassy woman in speech and mannerisms.

She is a child and not expected to have self-awareness. So when she is being celebrated for her bad manners (rudeness, interrupting, constantly belching and passing gas), it is more a pity than anything.

The real star of the program, though, is "Mama June." How this woman can be in the pageant business is a mystery: She is 300+ lbs, has 4 daughters by 4 different men, has never been married and is proudly, defiantly "redneck."

I mean, the family eats roadkill and auctioned-off bulk junk food, "shops" at the local dump for appliances, for example. Mama June is an "extreme couponer" so their house looks like a bomb shelter full of hundreds of jars or mayonnaise and paper towels. Meanwhile, the entire family constantly tries to compete via their bodily functions.

I was fascinated because all these women have what appears to be complete self-acceptance. Mama June really loves her family, I believe, and is devoted to Honey Boo Boo.

People watch the show to laugh at them, I think, but I am drawn to seeing how completely they accept each other. (Although, they really need to start eating vegetables and balanced nutrition or they won't be around that long to enjoy each other!)

This is far, FAR more than you wanted to know, I am sure. :-)

Arleen Spenceley said...

I don't understand it either (and I'm American). :-/ Lol.

Kate P said...

I'm well north of the Mason-Dixon Line, so it's pretty foreign to me. If it WERE more common, I don't think it would merit (and I use that term very loosely) a reality (another word I use loosely) TV show. Of course, put a camera on some people and things get played up to the point of absurdity. I don't think the people on those shows would do or say half of the drivel were they not on camera.

Me, I get my highlights from "The Soup" so I kill as few brain cells as possible.

Seraphic said...

I think "channeling an older sassy woman in speech and mannerisms" is a good description of "Honey Boo Boo Child." I came across a clip of one of her interviews online and couldn't figure out how such a small child could act like that.

Then I saw her mother...

Could there be some American chattering classes obsession with poor people who are white and--crime of the century--very fat? If your industry (television) means all women involved must not weigh more than 119 lbs, then it must be staggering that Mama June and Alana (A) exist (B) feels good about themselves.

Seraphic said...

Sorry about the terrible grammar!

Kate P said...

I think you might have hit the nail on the head, Seraphic. And everything Jackie alluded to about the exploitation above.

fifi said...

Americans do have an obsession that transcends class, and that is with watching people destroy themselves. We find and create celebrities and then make sure that all the conditions are perfectly in place so that they can crash and burn. Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Marilyn Monroe, most reality stars and, I fear, Honey Boo Boo Child are all perfect examples.

I can't help but compare HBB to Shirley Temple, who capitalized, not on her sass and "grown-up" behavior, but on her innocence and talent. I think that ultimately, both were/are being exploited, but to serve different ends. Temple was used to create an illusion of a happy world where good triumphs and virtue is rewarded, and HBB is a poster child for dysfunction. Perhaps it just shows the cultural shift that has ocurred in the last hundred years, the way we think of the world now. Perhaps people console themselves by thinking "at least I'm not THAT unhealthy" when they watch HBB. I'm not sure.

For the record, I'm an American, so I'm including myself in this. I'm sorry if the above seems judgemental, but I simply couldn't see anything else when I looked up the clips on YouTube, and I believe in calling a spade a spade. The little girl is essentially being drugged with her "Go-Go Juice," (it's a energy drink/caffiene/sugar cocktail no child should be consuming), her childhood has basically been stolen from her, and she's made to concern herself with adult problems and rewarded for disrespectful, suggestive, vulgar behavior and encouraged to have ridiculous expectations for herself. I can't help but think that she's sustained irreparable emotional and psychological damage.

Incidentally, I'm leaving weight entirely out of the question here. Weight is something that is not always under our control, and our standards of beauty are subjective and contrived. Perhaps it is a mercy that HBB and her mother feel good about themselves and don't realize all the ways they are being made fun of, but I don't think that changes the fact that they are being exploited and encouraged to self-destruct.

Cindy said...

I could never watch T&T. The commercials alone broke my heart. We pretty much stick to EWTN, Sprout and football.

okiegrl said...

I lived 18+ years in the Deep South of Alabama, and most people ARE NOT like that at all!

Keep in mind this is a reality show, so the more bizarre the better. Feel free to think Honey Boo Boo is a good representation of reality if you also think that a)the Kardashians are a great family b)you believe the Bachelor isn't staged. For the rest of you, remember that reality is "real" in name only. High ratings are what all TV networks are after, and bizarre behavior tends to correlate with high ratings.

okiegrl said...

Also, Nightline actually went to the town where Honey Boo Boo lives. What you actually see... A lot of nice, medium to big houses with well kept lawns. Very few people in that town like the show, because it gives people in Scotland the idea that everyone in the American South is like the show. Reality is that the show is the aberration, not the rule.

Lydia Cubbedge said...

Well, I'm an American (from Boston, originally), but I am a transplant to Savannah, Georgia, which, I am loathe to say, is only about two hours away from HBB Child herself. It's a sub-subculture. It's definitely NOT common-and I absolutely agree it's a bit of an obsession with the chattering classes. It's the Bible belt, ergo people must be stupid/lazy/materialistic in a trashy way. I think it's tragic that these people are exploited when, they ought to be given assistance to cope with their manifold problems. Also, permit me a brief clarification on the term "redneck." In Georgia, rednecks are usually white, but they may be either Catholic or Protestant. They work for a living, usually very hard, at blue collar or lower white collar jobs. If they are near the coast they probably have enough money for a boat. They are most likely not in debt to own an ATV/four wheeler/whatever you call them. They certainly like shooting and fishing (but everyone in GA likes shooting and fishing). They are usually church goers. They are also usually very, very respectable, but definitely, as Bertie Wooster would say "of the people." Then you have the white trash. It's a horrible term, I know, but it's used to categorize a class of person who is, basically, like HBB Child's family. They tend to have massive family problems, lots of teen pregnancy, extreme poverty and may very well not work at all. Some aspire to redneck-hood. It's complicated, and I am only just learning the ropes of the Southern class system, but these are differences that get talked about in the pub of an evening.

Seraphic said...

This seriously makes me long to go to Georgia! I've never been south of Gettysburg, and I wanna gooooo!

Television (especially British television, Canadian television is a lot more balanced) makes it look absolutely crazy, but films and books depict it beautifully. South! But when?

Jen D said...

If you do end up making the trip, I'd be happy to host you in the American South. I live just below the FL/GA border...unfortunately, four hours from where Honey Boo Boo lives, but an easy day trip to many other towns in Georgia, including the beautiful city of Savannah! :)

okiegrl said...

The term redneck comes from farmer's necks getting burned while ploughing fields under the hot Southern sun.

Yes, the teen pregnancy rate in the South is higher than in the North,but that is largely because the teenage girls are less likely to get an abortion.

The South isn't perfect, but even the "rednecks" aren't as trashy as that TLC show.

PS- Seraphic, you could come to Alabama as well. :-)