Honey Boo Boo Press Tour: The Guilty Pleasure Goes Horribly Wrong (Analysis)

Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson
Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson
 

Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, the Toddlers and Tiaras breakout star who now is the driving force behind another TLC reality show dedicated exclusively to her and her moniker, has been eating and sassing her way along the West Coast on a recent press tour. Alana and her mother June stopped off at TMZ, Access Hollywood and Jimmy Kimmel Live! during the whirlwind, with a particularly memorable experience with Dr. Drew Pinsky on his HLN show Dr. Drew On Call.

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The spaghetti- and pizza-fueled (which one does she prefer? "Why not both?") 7-year-old, who apparently replaced her typical (questionable) hydrating agent of Go-Go Juice with other sugary carbonated beverages, had an unfortunate meltdown on Drew's show. Dodging the TV therapist's questions, she asked one of her own ("Is it difficult to be on TV?") and continued with a telling revelation, "fans come up to me and I hate it," all while dramatically pretending to snore in Dr. Drew's face, even slapping at both her mother and him. There was something strange about the exchange, like Alana was some kind of high-strung exotic animal whose trainer had lost control.

There has been much discourse this week, including on the CBS' The Talk, about the press tour and whether it conceivably can count as child abuse (maybe a dramatic claim, but it speaks to some of the more exploitative aspects of the series and tour). But her mother assures the press that "she's getting her education." An education about what isn't specified.

After Colin Ferrell, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken recited lines from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo during their press tour for the film Seven Psychopaths, Alana and June returned the sentiment by reading some of those actors' most famous lines, but the effort was marred by their frustration with actually getting through the dense dialogue, and the joke fell flat. The attempt illustrated more than ever the gap between the quirky family and the media world they think they are taking by storm, exposing the truth that they are truly out of their depth.

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It's a little difficult to have sympathy for the family, though. After all, both Alana and her mother have appeared to relish the limelight (Alana's response has been a lot like a kid who says a bad word that makes the adults chuckle -- the kid, sensing both positive reaction and approval, then feels compelled to continue even though the action should be discouraged). But lately, the underlying tragedy of Alana's situation has been overwhelming any humorous aspects.

Derision over the series and those who continue to support it is well-deserved (particularly the scathing response by The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic Tim Goodman about those who support the show even behind the guise of irony). And after Honey Boo Boo's Hollywood press tour, it seems more apparent than ever that the Thompson family is no longer laughing along with the joke but are more and more the brunt of it.

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Georgians (of whom I am one) seem unsure whether to embrace the monstrosity of the Honey Boo Boo phenomenon or ignore it completely. It's like a loud embarrassing relative showing up to a party; the whole thing is exasperating. Plus, it paints an unfortunate and inaccurate portrait of the region as being populated exclusively by one cultural punching bag after another. As one Southern friend recently told me, "The Real Housewives of Atlanta are society compared to the Boo Boo family!"

There's nothing new about a story like the Thompsons', people who have gained fame through infamy and become the leading pop cultural zeitgeist for a while -- even given their "outsider" status -- who eventually will be thrown away by the media once their shtick starts to flail. But why are we still falling for it, championing it and allowing it to take over again? The Rise and (inevitable) Fall of Honey Boo Boo is a referendum on us as much as the Thompsons.

But let's hope that the new Beverly Hillbillies, hobnobbing with the likes of other reality show stars such as Real Housewives as they visit cupcake ATMs and stroll down Rodeo Drive, take heed from Alana's meltdown and give up the idea of other sequels (Honey Boo Boo Goes European! Honey Boo Boo Takes Manhattan!). Let's keep the traveling sideshow parked, for everyone's benefit -- particularly Honey Boo Boo herself.

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