Honey Boo Boo: America's littlest sweetheart, or 'its worst nightmare'?

TLC's latest reality TV show features a 6-year-old aspiring beauty queen and her road-kill-eating Southern family. It's appalling... but can you look away?

Alana Thompson
(Image credit: TLC)

As if Toddlers and Tiaras weren't alarming enough, TLC has given its most eyebrow-raising contestant — 6-year-old Alana Thompson, also known as Honey Boo Boo — her own reality show. Debuting this week, the pint-sized Southern pageant star's instantly controversial program, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (watch trailer below), tracks Alana and her eccentric Georgia family — dad Sugar Bear, mom June, and big sisters Pumpkin, Chickadee, and Chubbs — as they attend the local "Redneck Games," go to auctions to stock up on discount junk food, fart with pride, and generally defy the rules of accepted social behavior. Still, plenty of reviewers find the Thompson family's warts-and-all antics endearing. Is Honey Boo Boo America's quirky new sweetheart, or "its worst nightmare?"

Honey Boo Boo is appalling: This "train wreck" takes reality TV to a tiresome new low, says Ryan McGee at A.V. Club. The producers cynically reinforce "the worst stereotypes of Southern culture" for laughs, an outdated, negative approach to reality TV in a season distinguished by "aspirational" efforts like Push Girls. The road-kill-eating Thompsons, bobbing for pig's feet at the Redneck Games, appear to be genuinely oblivious of how badly they come off on screen. This isn't reality TV; it's a "horror story."

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"

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Surprisingly, the show has redeeming qualities: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is undeniably "exploitative," says Willa Paskin at Salon, perhaps never more so than when the pint-sized beauty queen offers her racially tinged impersonations of a "sassy black women." But the "real star" of the show is Alana's mother, June, a "truth-is-stranger-than-fiction" character who's "crass and uneducated," but "clearly loves and enjoys her children very, very much." God help me, I couldn't help being "won over by the fullness" of this family's personalities.

"Honey Boo Boo: Lovable, racist dysfunction"

Stop analyzing... just enjoy: "I'm as powerless as anyone to look away from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," says Hank Stuever at The Washington Post. The Thompsons are a bundle of contradictions who insist "we're not rednecks" as they pile into the car to attend the redneck festival. They're also "seemingly dumb people who are in fact quite smart." But the bottom line is that the brassy, irreverent Honey Boo Boo is TV gold. "Precocious, atrocious! She's a Shirley Temple for this ceaseless Great Recession!"

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: The Little Miss Sunshine we all deserve"

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