Laurie Essig Ph.D.

Love, Inc

Mama June's Big Fat Camo Wedding

Honey Boo Boo Darling's mama gets hitched in a camouflage wedding gown.

Posted May 08, 2013

In the US, no ritual is as burdened with significance as the wedding. In other words, weddings do a lot of cultural work. They define what a perfect woman and man must be as well as what a perfect relationship should look like. Think Kate Middleton and Prince William. Or almost any Disney movie ever. A perfect bride is young, white, thin, able-bodied, and sexually disciplined.  

But weddings are not just about gender and race. They are rituals exploited by market forces for big, big profit. That's why Americans want "perfect" weddings, but they also want "celebrity" weddings- weddings where there is no budget and no limit to materializing our fantasies. It's as if we believe that conspicuous consumption equals true love always.

The ideal wedding is policed by failed weddings: bridezillas, runaway grooms, and of course, weddings by those who are far from the ideal either because of race or class. Enter Mama June, of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo fame. Mama June and her longtime partner Sugar Bear got hitched on May 5th. They had a backyard celebration with their family and ended it with a ride through their neighborhood on a four-wheel vehicle. Mama June came down the aisle, all 250 plus pounds of her, in a camouflage wedding gown with a bright orange bow. Sugar Bear wore a matching ensemble of orange and camo. Out with the blushing bride in white; in with the highly sexualized mama in camo. 

Although Mama June and Sugar Bear certainly have some economic capital these days thanks to their TV fame, their lack of educational or cultural capital marks them as "white trash" and that's the wrong kind of white for a perfect white wedding.  Public reaction was predictably one of disgust and revulsion. At ABC news, they spoke in shocked tones of the camo wedding dress, blinged out sneakers and neon colored roses. 

As if Mama June's choice of wedding dress weren't enough to shock middle-class sensibilities, the lack of "proper" restraint in the menu created a near panic. According to TMZ, the wedding feast included

a whole roasted pig (with the head intact) ... they also gave away HUNTING KNIVES to the male guests!

And it only got more gluttonous from there! 

Our well-placed wedding spies tell us ... when June Shannon and Sugar Bear unofficially tied the knot, guests feasted on pulled pork sandwiches and ribs (ya know, from the dead pig), corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, rolls and sweet tea ... basically your cardiologist's worst nightmare. 

And don't forget dessert ... which included a frickin' gourmet candy bar -- i.e. a bar full of candy -- which offered Airheads, Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, Swedish Fish ... you get the idea. 

Middle class anxiety and disgust at Mama June's undisciplined body is nothing new. There have been attempts to reform "white trash" since at least the 19th century when reformers worried about everything from the dating habits of poor whites to whether they bathed often enough. But these days the anxiety and disgust is also turned into a form of popular entertainment with reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and its originator Toddlers and Tiaras.  Such  class "freak shows" are entertaining because they pollute what is sacred in American culture: childhood, family, discipline and yes, whiteness.  When Mama June makes "sketti" for dinner, it makes the viewer feel superior, closer to June Cleaver than Mama June. When Americans watch Mama June come down the aisle in her camo wedding gown and her pig roast, they feel better about their own discount wedding gown that was at least white and their reception in the local VFA hall that at least served a beautiful roast chicken and pureed sweet potatoes on plates rather than pulled pork on cheap buns.

Since the time of PT Barnum, freak shows have made us feel better, more American, than the exhibits on stage. Mama June's white trash freak show wedding can make us feel more like Kate Middleton or Cinderella in our own lives. We pollute our most sacred ritual in order to save it. And we save the white wedding to continue the gender, race and class hierarchies that it helps to uphold.

But freak shows don't just uphold power- they also poke fun at it. In the freak show resides the carnivalesque possibility of overturning the order of things. Mama June's wedding also did just that.

Rather than spending a lot of money, Mama June kept it real with a budget and a homemade cake. Rather than evidencing sexual restraint in white, Mama June donned the camo. And rather than exhibiting bodily control with low fat proteins and vegetables, Mama June embraced excess with BBQ and a "candy bar." 

Mama June may not be the "perfect" bride, but her camo wedding cuts at the fabric of American culture, shredding our dreams of happily ever after with shouts of unbridled joy.