Honey Boo Boo? Honey, Please

In TLC's show, a white kid makes black stereotypical slang her own. That may not be a bad thing.

Noel Vasquez/Getty Images
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Sass is the name of the game in the pageant world that tangentially strings the story lines of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo together. When Mama June says she wants to see “the attitude,” Alana dutifully snaps her fingers harder than Blaine Edwards ever could. So the origin of Alana’s Frankestein-ian speech pattern is pretty clear. She gets praise and laughs when she’s “popping it like it’s hot.”

But the pretense drops when the 6-year-old is truly happy and being herself. Like when her designer teacup pig Glitz shows up. “She gonna be my best friiii-eend,” squeals Alana with only a hint of something pre-packaged at the end.

The thing is, the entire Honey Boo Boo clan talks this way, hence the subtitles running at the bottom of the screen throughout the show like a CNN ticker of foolishness. Mama June announces at the Redneck Game, which, according to her is “similar to the Olympics but with a lot of missing teeth and a lot of butt cracks showing,” that some women’s skimpy sartorial choices weren’t up to snuff. “All that vajiggle jaggle is not beautimous.”

At 17-year-old daughter Anna’s ultrasound visit, Mama June and the rest of the gang get their dance on to the new baby’s heartbeat. It’s so unreal it almost can’t be fake.

And that’s sort of the beauty inside Honey Boo Boo — minus the pageants and the pre-packaged ghetto-isms — some authenticity can be found even as the Thompson’s native language is riddled with inauthentic “black talk.” It doesn’t really make sense, but somehow it works.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the sassy black woman trope might finally be laid to rest in the backwoods of Georgia. That as the show gains in popularity (last week’s debut won its time slot and demo) the origin of all Honey Boo Boo’s “honey boo boos” will be pointless, as Alana and clan take ownership of them. And would that really be a bad thing, boo?

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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