"What do you think about Honey Boo Boo?" the producer from "Today" asked.
"I can't bring myself to watch it," I answered.
"Can you come on the show and talk about why not?" she asked.
So this morning I did, weighing in on the program that everyone is watching, or that no one can bear to watch, depending on who you ask.
"Honey Boo Boo" is the self-chosen nickname for 6-year-old Alana Holler, a regular on the TLC program "Toddlers & Tiaras" who became a breakout fan favorite and now stars in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo", which is a program all her own. Nearly 7 million people have viewed the video of her drinking her "go go juice" -- a concoction of an energy drink and a caffeinated soda (which early press accounts identified as Red Bull and Mountain Dew, but which are now blurred because those companies are apparently not sponsors) and nearly 3 million have watched Dr. Drew take his own taste.
Among her fans, I learned this morning, are the Jonas Brothers. They too were in the "green room" at 30 Rock, and when the promo for my segment came on the monitor, the guys asked, "Is she here? I'd love to meet her!" (I didn't ask whether they have actually watched...)
No, Alana herself was not in the building, I had to tell them, just me and Ada Calhoun, who wrote a piece for the LA Times this weekend titled "Leave Honey Boo Boo's Mom Alone." True, Ada wrote, June Shannon yells things like "Shake your butt, baby" during her daughter's performances, but concluded that criticism of Alana's mother is more about elitest disdain for a 300-pound self-described "redneck" than real concern about the quality of her parenting.
Perhaps that is what some object to. My problem with the show, though, is that I can't help but project a decade or two in the future. A grown-up Alana will live forever with the image her mother is encouraging her to project before she can possibly understand the consequences.
I don't doubt that the child is having fun now, or that her mother loves her fiercely. And Lord knows she is a mesmerizing dynamo. But no one who is watching -- not the TLC viewers, not the Jonas Brothers, not the talk show hosts who have been calling me all morning to weigh in -- are doing so because she is talented. They are watching to laugh at her. And I can't bring myself to do that to a child.
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