Like a whirlwind summer romance, Jersey Shore has come in and out of our lives, leaving our collective unconscious changed forever. It’s hard to think of a pop-cultural phenomenon quite like Jersey Shore, a television show that perpetuates stereotypes and glorifies pretty much everything that is wrong with the mid-twenties generation today. But for all the hair gel and fist pumping, the show was probably the best thing on television the past two months.
Jersey Shore started innocently enough like every other MTV train wreck–strangers in a house with cameras filming at all times. Only this time, the show made two absolutely crucial changes to “The Real World” formula. On Jersey Shore you don’t get kicked off for fighting, and instead of bringing seven different people from unique backgrounds together, the cast was homogenized under the guido/guidette flag. These two dynamics defined the entire season. They drank, fought, and celebrated their perceived collective Italian heritage. Instead of being kicked off for coming to blows with one another and random people at bars, they united with their fists and dealt with the real-life consequences of their actions.
Granted, many of the story lines were completely lame and superficial (See: the Ronnie and Sam mellow drama , the girl who left who’s name I forget). The show clearly glamorized a lazy, hedonistic, and narcissistic lifestyle, but isn’t that what summer and the Jersey shore are all about? Seriously, there are some people on this earth that only want to go to the gym, go to the club, drink, listen to house music and hit on the opposite sex. Just because you or I might not find this fun does not mean it is wrong. Even more so, this was a TV show created for entertainment. If you’re offended, influenced or living your life through MTV’s moral compass, you have bigger problems than Pauly D’s hairstyle and red/white green back tat.
Vinnie (basketball, beach, pool!) and Snookie (or Snicks or Snickers or Snooks) were my two favorite characters, but easily the breakout star was Mike aka “The Situation.” If I were a gender studies major, I could devote four years and a masters dissertation to him based solely on eight episodes. Vain, yet insecure. Caring, but selfish. Creepy and calculating. You know. You’ve experienced The Situation. He became a parody of himself after five minutes on television yet everyone loves the guy. He certainly does not lack confidence or charm.
Some people were outraged with the Snookie punch and negative portrayal of Italian-Americans. I say we need to look beyond all the headlines. Aside from all the bullshit, these people genuinely liked each other and bonded over their weeks at the shore. They acted more like a family than anything else. Sure they fought but they also laughed and worked and ate together daily. Sure there was unnecessary drama, but in the end they all came together and embraced their experience. It was summer at the shore and no one expected anything beyond that.
On Jersey Shore,we got the sense that we were watching something new and exciting for the first time. This was a glimpse into a world that most of American didn’t even know existed. While 90% of the time the audience was laughing at them, not with them, the cast didn’t seem jaded or influenced or fake. The cast knew they were being filmed, but there’s no way they could have anticipated the show would be as popular as it has become, eventually making them celebrities overnight. Watching Jersey Shore is comparable the to the first season of The Real World. It was fresh, and different and untainted. Now that the blueprint is out there, whatever comes next will ultimately be influenced by everything that has happened since last summer.
Wherever the show and cast go from here (hosting parties for 10K?), it will never be the same. Now the money and the fame and the haters and the impersonators are all out there. I honestly don’t think you can bring back the show or the cast. There’s too much outside influence now. Whether the same cast returns or a new cast enters or the same cast goes to a different location, the resulting show won’t be the same as the Jersey Shore we’ve come to love over this past season. Like Mike says, “We have a situation!”