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4 Ways Honey Boo Boo Redeemed Reality TV

You may recall that not so long ago I put TLC to the test to see if the Learning Channel could actually teach me anything. And, in point of fact, it taught me less than nothing, which, if you're keeping track, means I actually lost knowledge. I recently tried to do long division and totally hit a wall. I just had no fucking clue. It was like someone asked me to try to fart "These Hips Don't Lie." I think TLC stole that from me because I know I used to know how to do it. The math thing, not the fart thing. If I could do that, I'd be living on a solid gold yacht right now eating unicorn steaks with Dolph Lundgren and Enrico Fermi.

Since I wrote that article, TLC has actually managed to get worse. In a paradox of what the fuckery, every show currently on TLC is dumber than every other show currently on TLC. No matter what is on at the moment you turn the channel on, it is the dumbest thing ever. Or, at least it used to be. Like the good Dr. Frankenstein dabbling in realms he couldn't dare hope to understand, TLC dug too far and too deep (maybe switch that metaphor to the Dwarves of Moria. That's a good one) and uncovered a beast they could not control. That beast was Honey Boo Boo. And she actually elevated the network.

You may be under the impression, as so many are, that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a show about a coupon-hoarding, belching mom, a nearly silent, tobacco-chewing father, a pregnant teen and a hyperactive, chubby pageant princess (plus a pig) is the trashiest thing ever. But you are wrong! Let's see why!

#4. Bringing Back Reality

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What is real about Cake Boss? My Strange Addiction? 19 Kids and Counting? Only one guy makes cakes like that, only one deeply disturbed individual likes to eat toilet cleaner and only one deranged family has made a name for itself as the 7-Eleven hot dog machine of babies, just rolling out a new greasy one as soon as it's ready (though in fairness, I think they have two shows about those families now, because yay). But that's not relatable or real in any appreciable way. How many people have come out of your vagina? Have four basketball teams' worth of people come out of your vagina? Then you probably don't really feel the realness of that show. And that's why you rail against TLC. That's why when I see TLC programming I instinctively cringe and make a face like someone is holding out a cupcake with a pube on it. Nothing that happens on that channel takes place in a world we occupy.

Honey Boo Boo lives in the same world as you, as long as you've been to a Walmart, a NASCAR event, a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert or a trailer park. That's not meant to be insulting particularly. I mean it so is, but come on.

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TLC wants you to be disgusted by Honey Boo Boo and her family the way you are by everyone on TLC, because the people who run TLC are assholes. They saw a hillbilly family and thought "Oh man, what a freak show, let's put them on TV!" like they do with all the innocent people turned freak shows they exploit, and then just tried to present it like an impartial documentary that holds a scene long enough to include a character farting or burping, but probably just by accident and not to make you think less of these hicks.

But the terrifying reality TLC was too prideful to realize was that they had dug themselves into the shameful hole that all villainous high school dickwads from movies end up in, where their evil taunting finally backfires and makes them look like masterful twats. If you make fun of the enfeebled, it is you who looks like a fool. When you make a whole show based around making fun of a little Mountain Dew-addled girl who just wanted to be a princess, you're the asshole, not the little girl. Little girls are never assholes when compared to the television network that gave us My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.

So the joyous reality of Honey Boo Boo is that she's an innocent little Walmart customer who makes her belly talk and apparently gets blitzed on energy drinks all the time. That's the most adorable child abuse ever. Instead of it being a disgrace you watch like you'd watch a car wreck (you'll still watch it that way, don't feel bad), it's actually so disgraceful that you want to root for them, because TLC is even more disgraceful for putting them on TV knowing full well it's disgraceful. Does that word even have any meaning for you anymore? I lost it. Like an erection after a visit from grandma.

So basically what I'm saying is they managed to actually harness the reality that reality TV has long proclaimed to show us by virtue of it showing these people being made fun of by TLC, the big jackass bully with its sense of superiority. And damn near all of us can relate to that, to some asshat who looks down on us for whatever reason. It's just probably not what they had in mind.

#3. Entertainment

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Traditionally, nothing on TLC is even remotely entertaining. I swear to God, if you watch 19 Kids and Counting, you need to stop reading my article right this minute and leave. Go read a Gladstone article. Don't come back. Filth. There's no redeeming value to that show at all.

TLC wants to shock you with trainwreck-style programming, not anything else. But there's a charm to Honey Boo Boo that they weren't expecting when they were cataloging negligent parents and stumbled across her during an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras. If you're not sure what I mean, perhaps from having pride and never having watched the show, let me say two magical words to you: Redneck Games.

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Honey Boo Boo and her family attended the Redneck Games in an episode. It's a real thing that's been going on since the real Olympics in Atlanta. It's mostly toothless men and women in Confederate flag bikinis slopping around in mud and playing toilet-seat horseshoes. I didn't make any of that up. I would never have even known that existed if not for this show. That's amazing. And they have a pig! In the house!

You might think a pig in the house is a little uncouth, and normally I'd agree, but I actually had a friend growing up who had a pig in his house, and frankly, that's the kind of thing that stays with you your entire life. Pigs scream just like humans who've been huffing helium and are now being murdered, and they do it all the time. Plus they'll eat anything, which is pretty much endless entertainment. And as counterintuitive as it may seem, no matter how many times you walk into the same house and see the same pig, you're always a little surprised. It's a pig. Right there by the couch. Fuckin' weird, man.

TLC even managed to create intrigue in the show based entirely around a foot. Follow me on this, it's awful. The mom, you see, never takes her socks off. The answer as to why will be obvious when you hear it -- her foot was run over by a forklift and is now a monster foot that she's ashamed of. She's ashamed of it. The mind boggles that shame can even enter their home. And that's entertaining, too, because who the hell saw that coming?

At the end of the day, though, these people are funny. It pains me to say it, because on some level I feel there should be some standards to comedy, but you guys read the Poop Sandwich Billy story I wrote, right? I laugh at dumb shit, and I can't not laugh at this show. There was an episode when the dad said he needed to shower because he smelled like an oyster. I wish I could have been inspired to write a joke about a rural, tobacco-chewing gentleman lamenting how he smelled like seafood, man.

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Ian Fortey

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