Honey Boo Boo’s Sketti Is Gross. Exploiting It For Entertainment Is Grosser.

honey boo boo sketti
TLC has made a business out of exploiting poor parenting, but the latest episode of ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo‘ (called ‘Time for Sketti!’) highlights a particularly disturbing aspect of the show. The episode is making the rounds thanks to Mama June‘s home cooking: She prepares meals for her family on a thrifty $80 a week, apparently serving road kill to her family when available, and when it’s not, serving what she calls “sketti”: spaghetti noodles covered in Country Crock margarine and ketchup.

From a producer’s standpoint, shots of Mama June and Honey Boo Boo microwaving ketchup and margarine are a reality TV treasure. The food looks disgusting, it’s clearly unhealthy, and–set to a slapstick soundtrack, interspersed with shots of Honey Boo Boo lamenting that “it’s been awhile since I done had road kill in my belly”–it’s the perfect fodder for judgement; the whole point of the show. And on cue, many viewers are grossed out just by the description of her recipe. Fitbie’s blog points out that, on $80 a week, it’s possible to buy wholesome ingredients with better nutrition than spaghetti, ketchup, and Country Crock.

But whether you’re laughing or scolding, exploiting the family’s diet for entertainment just rubs me the wrong way–mostly because I think it just reflects the attitude that many people have about obesity in general. Rachel Stein of Television Without Pity points out that the show’s classism can be hard to take:

At times, TLC is motioning us to laugh at and look down on the Shannon family, which quickly becomes exploitive and downright gross. It’s especially frustrating because these scenes are juxtaposed with Sugar Bear having a father-daughter day with Alana where they bond over arcade games and roller skating, which are actually really sweet, and honestly something that should be celebrated. I’ve heard people joke that this show is the destruction of the American family, but the Shannons are one of the strongest families I’ve seen on television (and the father isn’t even biologically related to three of his daughters, to boot).

Likewise, the way TLC exploits scenes of a mother feeding her family on the cheap just highlights the attitude many of us have towards nutrition and health: Mainly, that people are unhealthy because of their own ignorance, or worse, because of their culture.

Sadly, a lot of mothers and fathers are, like Mama June, focused on getting the most food (not nutrition) out of a small budget, and finding things that are easy to cook (because many don’t have time to do more than boil pasta and microwave sauce). But instead of recognizing that this is a problem for many Americans–because of a food system that doesn’t support healthier choices–the show (and everyone who likes to gawk at at it) makes the family’s diet out to be just a function of the family’s bad manners and trashy culture.

Unfortunately, our judgements aren’t limited to Honey Boo Boo and Mama June. We still treat obesity as if it’s a poor life choice, or a problem for people who aren’t smart enough to be better grocery shoppers. Our attitudes about sketty are the same attitudes that make us fail so miserably at addressing America’s problem with obesity; instead of pointing and laughing at families who eat unhealthy food, we need to stop and think about how we can help them.

Photo: TLC

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    • Carrie Murphy

      Agreed!

    • LinZoo

      I find the screencap accompanying this article to be disturbing. I get that it’s gross to put ketchup on spaghetti but WHY IS THERE A FOOT?

      • Dee

        Because apparently they think it’s okay for kids to stand on the counter. Disgusting all the way around.

    • CW

      For the cost of the Country Crock, she could upgrade her noodles to Barilla Plus, which have extra fiber and protein compared to white noodles. Instead of ketchup, she could use canned tomato puree with a bit of Italian seasoning. Easy-peasy, inexpensive, and much healthier than the current recipe.

      • Briana Rognlin

        Sure, but you’re assuming that a) she has access to a store that carries Barilla Plus, and b) that she’s buying ketchup at a normal cost. A lot of people are using coupons, buying from dollar stores or in bulk, and don’t have easy access to grocery stores that stock healthy alternatives to basic things like pasta.

        I’m not arguing that she couldn’t make better choices, but I do think that acting like it’s an easy, obvious switch (and therefore, she’s stupid or trashy for sticking with her family recipe) is kind of avoiding a lot of problems that aren’t just consumers’ fault.

      • Meagan

        AGREED!

      • Lisa

        @Briana Rognlin: All of those things (including Barilla Plus) are available at a Walmart. I don’t watch the show but, i assume she has access to a Walmart.

      • CW

        If she’s got transportation to all the various pageants that Honey Boo Boo does, she can get herself to a grocery story. This isn’t about not being able to access healthier food, this is about someone who clearly doesn’t give a $h*t if her girls end up morbidly obese like she is.

    • Anonymous

      Really? How much are these people being paid per espisode? Don’t tell me they can’t afford good food.

      • hitman

        Meth is not cheap

      • Lysica Ravenz

        LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! U MADE MY DAY!

    • Eileen Lambert

      I’m pretty sure with all the $$$ TLC is paying to exploit, I mean portray their family on their popular show,(all the negative press is making their ratings go through the roof, I bet) Mama June has more than $80 a week to spend on food for her family. Oh, I forgot it’s going to pageant costumes, accessories and makeup! I wouldn’t be surprised if, with all the backlash, TLC sends over a nutritionist to help this family make healthier meal choices.
      And if they’re microwaving that Country Crock and ketchup in the plastic container, they have more to worry about than poor nutrition -how about carcinogens and endocrine disruptors leaching into their food!

      • Laura

        Omg Eileen, I’m with you. And on top of the plastic, the crap that’s in country crock and ketchup. I can’t, I just can’t.

    • patricia

      …due to their culture, or the LACK of it???
      have never watched the show, and do NOT plan to, either.

    • getoffyerhighhorse

      This is a ridiculous condemnation of the producers of this show. In fact you manage to actually point out what could called a great accomplishment of the show. They very honestly show how June feeds her kids which is not unlike how many mothers do all over the country. We eat terribly as a country and June does too, and yeah that makes her slightly less than perfect. But this is what she does. And when your making a documentary in order for it to be good you have to stay true to who the subjects are. On one hand she’s feeding her kids a bad meal, but I got a very warm feeling from watching them wake up a tired Sugar Bear, and eat watching the TV. That reminded me of growing up in a very warm and loving home with my warm and loving family that is in many ways like this family. Imperfect, but a true family. While Junes kids are eating buttery spaghetti there are other kids eating nothing because their parents don’t even bother. June should receive information about what would be better for her kids, but she should not receive condemnation. If anything the show opens up a dialog about the subject, but assholes like you, Briana Rognlin , would not be a constructive addition to that dialog because all you are looking to do is vilify somone. I happen to know the producers of Honey Boo Boo care very much about this family, the show celebrates them for being the hilarious loving folks they are and there’s no harm whatsoever in that.

    • Nat

      Didnt Chicadee birth a baby with 3 thumbs?? Just sayin…

      • Mrs. Lynn

        New Zealanders love their ketchup, too.

      • Mrs. Lynn

        New Zealanders love their ketchup, too.

    • shut up

      You may want to take your head out of your ass for five seconds and realize that people like to eat different things.

      In eastern Europe, it is really common to put ketchup on pasta. In some parts of South America, too.

      It’s not “disgusting” just because you don’t like it.

    • Alek

      Why she cannot get a small can of tomato sauce which runs for 25-50 cents she could get two and add some salt and pepper, some italian seasonings. Use the cheap whole-wheat spaghetti for $1. Dinner for 5 for just pennies. I mean come on

      • uhm

        Maybe she likes it with ketchup? This didn’t occur to you?

    • Tea

      I basically call BS. I fed two people well and healthily on less than 30$ a week when my husband and I were in college and dirt broke. Convenience food is not cheaper, at all, and you can plan around cook times by inter-spacing other tasks with it, and they spend quite a lot on Honey Boo Boo’s pageant nonsense, this is not their only choice, and the only issue at hand is that they really don’t know better.

      You can eat healthy and cheap, it just takes more time, which can be used with other things as well. You can do better if you work for it, just like I don’t buy into the idea of fast food being cheaper than healthy cooking. You will make time if you care and if those extra few bucks are what you need to save to get by.

    • Judgement

      “judgement” is also fodder for judgment. Sheesh!!!!!

    • Wolfie

      Help them? You can’t fix stupid. They have enough money for RedBull and MountainDew, but not healthy food? The reason people eat like this is NOT OUR FAULT. It’s because they are too frigging lazy to wash an apple, peel a carrot or slice a tomato.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8351121 Justin Hensley

      WAAA WAA

    • Ugh

      OMG