I'm going to be totally honest, which seems to be my theme with these Here Comes Honey Boo Boo posts. Here's the deal, one hundred percent of the time when I'm writing, it's because I love to express my opinions through the written word. Eighty percent of the time I'm snarking, it's because I find humor in such crass sarcasm, and seventy-five percent of the time I'm watching these shows, I'm watching because I'm deeply enthralled…not just on the level of reality television, but as if I'm a sociologist with the stars, the viewers, the blog commenters, and Andy Cohen all as my study materials.
If I had to create a Venn diagram with each circle encompassing writing, snark, and a genuine affinity for programming (respectively), I can only guarantee that one show would make it to the center of that triad on a consistent basis. That series is, of course, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. If you take the viewers, the haters, and the family, you have such a study in socioeconomic groups, family dynamics, gender stereotypes, childhood obesity, charity, pigs as pets…the list is infinite. Alana Thompson and her family are literally taking pop culture by storm.
I am likely to get skewered as this post continues, but I owe y'all the thanks for my thick skin. Maybe it's because I'm from the South (and no, I have never seen a family like the Shannon-Thompsons on a regular, non-televised basis), or maybe it's because I spent a lot of time teaching in the public school system where I met my fair share of Alanas who didn't have the support at home, but I look at this family and see something special. Call me uneducated (you'd be wrong), call me lacking in taste (let's call it a draw), or call me high on a fried chicken binge (I should be so lucky), but I adore this crew. If you've never watched it because you're disgusted, I can't blame you one second. I think only my teaching background (there are things with those children you can't un-see!) afforded me the luxury of not gagging during the majority of the season. However, before you jump to judgment having never viewed anything more than a forklift foot promo commercial, I implore you to read on about Mike "Sugarbear" Thompson's (you know, Alana's dad with the dip and constant subtitles) homosexual younger brother. Without further ado, I present to you a Poodle retrospective.
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The GA Voice has a heartwarming interview with Poodle himself, twenty-nine-year-old Lee Thompson, where Alana's uncle speaks about the perks of being a gay redneck in small town Georgia. People, it seems, are more open minded than we think. Thank goodness. He recalls a recent incident after the finale aired, saying, “I was at the Wal-Mart in Forsyth, getting ready to check out. And this woman kept following me, like it was obvious she was following me. Finally, I turned to her and said, ‘Ma’am, can I help you with something?’ and she said, ‘Can I ask you a question?’ I told her if her question was if I’m Uncle Poodle, yes I was. She said, ‘Can I get my picture with you?’, and she was so excited, she said her husband wasn’t gonna believe it. That’s how it goes now.” I, for one, don't think it could go much better. I'm certainly not going to pretend that the South as a whole is a hotbed for tolerance and civility, so this warms my heart. It's an even bigger deal since it happened at a Wal-Mart. Those who are from here know what I'm saying.
Lee goes on to share how he got such an adorable nickname. He shares, “Okay, here’s how ‘Uncle Poodle’ happened. We were at practice one day, getting ready for a pageant. Her coach was talking about her gay friends, and she said, ‘I love all my poodles.’ Alana thought she was really talking about dogs. She wanted to know how many poodles she had, and what were their names. And I said, ‘No, Alana, she’s talking about gay people.’ Well, that did it. All gay people are poodles to her now, and I’m her number one poodle.” If that doesn't melt your heart than I don't know what will.
Of course, that definitely clarifies Alana’s comment during an recent appearance on Anderson Cooper Live when she called the Silver Fox a “very nice poodle.” Lee exclaims, “Oh my god, and he wasn’t even out yet! I about died. Then about a month later he came out. Not bad gaydar for a 7-year-old… but, well, look who she learned it from.” Love it. Seriously.
When asked what makes his family special in the reality genre, Lee has an amazingly simple, yet seriously brilliant, answer. He reveals, “It’s because they don’t live like other people on TV. They live like the people who watch TV.” It's such a true and easy statement, I hate myself for not coming up with it on my own.
As for Uncle Poodle, he just wants to live a normal, quiet life. However, since his appearance on the TLC hit, he's been criticized for not doing enough to draw attention to the gay communities in small Southern towns. Case in point, heavy hitters such as The New York Times and the Washington Post discussed Lee in articles, implying small-town gays need more of a mouthpiece and scrutinizing Lee for not stepping up to the plate. The Post article was even called “Uncle Poodle Needs to Speak Up.”
“Come on now,” chides Poodle. “Who writes a story saying Uncle Poodle needs to speak up, and then doesn’t call Uncle Poodle to find out what he has to say?” BURN. That's right. I just resorted to the "burn" retort in response to the Washington Post. What of it?
Lee recently married his long-time boyfriend Josh in a ceremony presided over by his step-father in the family's living room. He believes that being a member of the LGBT community in a tiny Southern town isn't as taboo as many elsewhere would think. He asserts, “Things are changing. My husband and I live in Milledgeville because we want to be out in the country. I’m gay, but I’m as redneck as I can get, and we want to be somewhere we can fish and jump on a four-wheeler, go hog wallowing. There’s probably 40 or 50 of us — gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people — around here, they’re all open about it, everybody knows it."
He adds, “It’s not like there’s a gay bar here. We go to the same bars as everybody else, we’re all part of the same community… If there’s people who have a problem with it, they keep it to themselves, just like if I have a problem with them, I keep it to myself. But, if you want people to accept you, you have to show you don’t have a problem with yourself and just be up front about who you are. If you do, you earn people’s respect. If everybody would just go on and do that, ignorant people couldn’t cause so many problems. I know this is how I was born and I don’t need to explain it to anybody. I live my life for who I am. That’s why ‘Born This Way’ is gonna be my next tattoo.” If after-school specials still existed, I'd want Poodle to produce them. His thinking is simple, but it couldn't be more correct.
Of the head-bobbling, tummy talking niece who catapulted him into the spotlight, Lee can't say enough. He gushes, “I love Alana, she’s my heart, and she tells it just like it is. That’s why people love the show. We’re all rednecks, we cut up and make fun, but we love each other and we tell the truth. That’s how you’re supposed to be with your family. Just real.”
If a second season happens, Poodle isn't opposed to returning. Returning? He needs his own spin-off! He promises, “We’re not changing one bit. June will die with a coupon in her hand. I never in a million years thought someone would be asking to take a picture with me in line at the Wal-Mart. But, hell, I was still at the Wal-Mart.”
Honestly, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with these folks. I expect to read an awful interview or see something negative about them in the press (besides the smelling one another's breath game…gross). However, they just keep getting more likeable, more real, and more relevant–not just in the dumpster diving backwoods…but in the lives of everyday people across the entire vein of our nation. Yeah, I said it.
TELL US-WHAT DO YOU THINK OF UNCLE POODLE'S INTERVIEW? ARE YOU ON THE BOO BOO BANDWAGON?
[Photo Credit: TLC]