Ponder, if you will, Jersey Shore. What pops into your mind? Fake tans? Jolly good fun? The decline of American society as a whole? Did I ruin your day by simply mentioning the program? No matter which way you spin it, there’s no denying that the show has become a wayward phenomenon – a cultural milestone of the prescription drug generation. Congratulations, America. A 4’10? manicured Ewok with a weave now makes more than your average neighborhood pediatrician!
However, reader, think carefully before you cast your stones. Jersey Shore may glamorize alcoholism, violence, melanoma, terrible hairstyles, unnecessarily furry boots, poor bathroom habits, a general disregard for manners, and diseases that cause one to itch in highly unpleasant places, but is it really so different from some things that we consider classics?
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to high school English class. Surely you read The Great Gatsby. You at least PRETENDED to read The Great Gatsby. In fact, you probably have it listed as one of your favorite books on Facebook. First of all, liar. Second of all, consider Jay Gatsby, title character extraordinaire. Consider his many shirts. Consider his dubious back-story. Consider the fountain of debauchery that flowed from his estate like the Styx leading into hell. Let’s make a quick comparative study between Jay and Jerz:
Social Activity of Choice
The Great Gatsby: Drinking copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, dancing, golf, lying around, lover’s quarrels
Jersey Shore: Drinking copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, gym/tan/laundry (often referred to as “GTL”), dancing, lying around, lover’s quarrels
The Great Gatsby: Principally a new money mansion in which everyone gets drunk
Jersey Shore: Shorehouse or condominium in which everyone gets drunk
Male’s Preferred Clothing Item
The Great Gatsby: A plethora of different-colored shirts
Jersey Shore: A plethora of Ed Hardy t-shirts
Affectionate Nickname of Choice
The Great Gatsby: Old sport
Jersey Shore: My dude; bro/brah
Role of the Female
The Great Gatsby: Drinking too much, driving poorly, causing people to die (directly – principally through auto accidents, but alcohol is also a suspect)
Jersey Shore: Drinking too much, driving poorly, causing people to die (indirectly – through alcoholism, skin cancer, and general brain failure)
Locale of Choice
The Great Gatsby: Long Island; occasionally NYC
Jersey Shore: The Jersey shore and the New York metropolitan area in general, with some time spent slumming in Italy and Florida
Trashy. Pointless. Lavish. Unnecessary. Morally empty. These are all insults hurled at Jersey Shore. But are the guidos and guidettes really that different from the debaucherous rich of yesteryear? Is it hard to picture DJ Pauly D baffled by the concept of a real book, much like F. Scott’s Owl Eyes? Imagine Sammi tearfully hurling herself face-first into a pile of Ronnie’s freshly-laundered Ed Hardy shirts after begging him to “stahp it.” One could easily see Vinnie wistfully pumping his fist toward the distant green strobe lights in Karma. And “The Situation,” snitch and scumbag in general, could at least attempt to orchestrate an illegal scheme to acquire funding for his materialistic lifestyle, just like Meyer Wolfsheim.
Perhaps MTV is positioning us as the great eyes in the sky, poised to watch, analyze, and judge the living hell out of the morally corrupt nouveau riche born of Italian loins. Perhaps MTV is using these creatures to expose the emptiness of today’s society, much like F. Scott Fitzgerald utilized the moneyed flappers and speakeasy-frequenters of a century ago. Maybe MTV is much more clever than we think. Maybe there is a logical explanation for why this monstrosity is coming back for a sixth season after all.
Or maybe it’s a giant cash cow and you should turn your TV off. For the love of God. Look what you’ve created.