Reality shows’ exploitation is worrisome

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Duck Dynasty” make money, but at a cost to society.

Keelia Moeller

TLC’s unfortunately popular reality show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was recently canceled because of June “Mama June” Shannon’s decision to rekindle an old flame.

Shannon’s ex-boyfriend, Mark McDaniel, was convicted of sexually molesting an 8-year-old who’s related to Shannon. While Shannon continually denies any recent involvement with McDaniel, photos have surfaced showing the couple together with Alana — Shannon’s youngest daughter — also known as “Honey Boo Boo.”

What’s worrisome is that this abhorrent situation may start to be associated with the social status of those who starred on the show.

The assumed linkage of lower-class behavior to child molestation is a result of unfair and exaggerated portrayals that come from television shows from networks such as TLC. What people seem to consistently overlook is that the “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” family is actually not poor at all. On the contrary, TLC paid them between $15,000 and $20,000 per episode.

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is a direct exploitation of those living poor, lower-class lifestyles in the countryside. To put it (not so) eloquently, the show focused on the way so-called “hicks” in the South live their lives.

However, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is only one of many exploitative television shows that gain popularity by exaggerating or joking about a certain social class or lifestyle.

A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” is another reality show centered on the outlandish natures of those starring in it. While these behaviors are not adequate representations of the South, they unfortunately fulfill certain stereotypes associated with this region.

For example, a few months ago, “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson let slip a few homophobic remarks, resulting in his temporary suspension from the show.

A newly coined term, “hicksploitation,” refers to the misrepresentation and exaggeration of those who live in the South.

These “hicksploitative” shows present poor Southerners as uncivilized, homophobic fools who get into relationships with ex-convicts and endanger their children.

Even worse, the shows often pay their stars enormous amounts of money to get permission to portray them in a negative light.

Continually accepting exploitation and misrepresentation as forms of “guilty pleasure” entertainment is unacceptable.

TLC and A&E are two networks that create many of these exploitative shows. These networks make their money by caring about the lives of those they film and market. However, this love is absolutely conditional and based upon ratings.

It would better if everyone just ignored these types of shows, which would eventually stop production as ratings dropped. By allowing these shows to continue to be our “guilty pleasures,” we are complicit in the exploitation on which the shows rely.