Little Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson took the US by storm on TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras by declaring that a dolla would make her holla and by drinking enough Go-Go Juice to fuel the average student through finals. Her energetic laugh and silly quotes made her an instant sensation, and her fame only continued to grow as she and her family appeared on her own reality TV show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
On the show, the whole family faced criticism regarding their diets and bodies. Even after the show was cancelled, the public scrutinization has continued to the point where 9-year-old Alana faced fat shaming on national television as part of a cruel attempt to “intervene” on behalf of her health.
Alana and her mom, June “Mama June” Shannon, appeared on The Doctors this March in order to “stage an intervention” for Honey Boo Boo’s weight and health. The intervention consisted of June sitting alone with the doctors to discuss Alana’s health issues in front of the world, including how she is asthmatic and requires frequent trips to the doctor’s office.
The doctors criticized June by announcing that Alana’s body measurements of 4 ft 6 in and 125 lbs categorized her as obese, and the foods and lifestyle that June provided for her daughter were playing a key role in Alana’s weight.
Normally a discussion between doctors and parents with an overweight child is a necessary one. Increasing parents’ knowledge about better food choices and their responsibility to be a good role model can help to create a healthier lifestyle at home.
On the other hand, a public discussion about a child’s health featuring a slideshow showing the child eating foods like ice cream or declaring her love for deep-fried oreos is a dangerous one. While sometimes it’s easy to forget that Honey Boo Boo is a real person after the TV is shut off, this kind of dialogue still creates the idea that it is socially acceptable for a child to be mocked for what she does and how she looks.
The conversation on “The Doctors” fat shamed Alana for actions that are private, personal facts, and they are what defines her as a 9-year-old (hello, what kid this age doesn’t love candy and junk food?). With 40% of elementary school girls (aged 6-12) admitting to feeling concerned about their weight, it is likely that Alana doesn’t need the public eye to remind her of her weight.
Blasting that she’s obese on television is ineffective in solving the problem of childhood obesity. It does, however, create a dangerous narrative where 9-year-olds can be publicly shamed for their weight without being given guidance about healthier choices. It creates a narrative where grown adults can point at an overweight child and laugh at her, like she is nothing more than sheer entertainment.
Fat shaming is enough of a problem for adults, and by fat shaming on national television, “The Doctors” creates the illusion that fat shaming a child can be beneficial when done in the name of health. These ideas can spread to viewers and their families or other TV programs, thus starting a harmful trend of shaming girls about their weight before they even hit double digits.
Alana’s health is not the business of anyone besides her, her family members, and her doctors. She could have been the little girl we babysat in high school or the younger cousin that wants to learn how to play with make-up when she visits. Would you mock them?
She’s just as human as we are, and if we wouldn’t let it happen to a kid we knew, why do we watch it on TV? Alana Thompson is a child, and the sooner we realize that her health is absolutely none of our business, the happier and healthier we all will be.
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