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Salon and Jezebel: Honey Boo Boo and 8 reasons you should be ashamed of yourselves

Honey Boo Boo is a child, not a monsterAs you know, I spend a lot of my time with Honey Boo Boo because of my dissertation, and people often say disparaging things about the show and the weight of the family and other things.  And for the most part, I keep my cool, but occasionally, I read something that makes me incredibly angry.  I am loath to even link to this article, because it is so unfortunate, but here it is: “Honey Boo Boo is a monster: What reality TV did to the pint-size pageant queen” and the Jezebel uncritical repost: “Honey Boo Boo Has Turned Into a ‘Visibly Troubled’ Monster Child.”  (UPDATE: Since this article was posted, Salon has changed the headline to remove the world “monster.” Small victory!)

I am not, in general, a defender of Reality Television.  I find it fascinating, yes, but not always ethical.  That said, blaming ills of the world on Reality Television is ignoring the fact that the world created it in the first place.  Reality Television might reflect societal problems, but it’s very rarely the cause of them.  Unsafe workplaces, brutal contracts, and terrible pay, sure, but they don’t create societal wide poor education, poverty, or violence.

So when I see articles posted that use the word “monster” to describe a real little kid, I find it upsetting.  When those articles purport to be doing it because they care about the girl and come from sources that I generally find reasonable and feminist minded, I become slightly apoplectic.  Here are 8 reasons that the article on Salon, and Jezebel using it for hits without saying anything critical about it, were terrible.

1. Calling a little kid a monster is severely uncool.  Doing it in the headline to get hits is exploitative and uncool.

2. Calling a little kid a “monster” for having a temper tantrum because she doesn’t really like doing interviews on TV and for not wanting to give away her property is blowing things well out of proportion.

3. “The quick wit we’ve come to expect from Honey Boo Boo…” Have you ever even watched the show? The quick wit is from Mama June, Alana is just weird in a charming and amusing way.  Just because she’s in some of your favorite gifs, doesn’t mean she’s quick-witted.

4. Fallon intervening and trying to discipline Alana wasn’t ” Finally someone is addressing this child’s attitude,” it was shaming her in front of a live studio audience and assuming her mother was incapable of doing her job as a parent. Not your role, Mr. Fallon, and not something to be commended, Salon writer.

5. Wishing she had the chance to develop her creativity without television is ignoring the reality that the money and exposure and opportunities she’s been given from this show has meant far more opportunity to develop her creativity.

6. You have no reason to think that being on Reality Television has caused this in her.  She has been remarkably little changed from her first appearance on Toddlers & Tiaras to the second season of her own show.  Newsflash: Little kids can be bratty sometimes, and editors know when it’s amusing or not.  Your own article points to the fact that this is being edited, where on earth are you getting evidence that it is television’s fault?

7. Don’t you think publicly calling a child a monster in Salon is exactly the wrong thing to do if this article expresses your real feelings about her fate?  Do you really think that publicly shaming a little girl makes it look like you care how she is treated — because you’re treating her badly.  You don’t get a pass on that.

8. Finally, finally: Christy O’Shoney, I don’t think you’re a very nice person or a person who cares very much about Alana Thompson’s future. And Jezebel, you’re just as bad for uncritically repeating this article because you wanted hits.

I realize my blog is just a tiny corner of the internet, but if you’re decent people who actually care about this little girl you will 1. Change the title of your articles 2. Release an apology for being cruel to a child 3. Think twice before calling a child names in order to get hits.  Frankly, your behavior is far worse than anything Alana Thompson did on the set of Jimmy Fallon’s show.

Comments

  1. Pen says

    Perhaps you know this. If a child is on reality tv show, are the conditions of her employment (I guess that’s what it is?) regulated in the same way as those of a child actor on a Hollywood film set?

  2. Ed says

    The Salon article was kind of silly and childish like a journalist back in the Beatlemania days spending some time with the guys in the studio and realizing that (gasp!)they aren’t just a mix of fun loving wholesomeness and social idealism!

    They can be as petty, greedy and annoying as regular people! Their media images aren’t the real them! They may even watch footage of themselves and intentionally enhance the perceived qualities that make them popular. Say it isn’t so.

    This bitter disillusionment is actually even more ridiculous when the target is a reality show family. My only disagreement with your post is that I think Fallon is within his rights to say that a behavior (hitting her mother) is unacceptable to him when they are on his show after all.

  3. yazikus says

    I just read the article on Jezebel about a half an hour ago, and was troubled similarly. The armchair diagnosis of someone in the audience who had decided they were no longer a fan hardly seems like responsible journalism. And you know what, I’m sure I would be cranky too if I had to be on interviews all of the time. And I probably wouldn’t give Fallon a friendship bracelet either. I applaud your critique and hope they notice and fix their articles.

  4. Jacob Schmidt says

    I just… I don’t… what?

    Many of the major beats were there — Alana telling Fallon that he wasn’t so big and bad, the point where she refused to give him a friendship bracelet — but the broadcast left out all of the eerie tension.

    For example, the friendship bracelet moment seems cute and quick on TV, but in person, it was actually kind of agonizing. It didn’t just happen once, but several times, and the more it was discussed, the more openly hostile Boo Boo became.

    Salon

    You mean a child became hostile after someone pestered her after she had already openly refused? Who the hell thinks that’s a problem? Why not blame the adult for pestering a child into hostility? I mean, if the child is becoming “more openly hostile” with each reiteration, take that as a fucking hint and knock it off.

    To their credit, Salon has changed the title.

  5. Ashley F. Miller says

    Thanks for pointing out the title change, I’ve updated in text.

    I mean, I would be hostile if someone who was in charge of a room and important kept being like give me your stuff.

  6. Ashley F. Miller says

    Regarding Fallon saying what is acceptable on his show is different from telling someone never to do X. You can say, “You can’t do that under my roof, it’s unacceptable,” but that is not what he said, it wasn’t about him having a personal opinion of her behavior, it was him stepping in and acting as disciplinarian. And I think the distinction is important because of the assumptions it makes about June’s parenting ability, it assumes she’s a damsel in distress. Generally, the advised response to bad behavior is to ignore it so that the kid doesn’t get attention from it, Jimmy undermined that strategy.

  7. Ashley F. Miller says

    Child labor laws are definitely something worth exploring — this has a discussion of HBB in specific starting page 65: http://jjlp.law.ucdavis.edu/archives/vol-17-no-2/08-nobile-macro-17-2.pdf

    It is specifically stated in the law that “nothing in
    [Georgia’s labor laws] shall apply to any minor employed as an actor or
    performer in motion pictures or theatrical productions, in radio or
    television productions, [or] in any other performance, concert, or
    entertainment,[…] provided that the written consent of the Commissioner
    of Labor must be first obtained.”155
    All that is needed for the
    Commissioner of Labor to give consent is that he investigate and
    determine “that the environment […] is proper; […] that the conditions of
    employment are not detrimental to […] health; […] that the minor’s
    education will not be neglected or hampered by his participation [in the
    entertainment activities]; and that the minor will not be used for
    pornographic purposes.”156

    It is unclear whether even this applies to reality television because they may not even be considered performers.

  8. Ed says

    Ashley, good point in # 7. A lot of impulsive acting out is better ignored as you say, unless of course, there’s some sort of danger which there wasn’t. It’s a little counterintuitive but negative responses are reinforcing as well as rewards. I guess my response came from my own upbringing where striking one’s mother would have been almost as outrageous as setting the place on fire.

  9. says

    I applaud your defence of this child being called a ‘monster’, but let’s take a step back for a moment. You have stated:

    “Wishing she had the chance to develop her creativity without television is ignoring the reality that the money and exposure and opportunities she’s been given from this show has meant far more opportunity to develop her creativity.”

    Yes, she has money and exposure, but is that a good thing? When the public inevitably becomes bored with her what happens then? Setting aside the vulgarity of shoving your child into reality TV, what happens to the child’s expectations of life once that happens? How is she going to adjust to normality once the show ends, or worse still public opinions change and instead of ‘cute’ or ‘sassy’ she is seen as precocious (not in a good way) and downright rude and badly behaved?

    What creativity are you talking about? Does she have a talent that is, thus far, invisible? Is she academic enough to get a degree and pursue a profession that way? Does she have enough talent to develop into an actor who will get work outside reality TV?

    You’ve criticised Salon and Jezebel for their biased view of this child’s behaviour but aren’t you just as guilty of bias?

  10. Ashley F. Miller says

    I am not accusing them of bias, everyone has bias — including myself. I am accusing them of bad journalism.

    Let’s look at her likely future without the show by examining her own family. Her mother had her first child by a felon at the age of 15. Her second, by a different felon, at the age of 17. Her third and fourth by two different men who also served time in prison. She herself has been arrested for petty theft. Because she was raised without money, she is legally blind and did hard labour that left her disabled. She also became a grandmother at age 32, when her eldest daughter, then 17, gave birth to her own child by a man who is no longer a part of her life.

    Opportunities are extremely thin on the ground in the rural south, especially for people living in poverty. There is every reason to believe that, without the show, Alana’s future would look not dissimilar to her elder sister’s, mother’s, and grandmother’s lives. Her future before the show was one of poverty, teen pregnancy, and petty theft charges. It’s the same story of many men from extreme poverty who choose to go into professional football — the risks are many, average death for an NFL player is age 55. But that means 40 years of playing sports and getting attention and having money instead of a longer lifespan of being poor, joining gangs, going to prison, and not having anything worth living for in many cases.

    As for her creativity, it’s probably too early to tell. She loves to read, does well in school, and has an active and very off-the-wall imagination. But now she also has a trust fund that will pay her way through college, something it would have been very difficult for her to do before. She has the ability to pay for private lessons, be they in cheerleading or dancing or any number of activities she finds interesting. She no longer participates in pageants, because there are other more rewarding activities in her life now. I would be really surprised if she decided to go into acting, but she certainly knows enough people and has spent enough time around cameras that she could work behind the scenes in filmmaking. The point is that she has a million more opportunities now. Is it coming at some cost, probably, but we can’t really know what that is. It is depressing that reality television was certainly her biggest chance at a better life. That’s a problem with the system and culture in the US.

  11. Jacob Schmidt says

    RE: bias

    And so it grates whenever I hear someone talk about someone or something being “biased” as though that is the beginning and end of the argument. “The biased media won’t talk about…” whatever Newt Gingrich is mad about that day. People will attack the author of an argument for being “biased”, which would be bad enough for the simple fact that it’s an ad hominem (although not necessarily a fallacious one).

    The second half of the “biased” argument, if you’re interested in actually making a persuasive and conscientious point, is an explanation of the size and direction of the bias. It’s not enough to simply identify the existence of bias – you have to be able to say how the bias is tainting the position under scrutiny. So we can absolutely talk about “media bias”, but we have to demonstrate how that bias is going to affect their reporting of the news, and what parts of their story are untrue or misleading. We can talk about personal biases, but we have to demonstrate what important facts are being ignored or amplified because of that bias. Simply saying “you’re biased” isn’t an argument – it’s the criticism equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?”

  12. kraut says

    If you watch that shite for any other reasons but studying the inmates of that zoo – I feel deeply sorry for you. You just have too much time to waste on absolute shit.
    I watched it for about ten minutes just to get the drift and after coming back from the lav after throwing up I never watched it again – nor any other stuipid reality shit that nowadays counts for TV…500 channels and nothing on..
    Any mind that actually can spend time to watch such shows is beyond my comprehension.
    The acme of american TV, I’d say…which is not praise.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Salon and Jezebel: Honey Boo Boo and 8 reasons you should be ashamed of yourselves–”So when I see articles posted that use the word “monster” to describe a real little kid, I find it upsetting. When those articles purport to be doing it because they care about the girl and come from sources that I generally find reasonable and feminist minded, I become slightly apoplectic.” […]

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