Why Mama June: From Not to Hot made me sad

2017-11-19 00:00

Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June has landed her own show. But instead of celebrating her larger-than-life persona, it’s all about turning June from an apparent ‘not’ into TLC’s definition of a ‘hot’, writes Grethe Kemp.

If your TV diet consists of a rotating loop of E! Entertainment, TLC and Vuzu, you’re probably used to women on screen looking a certain way. The Kardashians; the women from Love & Hip-Hop; the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Beverley Hills, Potomac (and all the other cities they’re apparently “real” in); and even Bonang Matheba all sport the same look. It’s all long hair with plenty of extensions, false eyelashes, pumped up lips, enough Botox to kill an ox, bodycon dresses and sky-high heels.

Not that it’s a bad thing. If being a boujee fashion goddess is your thing, then go for it. But seeing the same type of woman as the only one represented on television can be more than a little alienating.

Which is why it was so refreshing when Here Comes Honey Boo Boo came out in 2012, with its warts-and-all look at a “redneck” family in Georgia. Apart from the sassy, larger-than-life Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson herself, the star of that show was matriarch June Shannon. Plus-sized, unpolished, and completely unconcerned with fashion, June broke the traditional reality star mould in every way.

But it wasn’t just that she and her four daughters didn’t look like everyone else; it was that they seemed completely cool with it. As The Guardian wrote when the show came out: “None of the women or girls who participate in the show seems to hate themselves for their poverty, their weight, their less-than-urbane lifestyle, or the ways in which they diverge from the socially acceptable beauty standard.” And in this day and age, that’s almost a miracle.

June’s personal life isn’t spotless. The show came to a screeching halt when allegations arose that her ex-boyfriend had molested her two daughters in 2003, and that June was dating him again.

Both June and her older daughter, Lauryn, denied this, and luckily she stopped dating the guy. Apparently forgiven, June is now back with her own show. This time, though, it seems that her appearance just isn’t good enough for TV any more.

The show, with its insulting title, is all about making June “hot”, which frankly means nipping, tucking, priming and primping her into another version of a Real Housewife.

June and her daughters don’t live in their modest McIntyre home any more, and now inhabit a slick, cold Kardashian-esque abode in Georgia. June has gone from eating cheese balls and riding four-wheelers through the mud to doing posed-to-camera pieces in full make-up and false eyelashes.

Now, you may argue that getting June on a weight-loss routine is a good thing, and I would agree. At 37, her 208kg was dangerous for her health. But it’s the fact that the out-of-the-spotlight and cash-strapped June is probably doing the show for some money – rather than because she’s unhappy with her appearance – that’s irksome. In all her time filming Honey Boo Boo, she always seemed refreshingly happy with her looks. Now, plastered in make-up, it seems like the show wants to paint over everything that made June unique.

Our plastic culture is sometimes heartbreaking – it feels unreal, disconnected, empty and almost menacing. To take the few TV personalities that broke the mould and push them into the same old box is a damn shame. We’re glad Mama June could lose her extra weight, but we liked her before too, just the way she was.

Catch Mama June: From Not to Hot Tuesdays at 20:55 on TLC (DStv 135).

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