Honey Boo Boo and the Media Sensation Cycle
By Chez Pazienza: Just a warning: I’m currently sitting in an airport in Dallas waiting to pick up my four-year-old daughter, so this is gonna be quick and, given the topic, appropriately dirty.
Last week I threw together a minor rant — and that’s really what it was, a rant — which spit a good amount of bile at TLC’s latest on-air abortion and what could easily qualify as the second-to-last nail in the coffin of Western civilization: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The point I tried to make in the piece was a larger one — namely that you can’t watch this show and simultaneously complain about how the U.S. isn’t taken seriously around the world anymore and how we need to be more in-your-face about American exceptionalism. I’m aware of the classic Fitzgerald quote about the test of a first-rate intellect being the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in mind at the same time while still retaining the ability to function, but there are limits to the amount of cognitive dissonance the human brain can process without exploding. And besides, talking about first-rate intellects and having a mind that can perform any two tasks, competing or otherwise, at the same time and still function properly seems laughably out of place when the subject at hand is Honey Boo Boo and her grotesque family.
What I didn’t bother getting into, though — because I admit I was too busy just being fucking furious at how close we now are to the kind of Ow, My Balls TV featured in the entirely prescient Idiocracy — was how the Honey Boo Boo clan’s path to instant stardom, morbid fascination, violent backlash and ultimate pop culture flameout is sure to follow the time-tested media model that we’ve come to expect by now. We’ve seen it happen over and over again, often at light speed, though occasionally — as in the case of the Kardashians — taking far too long for anyone’s liking: a media figure becomes an overnight sensation via, say, reality TV and the reaction to it by the social media masses; that figure suddenly turns up not only as an internet meme but the fascination bleeds into every form of media until oversaturation occurs; the media then turn on the figure in an attempt to bring it back “down to earth” and because that’s simply the next logical progression in a good story — that there’s something ugly beneath the good or even more hideous beneath the already ugly; the tabloids and gossip sites attack; the public burns out on the whole thing and moves on to something else — and the media figure vanishes into the oblivion from which it came.
I bring this up because the web is now buzzing with the fact that Honey Boo Boo’s monstrous mother has a criminal record. If you’re surprised by this, chances are you’re also in some way related to Honey Boo Boo — but what’s interesting about this is that the media are already digging into this horrid family’s past trying to dig up anything they can, just because they’re a pop culture curiosity and because the press can. We’re now well into the modern media sensation cycle — and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo debuted just last week. By this rate, if we’re lucky, the Honey Boo Boo “phenomenon” will be short-lived, but again, you can never tell.
Unfortunately, by the way, as Tosh has very smartly turned into a regular bit on his show, there’s occasionally a final stage to the cycle: redemption. America loves a good comeback story. I’m already praying that these idiots never get one of those — because I just can’t fucking see them ever being redeemed. I think we’ve got nowhere to go from here but down.
Now here comes my little girl. Thank Christ she’s not Honey Boo Boo.