I've watched just four episodes of Honey Boo Boo in my life, but it's abundantly clear to me already who keeps the Thompson family together. Not Alana, much as her belly dances bring joy to the world. And Mama, for her truly acrobatic wordplay, is really just there to initiate each wacky new adventure. No, look through the farting and the eating contests and the farting (you've got a lot to look through, don't give up just yet!) and you'll discover the weird, beating heart of this show is…
Sugar Bear, of course, is what you'd get if you threw a trucker cap on a goateed baby, but don't let that sully my argument. He's the makeshift father to all of HBB's girls, just one of whom (Alana) is actually biologically his. And despite the daily, hourly hell they put both his property and sanity to, the guy sticks it out. He loves them. Love is "never having to say you're sorry"? Bullshit. Love is willfully living under constant threat of butter races and cup-a-farts [LINK].
This week Sugar Bear decided to make this whole unorthodox living situation official when he asked Mama — not for the first time! — to be his real, marrying-kind lady. Did she say yes? We'll have to wait 'til next [OF COURSE SHE SAID YES], but what's more notable than the answer is the way he went about readying himself to pop the question. First he got the girls' permission, which — how sweet is that? The cynic in you cries, "There are cameras; he was encouraged to do it!" but look past your bitter Blue State sensibilities for a second and bear witness to love, pure and good. "I wanna set a good example for the girls," he'd later admit. Awwwwwww.
I'd never claim that Sugar Bear is some exemplary male standard, even if he runs circles over every Bachelorette contestant, but there's something to be said for the family values he (and this show) seem to hold dear. Proposing to your partner of many years to reinforce to your daughters the importance of commitment? That's important to see, not only for Alana and Co. but anyone watching, as well. In communities like those where the HBB clan lives, deadbeat dads — and the broken families they leave behind — aren't exactly uncommon. You can laugh at Alana telling us she's a "commitment-phobe," but she's miming a bigger nationwide issue.
Honey Boo Boo's caught a lot of flack in its brief life. It's "disgusting" or "really disgusting," a "dire harbinger of America's steep decline" — basically the end of Western civilization as we know it. And while I don't disagree with the South Park episode that tore the whole HBB conceit apart, I've also gotta say... there's a unique, progressive sweetness belying all the redneck antics. Alana may be an obese 7-year-old in love with professional wrestling, but she also famously noted that there "ain't nothin' wrong with bein' a little gay!" Sugar Bear, a composite visual of every deadbeat dad ever, loves his makeshift family so much that he's dying to commit to it. (Which he already tried to do — twice!) No, Honey Boo Boo isn't healthy TV viewing by any standard. But if you dig past the surface grossness that gives the show its water cooler sheen, you realize that maybe there's some kind of positive message in here.