Unfashionable Nonsense: The Much Awaited Jersey Shore Column

Opinion by and
Jan. 7, 2010, 11:46 a.m.

Ovid’s number one rule of poetry is that the material must fit the meter.  Since this is a college paper in the Land of the Free, I took a little poll and direct democracy has prevailed in providing me a fitting topic, just in time for the forthcoming episode tonight: Jersey Shore.

For those living in a dungeon, Jersey Shore putatively follows the lives, loves, hot tub sessions (no bathing suit needed!) and alcohol-fueled rages of token natives of the Italian-American seaboard. The cast of characters is a motley crew. JWOWW, an orange-toned beauty, exclusively wears those shirts with the claw marks in the back. Snooki, orange-toned and shorter, I find the most fascinating, as the most self-aware: she declared on one episode: she is not “mature” enough for the program. Also, she was punched in the face by some dude, leading to an impromptu heart to heart with the entire cast. Angelina, an orange-toned girl of average height, was kicked off after she fell into a painful depression related to her boyfriend getting a divorce from his wife that was not her. Sammi “Sweetheart,” also an orange-toned girl of average height, is mainly notable for not getting punched in the face or having a married boyfriend. Also, her poofs (or is it pooves?) are not nearly as intimidating as Snooki’s; since the NY Times recently ran an article asserting that Stanford students use bikes as machines to assert our distinct identities, I feel reasonably confident about the validity of asserting that truly, the poof is what determines the character of the Jersey Girl. On the Shore, pooves and relationships are complicated, but skin tone is not.

I should also mention that there are boys, or “guidos,” on the program. Ronnie seems nice. One male cast member, according to my Wikipedia research, was once a male exotic dancer. That probably summarizes the matters of interest, since, should you ever meet a cast member, I am unconvinced that they would be particularly interesting. I have encountered washing machines that seem deeper. Indeed, the situations defying custom or common sense are the real meat of the show and the relationships that evolve during the most emotionally thrilling summer since Laguna Beach. In some sense, Jonah Goldberg says this better, though, than I. In his critique/diatribe about the show, he admits, “don’t get me wrong; it’s great television. But gladiatorial games would be great TV, too.” Of course, it’s neither here nor there that any particular gladiator be in the arena. It’s the fight that matters; and so it goes on the Shore. Ultimately, it’s absurd to ask where Snooki came from or is going; the narrative is all about the here and now. None are particularly colorful characters, but none need be.

Perhaps this is why Jersey Shore does best with people who, frankly, we perceive to have little direction in life. Anyone want to take a guess on where Snooki will be in five years? Working at a tanning salon? Picking up phones? Hosting her own reality spin-off? And, probably more fantastically for me and anyone I’ve ever watched it with, they don’t seem to feel obligated to think about their own lives this way. It’s an exotic land in which the word “career” would sound as foreign as “IHUM.” There is a delightful logical consistency to their concerns, insofar as they are principally short-sighted. Neither the characters nor MTV feel obliged to keep the word “planned” in their vocabulary. Planning, very well, could spell the end of the uncontrolled energy propelling the whole carnival of vices. Untouched by rational thought, this wild man isn’t found in the forest, but on the boardwalk. National Geographic, take note: developing a program featuring this foreign culture could prove quite lucrative.

Until then, we’ll have to rely on MTV to shock with their latest. The bizarre will always entertain and for the network that produces such masterpieces as “16 and Pregnant,” this is just another chapter in their Bible of popular diversions. Sarah Palin, take note.

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