I failed to maintain my original plan of posting once a week, mainly because I skipped my Sociology class last Thursday, and that’s pretty much when I write these. However, for the sake of attendance this endeavor of mine putters on.
Anybody not heard about the Jersey Shore? I hated this show when I heard about it, I figured it was just another piece of MTV trash that taps into some superficial characteristic of pop culture and squeezes out as much money as it possibly can while yet again bastardizing and dumbing down the mainstream United States. But I have to admit that when the first episode was over I started watching the next one without even realizing what I was doing. Jersey Shore involves intensely one-dimensional characters, and I’m not saying that as an attack against the cast itself. I understand the practice of reality TV shows of manufacturing identities and constantly reinforce such identities for its entire cast. Therefore, although I definitely would agree that the cast doesn’t consist of the most brilliant individuals in the world, I don’t want to seem like I’m bashing them too much, it seems they’re getting enough of that already. So why is it so addicting watching a group of tanned, juiced up, greased up people get drunk, fight and hookup other than for the obvious just mentioned reasons of course.
For me Jersey Shore is a breath of fresh air from life. We live in a shady confusing world where every single human interaction brings layers upon layers of underlying tension, ulterior motives, communicative disconnect. The person who smiles and laughs the most, probably cries the most at night. Card often writes of how you can never truly know another person and why they do what they do. You can conjecture, but it ultimately falls short, since most people don’t even know themselves enough to determine motive and intention. My Buddhism professor once told us about acrasia, which is when someone behaves directly against their own judgment. In an extreme case it is when someone looks at a line of cocaine and says this will ruin my life, and than lowering their head. It represents a disconnect between the part of the brain that contains the intellect and the part that determines behavior. It’s the difference between knowing and understanding. I know that if I turned the computer off and just read all of my work I’ll probably get all A’s, but while I’m telling this to myself my fingers are typing in y-o-u-t-u-b-e without even realizing it. It’s why even though I know there are no such things as ghosts, monsters or demons I can’t sleep without my back to the wall because I feel something rising up behind me. Even though I know I’m the only one in my room I still run to the bed right after turning off the light. We live in a world of masks and lies. Whether it be person to person or to oneself.
Not so with the Jersey Shore. While everyone else has hundreds of dimensions to them, the manufactured characters have only one. Everyone knows what the Situation’s looking for when his head starts turning on a swivel. I assume that at one point every person has wished that they could read another person’s mind. When you watch the Jersey Shore you can do that. They are so simple that every action or decision becomes reinforcement for the audience’s preconceived determination of their identity. So when Sam gets mad at Ronnie for something idiotic, like a toe, it becomes reinforcement rather than annoyance. It reaches a point where I no longer believe that they are lying to me, as so much of the rest of TV is, but rather they are simply lying to themselves. People love having their opinions reinforces. Instead of Snookie’s little whine annoying the crap out of me, it becomes endearing, when Mike makes an ass of himself it enthralls me, when Ronnie gets riled up, it riles me up too. Jersey Shore exists as the antithesis to the Heroes, the Grey’s Anatomies, the Losts of our TV generation that capitalizes on the complexity of its characters in a very cerebral way.
On another level, the Jersey Shore is the manifestation of all of our desires that we understand are immature and superficial, but we still hold inside. I’m not that different from them: I use the strongest gel I’m willing to pay for (level 10), freshmen year of college when I was working out and running every day I wore the smallest shirts I could find. Actually let me rephrase that, I am very different from them, but not as much as I would like to believe.
Ultimately, you won’t learn any universal truths or profound philosophies of life by watching the Jersey Shore. You can however, allow yourself to enjoy yourself a bit and let go for a little while of all the crap that comes with living as a part of society.