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Honey Boo Boo: America's Sweetheart or Its Worst Nightmare?

08/09/2012 at 10:15 AM EDT

Honey Boo Boo: Dream Child or Nightmare?
Alana Thompson with her family on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Well, little Alana Thompson has arrived. But is this pint-size beauty-pageant star more Honey or more Boo Boo?

The first two episodes of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo premiered Wednesday night, starring the 6-year-old former Toddlers & Tiaras star and her "cr-azy" Georgia family – dad Sugar Bear, mom June and big sisters Pumpkin, Chickadee and Chubbs.

They go to the Redneck Games. They prepare Alana for pageants. They go to auctions to buy junk food for the family. And by and large, they leave viewers aghast with behavior that reinforces the worst stereotypes of Southern culture.

Critics are divided about the show – mostly about whether its brief moments of empathy and humanity justify the family's cringe-worthy vaudeville act. Is this a program "about seemingly dumb people who are in fact quite smart," or is it "a horror story posing as reality television"?

Is Alana a modern-day Shirley Temple, or just a train wreck?

June, who got the most face time in the first two episodes, claims not to care what people think. "People are going to talk, good and bad, and it is what it is," she tells CNN. "My family, we enjoy what we've done and I would do it again."

She adds: "If people actually sit down and talk with me and my family or talk with Alana, you'll see that Alana thoroughly enjoys doing what she does, and that we're not ignorant people like everybody says."

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