'Honey Boo Boo' puts redneck Georgia in the spotlight

Critics have blasted the reality TV show Here Comes Honey Boo Booas mocking and exploitive, both of small-town life in central Georgia and of the self-described redneck family it follows.

But the popular TLC series, which just concluded an 8-week run and will return for three holiday specials, has put a national spotlight on rural Wilkinson County and on tiny McIntyre (pop. 650) — home to 7-year-old beauty pageant contestant and force of nature Alana ("Honey Boo Boo") Thompson, her parents, and her three older sisters.

According to Wilkinson County Chamber of Commerce president Jonathan Jackson, the show has portrayed the area unfairly, emphasizing shots of junk cars, garbage dumps and stray animals.

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

While McIntyre itself attracts relatively few tourists, it's just off the "Antebellum Trail," a 100-mile route through seven towns that escaped destruction during Civil War Gen. William Sherman's march through Georgia, and about 20 minutes from Macon, home of the late Otis Redding and such attractions as the Allman Brothers Band Museum. 

The owner of a Macon wig shop featured prominently in one episode was hoping the exposure would translate to a boost in business. Instead, she told the Macon Telegraph, the show's producers put both the shop and the family in a negative light: "They're trying to make them look foolish," she said, "but don't make us look foolish at their expense."

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Honey Boo Boo's mother, June Shannon, is more accepting. 

"The only thing that has changed is that we've got paparazzi following us a little bit. We've got fans that come to our house but we enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories and how we've changed their life," Shannon told the Telegraph."If anything people are like, 'You've put McIntyre on the map.'"

Homer Rawls lives in nearby Gordon, and told AP he's not too worried about the show making people in other parts of the country think all Southerners are backward rednecks.

"They already think that," he joked. "It kind of makes country folks look a little bad, but it's done in fun."