Why Do People Love Honey Boo Boo?

Alana Thompson and her family, from TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.The first time I watched "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" on TLC, I was appalled. It wasn't the mud bogging or the Redneck games that got me, though I'll admit that watching people bob for raw pigs feet was kind of gross. It wasn't the way the mom washed her hair in the sink, the constant fart jokes, or even the stark contrast between the picture-perfect beauty pageant world and their ramshackle house down by the railroad tracks that made me uncomfortable.

What got me was the way the show seemed to glorify all of the things that make so many people cringe about our country -- and how fans are flocking to it.

Critics were horrified when "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" debuted earlier this year. The 7-year-old star, Alana Thompson, chugs Mountain Dew mixed with Red Bull before beauty pageants and struts around saying things like "A dollah makes me hollah!" (her over-the-top antics on "Toddlers and Tiaras" helped her land her own show). The entire family looks like a train wreck, from morbidly obese "Mama June" and her chalk-miner husband, "Sugar Bear," to Alana's older half-sisters "Pumpkin," "Chubbette," and "Chickadee," who is 18 and gave birth to a three-thumbed baby girl in July. The Southern drawl is so thick that the show has to use subtitles, even though everyone is speaking English.

What producers are paying the stars of TLC's "Honey Boo Boo."

It's got a little bit of everything parents try to steer their kids away from -- teenage pregnancy, unhealthy eating habits, disrespectful behavior, and more. But while experts call it exploitative (and the AV Club calls it "a dire warning to the world at large") plenty of people seem to adore it, and not necessarily just because it makes them feel better about themselves. Last week, more viewers tuned in to watch the pint-size wanna-be pageant queen than the Republican National Convention; according to Nielsen overnight ratings, the 10 p.m. show on TLC drew in 2.9 million viewers on Aug. 29, compared to 1.2 million for the RNC speakers. The family is slated to appear on Anderson Cooper's show on Sept. 10.

"As a Southerner, I am appalled. It's hard enough trying to convince people from other parts of the country that we're not all ignorant, racist jerks," a Yahoo! reader named Lynn commented. "Please trust me, the majority of modern-day Southerners are NOT like this and cringe every single time something like 'Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo' is allowed exposure. TLC, you should be ashamed of yourself. It is not entertaining -- nor is it remotely funny -- to prosper off the crassness, vulgarity and ignorance that this show perpetuates."

"And Southerners wonder why Yankees make fun of them," adds susfle, another Yahoo! reader. "This is a disgusting show."

But fans say that under the glorified stereotypes are people who are making the most of what they've got. And that's what keeps them coming back to watch.

"I enjoy 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.' It's a stress reliever, a good laugh at the end of the day," Laura Morrison, a medical assistant in Unionville, Pennsylvania, told Yahoo! Shine. "So they aren't the best role models, the family has poor eating habits, and even more horrible manners, but it's for our entertainment. I see a family that loves each other and tries to help others. And, yes, there are many Americans that live this way. They seem very happy to me."

"I know some may not Like the show that's fine but baby im going to promise u and our lil friends something alana and the whole family ain't going any where anytime soon," Mama June wrote on Facebook fan page on Wednesday. "We don't consider our selves celebrities but alot do we r every day ppl that LOVE what we r doing."

The Facebook page is filled with pictures of Alana posing with the letters, dollar bills, and gifts viewers send in; each photo is a thank you note to a fan. The comments are overwhelmingly positive and supportive. When you scrub off the glitz and glamour makeup, Alana is just a precocious little girl in a worn school uniform. And that may be the biggest reason people are in love with the show.

"It's kind of like, crazy seeing yourself on TV," Mama June told People Magazine. "[But] we're just common everyday people."

Watch the clip below and weigh in: What do you think of "Honey Boo Boo"?