As 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.