“Honey Boo Boo” is all the rage. Whether you like reality television or not, “Honey Boo Boo” is a fresh take on the genre. A spin off from the popular “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the show runs back to back episodes on the weekends and features a sassy seven-year-old named Alana Thompson.
Alana and her three sisters live in McIntyre, GA, with mother, June Shannon, and boyfriend to June plus live in father to Alana, Mike Thompson. Mike, aka Sugar Bear, has asked June several times for her hand in marriage but she refuses. The show has taken criticism for June’s unwed status and the fact that all of her children have a different father.
The Learning Channel (TLC) hosts the show which has made it a target for jokes. What are we learning exactly from watching “Honey Boo Boo?” One could say you are learning about the rural-poor white families of the south. A segment of Southern culture we refer to as rednecks, but we all know not necessarily poor. For instance, Art and Entertainment (A&E) channel features a family of extremely rich rednecks in “Duck Dynasty.”
“Honey Boo Boo” is the lighter side of redneck. June is an avid coupon-clipper and spends most of her income on Alana’s participation in beauty pageants. It is like visualizing an oxymoron. Think the word low-fat dessert as chunky Alana struts and prances for the crown. The poor thing cannot execute a cartwheel but her mother fills her with hopes of one day being Miss America.
Alana is a beautiful child both inside and out. Sugar Bear’s patients abounds. June smiles and is jovial although she is usually the butt of most jokes. The daughters play and tease but are never mean. These are all good people.
I got my hands on new book Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader this week and have enjoyed a little heaven in my favorite genre. It is the opposite of “Honey Boo Boo” redneck. It is the bad, the violent, the mean genre of the working class south called, Dirty South, and it is the place to be for local reality reads.
Most of the authors are Mississippians and North Carolinians. One of the editors is our own Edgar-Award winning Tom Franklin who currently teaches creative writing at Ole Miss. The book includes well-known authors to this genre and some surprises including Dorothy Allison, Larry Brown, William Gay, Harry Crews, Lewis Nordan, Ron Rash, Lee Smith, and Daniel Woodrell.
Paraphrasing Tom Earley who once said southern literature can be broken down into two categories: One, the sweet mint-julep side of the tracks and the other side where beer bottles are slung from trucks. Having watched “Honey Boo Boo” and noticed her trailer right beside the tracks, one is left to wonder if Alana might be Miss America.