Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about the ways in which Alana Thompson (aka “Honey Boo Boo”) and Malala Yousafzai are similar. My, how times have changed. Malala is now a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Alana Thompson’s show has been axed and her safety is in question as her mother dates a child molester, who shockingly was convicted of molesting one of Alana’s older sisters while another older sister was in the room.
In some ways, what I wrote in October 2012 still applies. For instance, “Alana’s life, like Malala’s, is no longer private. While Alana’s fans don’t hate her the way the Taliban hate Malala, Honey Boo Boo’s safety is in question.” Although I meant safety in a bigger sense since it always seemed like Alana was safe at home: “Clearly there are serious safety concerns about placing real children — who are not characters, like child performers — in the public eye. If we are complicit in these children’s fame, and their compromised safety, by watching and reaching about their lives, we must be willing to change the underlying social problems that they represent.”
Perhaps even more relevant and significant today is this line I wrote, “Honey Boo Boo reveals deep social inequality in American society that, while not as life-threatening as that in Pakistan, is quite serious.” Unfortunately crime is one dimension of inequality today. Of course there were plenty of warning signs that something was amiss. First, June always refused to legally wed Honey Boo Boo’s father, Sugar Bear. They had a commitment ceremony with camo dresses, but never sealed the deal. Now we know why– Shannon was waiting for convicted felon McDaniel. That June, in her early thirties and already a grandmother, had four daughters from four different men might also raise some warning flags. But most significantly it was know that the eldest, Anna, who was pregnant during the first season, had basically been raised by her grandmother. Well, now we know the real reason why.
That said, while I was often disgusted by the family (I wrote in another Huffington Post piece that, “However, the failure of Eden’s World to garner a large number of viewers, especially when compared to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, indicates that it may indeed be much better to be your real self — fat, flatulence, filth and all — than to pretend to be something you aren’t.”), my impression was always that the family genuinely loved one another. That has now disintegrated.
I also have always given Shannon credit for protecting the children’s money– including her granddaughter— especially because other reality show parents have made very different choices. While it’s great that the five girls will get funds when they turn 21, the current situation makes me think she knew this could come out and at least she would have done something concrete to help the future of her offpsring. It was almost like they were milking it for all it was worth, not unlike families like the Robertsons or the Karsashians, but they also knew what could happen a la the Gosselins but much worse with the law involved.
There’s no question the show is kaput and I’ll be curious if TLC ever addresses the entrance of an America’s Most Wanted Element to the reality soup of the family. The family will now take on a new kind of infamy. I just hope they can heal their private dynamics and stay safe.
I’m guessing we haven’t heard the last word from Honey Boo Boo or Malala. Let’s hope the latter can bring some peace to the life of the former…