Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is just a few weeks old, and already the TLC reality show has become a cult classic of sorts. Americans are delighting in the feelings of superiority that well up on Wednesday nights as they watch 6-year-old Alana Thompson (aka Honey Boo Boo), her mom June Shannon, and the rest of the family welcome a pig into their home and throw themselves headfirst into all sorts of reindeer -- and redneck -- games.
Shannon is the family's matriarch, a mother of four who gave birth to her first child at 15 and is set to become a grandmother at 32. The math alone might make one question her parenting skills. But the problems in the Thompson family run much deeper than a few teen pregnancies.
Officially, June Shannon says she doesn't care what people think of her family.
At the outset, that may sound like a good thing. She's raising four girls in a society that still wants to put womankind in a strict box. As a mother to a little girl myself, I want to instill in her a sense of self worth that allows her to feel truly comfortable in her own skin.
And yet, that devil-may-care attitude has limits, must have limits. I want my daughter to be comfortable playing with trucks and wearing sparkly tutus simultaneously. I don't want my daughter to feel comfortable farting at the dinner table.
But for June Shannon, farting is no problem. She does it on the show's opening credits, and then laughs. And when she calls in an etiquette expert to prep Alana for her pageants, she seems unfazed that even 12-year-old Pumpkin is completely out of her depths. She accepts Alana's assessment that "etiquette classes are for stupid people," and excuses her daughters with commentary about how they can't be well-behaved all the time (actually she says they can't be "etiquettely all the time" ... same diff).
But there's being well-behaved. Then there's behaving in ways that allow you to succeed in the average world.
I'm not a prude. I'm parenting a 7-year-old. Fart jokes abound in my house at the moment.
But I am a parent. It's my job to turn out a kid who can function in society. She needs to be able to keep her bathroom humor out of the boardroom, to determine the salad fork from the dinner fork, to rein in the type of diva attitude that June encourages Alana to flaunt so she can "succeed" in the pageant world.
Much of the criticism of June Shannon has come from people who assume the Georgia redneck is stupid. I beg to differ.
It would be easier to excuse her refusal to prep her kids for the real world if she were ignorant of how out-of-line their behavior really is. But she's obviously a savvy woman who has parlayed her family's eccentricities into a successful reality show. The mere fact that she says they don't care what other people think means June Shannon is aware she's allowing her daughters to act inappropriately.
Not "caring" may be getting the family paid right now, but I shudder to think what it will mean when her daughters try to forge their own way in the real world.
Are you watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? Would you let your kids act like Alana and her sisters?
Image via TLC