I’m a 27-year-old man. I like walks in the Cotswolds, oak furniture, and single malt whiskey – particularly from the Islay region. My history degree is printed in Latin. I’ve read the complete works of Raymond Carver, and I don’t watch much TV – but by god, I love Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC.
The reality show follows the redneck Thompson family, which consists of child beauty pageant contestant Alana “Honey Boo Boo”, stay-at-home Mama June, chalk-mining dad “Sugar Bear”, sisters Lauryn “Pumpkin”, Jessica “Chubbs”, Anna “Chickadee”, and her baby Kaitlyn, who was born with three thumbs.
Mountains of coupon-bought toilet rolls line the dining room walls of their crowded house in out-in-the-sticks McIntyre, Georgia. Freight trains pass loudly through the yard, and there’s an abundance of flesh-chewing gnats in the stuffy air. It’s as grim as life gets in America’s Dirty South – at least outside of the motels and trailer parks – but it doesn’t seem so bad, because their home is probably happier than yours.
The TV is always turned off, and there are no laptops or smart phones – so the kids make up their own forms of entertainment. Among them are the Mystery Mouth challenge, which involves trying to guess the mixtures of food players are hiding in their gobs, and a farting game called Doorknob.
They cook together all the time. One of Mama June’s recipes is ‘sketti’ – spaghetti noodles topped with criminal heaps of butter and ketchup – and that old southern favourite, pork and beans. There are mass gatherings, with “Poodle”, the homosexual brother of “Sugar Bear”, and, where budgets allow, family outings. Each moment of every day is enjoyed communally, and nothing fazes any of them – “it is what it is” being Mama June’s words to live by.
Yes it’s so very, very trashy, and yes it’s television, but theirs is a refreshing approach to a life in which they don’t have any more than they need, and there’s very little to worry about. Somehow their anti-American Dream seems more fun than the real thing.
So what can we learn from a bunch of good-for-nothing rednecks, with their high levels of cholesterol and often unintelligible patter? Quite a lot, as it turns out.