I learned a lot during my brief hiatus from Happy Valley this Thanksgiving. Really, I did. I learned that going out to a restaurant for turkey dinner to save your working mother the trouble of preparing a whole feast in a matter of hours – great — results in little to no leftovers — not so great.
I learned that eating pancakes and bacon for breakfast before the aforementioned turkey dinner might not be the best idea.
I learned that 12 hours of Black Friday shopping — call me crazy, I dare you — can and will result in sore quad muscles.
And of course, I relearned the forgotten fact that spending time with family is important and lovely and something to be thankful for, but nevertheless hectic and laden with dysfunction.
But I didn’t limit my spending of time to solely with my own family. In fact, I sat down and spent several hours with another family — one that exploits itself at the expense of America. This is a family that is putting entertainment over the privacy of the children’s lives.
Maybe I’m a little behind the times, but I finally mustered up the energy and strength to sit back on my cushy sofa, prop my feet up, and see what this “Honey Boo Boo” character and her kin are all about. And I simply couldn’t look away.
Personally, I can liken watching the TLC reality show, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which first aired this past August, to peering through my fingers at a train wreck — except I can’t stop laughing out of pure shock and discomfort. No, seriously, it’s that bad.
For those of you who haven’t taken the time to inform yourself about the important matters of the latest and greatest in reality TV, I’d be happy to give a brief and mildly offensive explanation of the show.
In laymen’s terms, TLC selected one particularly interesting child from their other controversial program, “Toddlers and Tiaras,” which delves into the horrors of child beauty pageants, and chose to create a whole new spin off show about the family of one candid — ahem, bonkers — six year old, Alana Thompson, who has been dubbed ever so lovingly, “Honey Boo Boo.”
Her and her mother, father and half siblings, “Mama, Sugar Bear, Chickadee, Pumpkin and Chubs,” respectively, live in the Georgia countryside and are, what you could say, fulfilling a “country bumpkin” stereotype.
Their family recipes include spaghetti noodles with a mess of ketchup and butter; entertainment includes smelling and guessing each other’s breath or moseying on down to the local convenience store — barefoot; and a little department store shopping equates to dumpster diving.
The show has become wildly popular, and as of now, according to TMZ, the family receives between $15,000 and $20,000 per episode, a bump up from the original $5,000 to $7,000 payment.
If exploiting a little girl and her oddly absurd family antics is all right, then surely a pay raise was, in fact, in order. But, a problem arises.
If the family starts making hundreds of thousands of dollars in a season will their shocking lifestyle — the very draw of the show — begin to change?
With some extra cash in their pockets, will the Thompson family invest in a swankier home in a swankier neighborhood, or perhaps start visiting a real department store?
Of course, with the popularity of the show comes the pressure to maintain their personas as the show depicts them as “hicks.” Suddenly, a Thompson version of “The Beverly Hillbillies” starts swimming in my head. How very “PC” of me. With Thanksgiving being a time to consider just how fortunate we are in many, many ways beyond materialistic matters, it’s hard to deny that money does indeed make the world go round.
While money has the power to change lives, in the case of the Thompson family, based on what I’ve seen I’ve come to the conclusion that you can lead a Zebra to water, but you can’t get it to change its stripes. In that absurd hybrid of adages, I see it as this family might very well change their lifestyle with a big, fat check every episode, but at the end of the day, they are who they are and they come from where they come from.
I’m thankful for my life, my family and my lifestyle. I don’t need a camera following me around. I don’t need a hefty sum of cash at the expense of my family.
I don’t need to exploit my days for entertainment. I’m thankful for exactly what I have and who I am.
Caroline Fenlin is a freshman majoring in graphic design and is the Daily Collegian’s Tuesday columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.