Well. So. That happened. Last night, MTV’s Jersey Shore premiered with two back-to-back hour-long episodes. And it was everything that it purported to be. Like, if you watched the trailers and you thought, “I want to see that,” then you were most likely very pleased, and if you thought, “That looks like a nightmare,” then you were most likely very appalled, and if you thought, “That looks like a nightmare and I want to see that nightmare,” then you were both pleased and appalled, which is correct. I have no idea how many actual normative adult Americans watched this show, but I do know that everyone with a Livejournal and a Brooklyn zip-code was on-board. This might just win the Webby Award (America’s most important award) for Most Blogged About Show of the Year. Vulture already has a Top 10 Jersey Shore Catchphrases list up, and Rich FourFour, a native New Jerseyiac, provides an insider’s outsider’s point-of-view. You can expect to download more blogs about Jersey Shore throughout the day, I’m sure.
This blog is no exception! So, let’s blog about this thing!
Obviously, MTV is on our side, if our side is defined as the people who think that the Jersey Shore are subhumans (subalterns, for any graduate students in the room) to be mocked and disdained. The viewer is encouraged to stare gape-jawed at these proud Oompa Loompas as they struggle with things like how telephones work, and the stress of a full-time job intended for a high school sophomore. The tone of the show is incredulous and openly derisive, with useful subtitles for the most egregious Shore Talk, and sweeping music when one of the castmates tiptoes along the borders of having a genuine human emotion. The house, as with all reality show houses, is designed to encourage conflict as well as rampant alcohol abuse, but it also fits neatly into its appropriate reality show caste, in that the house is kind of super-shitty? This is a newer phenomenon, but now that reality TV is so pervasive and abundant, networks have discovered that they don’t always have to put everyone up in a “fancy” (not fancy) mansion. Like the gentlemen on Bromance who lived in a condemned frathouse, or the women on Real Chance at Love who share rooms in a fake ranch made of plywood and farts, the group on Jersey Shore are reminded of just where they stand on the reality TV totem with their run-down woodchip timeshare that you just know smells like fry-grease, and where, say, the Real World cast gets to run a football team or invest $50,000 in a business of their own design, the Jersey Shore cast sells cornball t-shirts to mirror images of themselves.
But here’s the thing: they don’t care. They don’t care in real life, and they definitely don’t care on this show. Laugh at them all you want, America, these motherfuckers are having the summer of their lives.
The thing is, for as dumb and sloppy as these people are (and they are VERY dumb and VERY sloppy), they are basically living their lives the way that they want to live them, which is, for better or for worse, what we are all trying to do. And for every superior joke we make about Ed Hardy, Christian Audigier sells another 100 bedazzled-dragon shirts. So who is winning? (HINT: not us.)
The impulse that drives us to watch Jersey Shore with a smirk is the same impulse that drives the people on Jersey Shore to call us “faggots.” Because the reality is that they are part of an actual community, with its own language and its own mating rituals and its own value system, which to someone on the outside seems ridiculous or impenetrable, but to someone on the inside makes perfect sense.
And communities that don’t understand each other are scared of each other. Depending on the nature of those communities, they might try and protect themselves by punching a woman in the face at a bar, or by posting exceptionally-clever “jokes’ on Twitter.
Watching Jersey Shore last night, I was most reminded of this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos, which similarly involved a group of people engaging in what might look to some of us (most of us, probably) as a Genuine Living Nightmare. And yet, the Juggalos have a very sincere sense of community and belonging when they are together, even if it’s centered on a culture of meaningless violence and aggressive bigotry. I’m not saying that there isn’t some kind of moral scale upon which we can place these different value systems. I actually believe, for example, that date rape is wrong, and that owning your own tanning bed is ridiculous. But I am sure that there are aspects of the way I live my life that other people might find misguided or offensive. At the very least, I am sure that I don’t want it to be televised. Which is actually the biggest difference between me and the cast of Jersey Shore. The rest is just details.
JUST KIDDING. These guys are retards! LOL.
Professor TV Over Here.