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Honey Boo Boo: Creating a redneck stereotype target?

Honey Boo Boo, the rising reality TV star from poorest Georgia, attracts big audiences, but what are those audiences thinking – about her, her community, and the society that entertains itself with a 7-year-old child to reinforce redneck stereotypes?

By Kate BrumbackAssociated Press / September 13, 2012

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" has been a ratings winner in recent weeks, capitalizing on redneck stereotypes and the oversized personality of Thompson. Seven-year-old beauty pageant regular and reality show star Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson gestures during an interview in her home in McIntyre, Ga., September 10, 2012.

John Bazemore/AP Photo

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McIntyre, Ga.

The reality show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" has been a ratings winner in recent weeks, capitalizing on redneck stereotypes and the oversized personality of a 6-year-old beauty pageant regular. But some who live nearby are concerned about the way their quiet pocket of central Georgia is being portrayed on the TLC series.

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The show centers around Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, her mother June Shannon and their family. The round-cheeked second-grader, who previously appeared on the TLC show "Toddlers & Tiaras," has a penchant for outrageous catchphrases – "A dolla makes me holla!" and "You better redneckognize!" –that have gone viral and raised some eyebrows.

Yet as the show attracts healthy audiences for a TLC series – from 2 to 3 million weekly – it has also drawn strong reactions. Some say it exploits and mocks small-town people and perpetuates offensive stereotypes of life in the South. Others criticize the parenting involved. Still others insist the series shows a loving family that doesn't let outside opinions bother them.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Alana said filming the show was fun because she got to do things she doesn't always get to do, like going to a water park. Her mother said the family has enjoyed doing the show and believes the way it's edited portrays their unscripted life fairly and accurately.

"This is who she is," Shannon said as her daughter interrupted her with silly jokes and giggles. "This is her everyday life. She's got her own little personality, especially like when the cameras come on and when she's got attention."

Alana, who turned 7 late last month after filming ended, was friendly and playful, though a bit distracted, during her second national media interview of the day. Like so many kids her age, she likes to be the center of attention, and when she said or did something funny, she'd look around to gauge the reaction of those around her. She whined to her mother about not wanting to go to school, but finally headed out the door to join her classmates in a tan dress and strappy silver sandals with little heels.

The tiny town of McIntyre is nestled in a rural county that is a major exporter of kaolin, a chalky clay used in a wide range of products, including cosmetics, medicines, catalytic converters for vehicles and heat shields on space shuttles. The town's population is around 650 and nearly 40 percent of the families had an income that put them below the poverty level, according to 2010 Census numbers. Main Street stretches for about three blocks and features a small handful of businesses.

The show has portrayed the area unfairly, choosing to fixate on shots of junk cars, garbage dumps and stray animals, Wilkinson County Chamber of Commerce president Jonathan Jackson said in a statement, adding that he'd like to see more of the region's positive attributes on the air.

"You can't very well ask and expect a television network to possess tact and taste — unless it makes them a dollar," he said.

Among the more than two dozen locals approached by the AP, the most common reaction to the series was that, for better or worse, it has "put McIntyre on the map." Many said they watch and enjoy the show, though most didn't necessarily think it represents the way most people in the area live.

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