The Uncanny, the Fourth Wall and Maranaise: Dialectical Metaspaces in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Curator's Note

When it comes to visual/dialectical spaces created within the recent advent of reality television, it is often noted that there are many similarities to those found in the medium's more serious predecessor--the documentary. Both mediums manage to engage a viewer as a subject in what appears to be a candid view of a process, lifestyle or event by means of camera angles, scripting, (or lackthereof) and placement, drawing on the fairly established concept of "fourth wall" that has been a staple since the early 19th century days of the proscenium theatre and owes a debt to theatrical realism.

It is also fair to note that reality shows, in all their ingenuity and insidiousness, don't follow the post-modern tradition of "breaking the fourth wall" as many other shows in various genres have managed over the course of the 20th century. It would be more accurate to assert that they instead bend spaces created for the viewer in documentary television, traditionally created by an implementation of Foucault's clinical gaze, to create a sense of objectivity. And it would also be fair to say that these spaces can be bent through a variety of lenses. For a comparison, this clip of the mayonnaise-making process shows many of the same close-up angles through a purer sense of clinical gaze. 

In choosing a lens to describe the way a specific dialectical space in the "Maranaise" sequence is bent in Episode 1/Season 2 of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a traditional Freudian conceptualization of the "uncanny" is a fine place to start. Mama June's description of her unrealistic fear of the white, gelatinous substance is augmented by various shots of Honey Boo Boo Child pouring several jars of it into a bowl, shaky camera work, a nonsensical argument about vegetarianism and Mama June's narration filmed in front of a Jack-O'-Lantern with a protruding, spinning eye. But it may be too simplistic to argue that the uncanny is the only layer at work in this specific scene, or even within the reality genre, as it seems that a specific layering of shadenfreude is at work in the case of a viewer's relationship to Mama June's brood. Lacan's "imaginary" order is another potentially applicable concept as it is worth noting that studies show experiences of shadenfruede seem to take place when a subject identifies with the object of scorn by way of envy


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