If you thought the issues with the new reality show Mama June: From Not To Hot started and ended with its warped fixation on dramatic weight loss, you'd be wrong. (You can read about our beef with the show's problematic messaging on health and body image here and here.) There's also a terrible and exploitative scene in Friday night's premiere, "Thin-tervension," that will make you cringe with secondhand shame for star June Shannon. The moment takes place at a restaurant, and is pretty upsetting to watch.
In the first few minutes of the show, Shannon's 11-year-old daughter Alana (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo) skips in after school to tell Shannon that her mom's ex (Alana's dad) Sugar Bear is getting hitched again. Shannon decides she needs to A) get a "revenge body," hence the massive weight loss, and B) bring a date to the wedding, so she does what single gals do and starts swiping. Sort of. She hops on what looks like a fake dating app interface, mocked up for the show, and lands on a guy named Jeff.
Shannon meets Jeff at a local buffet restaurant, where they grab a booth and start chatting. Right away, the intention of the scene is clear: staging the date at a buffet is a transparent setup for Shannon to fail. Should the date "just so happen" to go south, she'll have an unlimited amount of food to comfort herself with and cameras there to capture her doing so.
The date gets awkward fast. Jeff bristles at Shannon's revelation that she has both four children and two grandchildren at 37-years-old. Shannon goes under her shirt to fix her "side titty" spilling out of her bra. Jeff chastises her for asking too many questions and making it feel like a job interview.
Then, he gets up to use the restroom — and doesn't come back.
While Mama June sits there munching her salad and looking confused, a producer and camera-person dramatically run out after Jeff, who's getting into his car. He explains that he made an abrupt departure because "it's just not going to work," and it's better to nip things in the bud. They break the news to Shannon.
Right on cue, Mama June heads to the buffet, where she loads up on fried chicken and more. After she gets home, she digs into a gallon tub of ice cream with a spoon.
The whole thing is extremely sad, in an icky, inauthentic way. (This is reality TV after all.) It's emotionally manipulative, and it feels gross to witness. The worse the date goes for Shannon, the more dramatic footage the producers have for the show. I have no idea if they paid Jeff to be an asshole, but I wouldn't be surprised. It all feels contrived to exploit Shannon's self-destructive pattern of turning to food to deal with her emotions.
Is the episode designed to beat her down and embarrass her as much as possible before she turns to weight-loss surgery? To make her look as pathetic and desperate as possible? Because that's what it feels like. All I know is I've got another reason not to support this show.
Mama June: From Not To Hot premieres Friday, February 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WE tv.