Monday, February 1, 2010

Soapboxes are for the stuffy and strong-willed.

Look, when it comes to blogging, I don’t usually take on relevant current-affair topics.

I leave the insightful, world news commentary to media demi-gods like wise, fair and balanced TV politico Glenn Beck, always irreverent and in-the-know Regis Philbin, or even perhaps the fashion-forward picture of natural beauty herself Joan Rivers. These are the voices of our time, people.

But there are some important world topics that are so visible, so pervasive---that not acknowledging their presences would be like lounging on the couch flipping through the channels with tepid interest while a monster truck barrels through the living room and parks on the couch.

In this case, the monster truck topic is Jersey Shore.

**(Sorry parents whom I love dearly but happen to hail from the oft-mocked state of New Jersey. You have raised me well and never once asked me to live in NJ. For that I thank you, and remind you the following is in no way a reflection of you. I have never witnessed you fist-pumpin. You're safe.)

Now, New Jersey has long been taunted as the armpit of the nation. I imagine that when MTV producers sat back in their swivel chairs during their brainstorming meeting--tucked away in some back room of a skyscraping executive LA edifice--they were tossing around ideas for what population might be most suitable for the newest concept in reality tv viewing.

One 30-something hipster wannabe leans back and sighs loudly.

"Ok so what do we know works? What have we done in the past that was a hit? Let's let the people dictate what they want to see, shall we? Go on, fucks. Tell us."

Another exec offers,

"Well we had 'Dismissed'---the one where teenage attention whores got rejected while trying to date for money on national TV. Lord knows everyone loves judging the shit out of pathetic schmucks who think so highly of themselves as to be exposed to large scale ridicule, yet whose self respect is so lowly as to be willing to act like an assclown at the drop of a dime, for under 200 dollars. That was an affordable one by the way."

"Ok true, you're onto something. Consider the pioneer, the father of our genre! Its the basic Jerry Springer principle in action---'Thou shalt judge others so as to be reassured that there are always bigger trainwrecks out there than thouself.' Good we know who the characters are. Let's talk setting, shall we?"

"Yeah that's a problem. Where the fuck are we going to find a magical land full of people who are young but of age, attractive to someone but still judgeable and still with no standards, terribly vain yet still slutty...when we've totally tapped LA and sucked Orange County dry??"

Wait I know a place like that! I had to visit my great aunt once in New Jersey...and after a week of hearing her bleat on about her world famous ice tea recipe and the proper way to clean her parakeet's cage, I finally went berserk fled. I blacked out for a while and when I came to I found myself at some bar down at this place called Seaside Heights. It was pretty terrifying, I've never seen so much fake tan and real, genuine disillusionment. It'll be perfect, swear."

And so went the fate of the universe down a dark path; deep into a new addicting low we hadnt reached before. If, as a nation our reality tv consumption was a heavy coke habit, we just graduated to crack. I'm not absolving myself of responsibility, i'm right there with you, crack pipe in hand.

Point is, Jersey Shore has seemingly swept the pop culture nation. Evidenced by some of the following facts:

~ratings that peaking at almost 5 million viewers

~They are signed on for a new season at 10 grand an episode!!!

~Snooki went to the Grammy's

What is it about this, shall we say candid group that makes them so viewable? Beyond the Springer Principle, I mean. I get that its mostly that--watching these vapid individuals flail about on screen is nothing short of sensational. But in a weird way, they kind of start to grow on you. When you first start watching, you laugh and point at Vinny's fist-pumping display of perspiration while 'beating the music back'...but after a while he becomes a bit endearing.

And the list goes on. Snooki is less than discerning in her men choices. But somewhere beneath all the displays of pickle consumption (literal, actual pickles by the way) and nether-region exposure, there seems to be a sweet albeit misguided girl.

Jenn 'JWoww' seems to house a good heart, although its buried deep underneath a mountain range of silicon. Pauly and Mike aka 'The Situation' seem desperate to contract as many STD's as possible by conquering every female on the Shore with the right parts, yet their frat boy antics are mildly funny and entertaining a la John Belushi in Animal House.

There are more characters, but you get the point. We become invested in the drama, a common social phenomenon that represents much of our fandom. Old women with their soaps, dudes with a diehard almost gang affiliation with their sports teams. Even work water-cooler drama needs following and catching up on after you've been gone for a while.

What I'm saying is, maybe some of you are above reality tv. And by above it, I mean, strong enough to escape it's crack-like clutches. Obviously, I'm not. But chances are, you follow something else. Maybe the object of your morbid affection is less tan, less oblivious to their own idiocy---but you have invested your time in it nonetheless.

At first, I was appalled by Jersey Shore. I felt this show represented everything that's wrong with the world etcetera etcetera, insert soapbox decree here.

Instead, I consider the give-and-take of reality tv consumption one of the most interesting sociological experiments of our time. This stuff is supposed to be us, to reflect us, People! And if one argues that much of it is mutually agreed upon (a script that someone writes, and the reality tv star reads/acts out) and not exactly true and candid 'reality'...I still argue that it doesnt make it any less us. We are consuming it, therefore shaping what we want to see. We give the feedback almost 5 million strong.

Ive heard of people having Jersey Shore themed house parties. 'GTL' has become part of mainstream slang (Gym, Tan, Laundry..what the guys did with their days). I swear Snooki will get a dating show.

And I'm sure I will watch it, in spite of myself. America will watch it, despite everything the Constitution stands for, and despite what our forefathers would have wanted. I'm not saying its good, bad or ugly. Well it is kinda ugly. What I'm saying is its our choice.

We're 233 years old, damnit, and we do what we want.


  1. Brilliant. Jersey Shore, once again proving that it doesn't matter how shallow, tribial and senseless these concubines of society may be (that's right I said concubine, it's my word of the day and I've beent rying to use it all day) people will watch them, adore them, immitate them and discuss them so long as there is a camera to film and a network frivolous enough to broadcast it. Lucky for the guidos of Jersey, standards in television were erased sometime between Paris's BFF and Frank's Basement (I hate that I've heard of that show)

  2. Time for a follow up post on season 2.. you know you want to.. just do it already.