A reality show that, as Jimmy Kimmel put it, makes Jersey Shore look like Downton Abbey? You’ve got to hand it to the TLC hit Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for raising, or razing, the bar. The Toddlers & Tiaras spin-off chronicles the life of seven-year-old beauty pageant contestant Alana Thompson (nom de tiara: Honey Boo Boo Child), her merry and mountainous mom June Shannon, blue-collar dad Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson and three older half-sisters (one an unmarried teen mom, as was June) in tiny McIntyre, Ga. Some folks find the close-knit, cash-strapped, proudly redneck clan’s belchin’, fartin’ and out-of-wedlock-baby-havin’ to be refreshingly honest. Others think they’re a train wreck (one from which an average 2.3 million viewers a week can't turn away). And there are those who consider June’s pre-pageant plying of her daughter with “Go-Go Juice”—a combo of caffeinated soda and energy drink—borderline child abuse.
Whatever your view of the Boo, we think you’ll agree there are gems of wisdom to be mined here. That’s why they call it The Learning Channel! Here are 10 life lessons from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo:
1. Tolerance is good! “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with being gay,” declares Honey Boo Boo, who adores her very out Uncle Poodle. “Everyone’s a little bit gay.” Despite lingering stereotypes, all of these small-town Southerners are just fine with Uncle Poodle’s sexual orientation.
2. Buy in bulk. To the hefty Thompson-Shannons, bulk is a concept to be embraced body and soul but especially as a shopping strategy. June has stockpiled 500 rolls of toilet paper, by her estimate; come the apocalypse, she tells her girls, the world will beat a path to their door. Bonus decorating tip: She stores the TP on open shelving in the family’s dining area, creating a textured wall that is the room’s focal point.
3. An extra thumb is good for grabbing cheeseballs. That’s what Mama June, 33, cheerfully declared this summer when her first grandchild—17-year-old Anna’s baby girl Caitlyn—was born with a redundant digit (leading the infant’s 15-year-old aunt to josh, “High six, kid!”).
4. If you’re low on road kill, “sketti” makes a yummy substitute. “It’s been a long time since I done had road kill in my belly,” Alana announces in one episode. Mama June explains that no one’s hit a deer on the highway in a while, then goes on to make “sketti”: spaghetti with sauce that’s a microwaved blend of ketchup and butter. Alana loves it—and that’s how canny Mama feeds a family of six on $80 a week, stretching her husband’s income as a seven-days-a-week chalk miner.
5. Find yourself a peppy catchphrase: “You betta redneckognize!” little Alana has taken to crowing on air, with the wisdom that only a highly coached seven-year-old can muster. We doubt she coined the word herself; she can barely pronounce it. But she has memorably made it her own, and it’s a refreshing substitute for her previous motto, “A dolla makes me holla”—though one might argue that the kid was telling it like it is; she gets that the family struggles to save enough money for her pageant paraphernalia.
6. Pigs’ feet are better than Angry Birds. Members of the Shannon-Thompson family don’t need fancy electronic doodads to have a ball; they generate their own fun by bobbing for pigs’ feet. They cool off by making a “redneck waterslide” out of a tarp doused in baby oil and hosed down. “We are who we are, and we like to have fun,” Mama says. Now there’s a motto.
7. Upbeat self acceptance has no size limits.At 300+ pounds, Mama June good-naturedly shakes what the good Lord (and the good lard) gave her, and she encourages chubby little Alana to do the same—with the result that the Boo Boo Child unselfconsciously plays with her belly fat and makes it talk.
8. Family values come in many forms.“We love our little life, and we have fun doing it,” Mama June says. Despite lots of teasing and teen eye-rolling, everyone pitches in and watches out for each other; family members clearly enjoy spending time together. The kids aren’t saddled with a sense of entitlement, pre-teen snottiness or adolescent neuroses (unless you consider getting knocked up at 16 to be neurotic).
9. “You have to take pride in how you look.”That’s what June wants her girls to know. The many-chinned Mama is aware that not everyone considers her a paragon of good grooming. “Granted, I ain’t the most beautimous out the box,” she acknowledges, “but a little paint on this barn…it shines up like it’s brand new.”
10. The line between high-falutin’ and low-falutin is fine as frogs’ hairs. We dare you to find substantive—not cosmetic—differences between the Boo Boos and the Kardashians. Except that the Boo Boos are nicer to each other.
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