"What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.” – Leonardo DiCaprio, from the Inception trailer.
I’m unapologetically from the Jersey Shore, and I unapologetically love the Jersey Shore. As such, I unapologetically hate Bennys, Guidos, and Guidettes. Whatever you want to call the high maintenance, non Jersey citizens from parts up North who are fixated on their hair, their abs, and popped collars, I hate them with a fucking passion. They swarm in during the prime summer months and snatch up the alcohol, the beaches, the boardwalks, and the women. It’s no surprise why I frequent the beach with my friends at night more than during the day; and it’s not because I’m a vampire. It’s because I don’t want to be killed by the clouds of Axe, Lacoste, and whatever douchebag colognes these douchebag douchebags start to wear, douchebag. In fact, if there’s anything I hate more than Bennys, it’s Reality Television.
MSN decided to shoot their mouth off once more and run a story about how Seaside Heights is basically trying to distance themselves from the “phenomenon” that is Jersey Shore, their latest abomination in Reality Television. Interestingly enough, they make a statement that basically says that while they allowed them to film in Seaside, they didn't approve of their show per se. This could be true, but honestly it's MTV and it's a reality show. Did they think it was going to be about sunshine and puppies with modest, church going folk? No. This is MTV, and they're a classy bunch.
It didn't always used to be that way though. When MTV premiered The Real World in 1992, nobody had any idea it would spark the trend that would light the fire that would create the monster that is Reality Television. In the show’s infant years, it would be praised as a look into the reality of the twenty-somethings of the era, as well as tackling issues that were not yet widely covered in the media landscape of American culture. (One of the most prominent examples being that of the late Pedro Zamora, who would break ground by being one of the first openly gay men with AIDS to be featured on a television show at all.) Sure, The Real World eventually devolved into everything Reality Television represents nowadays, but for a brief moment in time it was exactly as it claimed...reality, on television.
It wasn’t until the introduction of Survivor in 2000 that the major American broadcast networks really started to successfully milk the reality machine, so much that it rapidly turned into a nightmare of Chayefskyian proportions through the course of the Aughts. (One could only imagine what television would be like now if the competing Game Show craze were the one to survive. Regis Philbin can only be on television for so many hours in a day, people!) Reality TV went from penetrating reality to stupid human trick showcase, and naturally every wave of devolution that occurs starts right at the point of origin. After The Real World you had Road Rules in 1995, followed by Fear in 2000, and then eventually The Osbournes in 2002. Right there, you have the progenitors for pretty much every reality trend that’s lived to this day. The Real World begot Survivor, Road Rules begot The Amazing Race, Fear begot Ghost Hunters, and The Osbournes begot any show with second rate celebrities pretending to be relevant and quirky. Thanks to MTV, the face of modern Reality Television was defined, and it was as ugly as Jenny McCarthy’s medical degree.
If the most resilient parasite is an idea, then the idea of Reality Television has to be the most damaging parasite to our modern discourse. This vapid idiocy has promoted a cult of personality where you don’t even have to do anything to be famous! You don’t need a skill, or a talent, or a gimmick, all you need is some indecent exposure and/or an extreme want for attention (which is almost always inversely correlated to the subject’s IQ) and you’re in. What’s Kim Kardashian known for, besides being a Bruce Jenner ejaculation? What are Spencer and Heidi known for, other than just being stupid wastes of space? What’s Paris Hilton’s stock in trade, besides idiocy and bedroom antics? These people have nothing in their lives worth filming, but since we’ve become a nation who lives vicariously through E! Entertainment, Us Weekly, and People Magazine; it’s basically become accepted that Reality shows are much more fun when you cast the stupid people. These people have become idols and role models to the unintelligent masses who want to become rich and famous without having to bat an eye. They want it all and they want it so bad they’ll stoop to any level, sleep with any stooge, and do whatever substance is put in front of them so they can become the next success story.
And it’s not always the contestants that cash in on it either. After the incident where Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi was punched out at The Beachcomber Bar; the manager, Mike Carbone, was quoted as saying, "some people are like, 'Oh, my God, look how dumb this makes New Jersey look,' but it's not even a show about New Jersey. It's about people who come down to the Jersey shore.” I think Mr. Carbone is trying to score some brownie points with New Jersey, while at the same time you damn well know he’s going to advertise that his bar was the place it all went down. Which is sadly going to be something us Jerseyians are going to have to deal with, because so many Shore businesses are going to capitalize on the Jersey Shore viewers in order to boost profits over the Summer. That's right, Mr. Carbone; go ahead and make some money off the dumb people, while drawing more of the ones who don't understand mockery over to your place of business.
Answer me this: why would you call the show “Jersey Shore” if it isn’t about the Jersey Shore? Why not call it, “Guido’s Paradise”, or “The Invasion of the Jersey Shore”, or maybe even the often quoted, “Bennys Go Home”? Honestly Mr. Carbone, wouldn’t you taking offense to a show being called “Carbone is a Douchebag”, and it’s a show about ins and outs of The Beachcomber Bar? Just because it’s not thematically about the Jersey Shore doesn’t mean they’re off the hook. Titles are supposed to encapsulate the feeling of the show and its content. If it’s not about the Jersey Shore, change the title.
Not to mention the title “Jersey Shore” is an even bigger misnomer when you realize, are you ready for a shock here? I mean seriously, are you ready for a big assed shock so shocking it’ll sock you in the face like a gym teacher? Ok, here it is…only one of the cast members is actually…wait for it…from New Jersey! Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola is the only “guidette” who is actually from Jersey. (Don’t believe me? Check the Wiki and hate them even more.) Really MTV? Is it THAT hard to find a guidette in New Jersey? Are we really at the level of an I Am Legend style apocalypse that guidettes are so hard to find that we have to import them all from out of state? Seriously, this just shows that naming the show “Jersey Shore” is a deceptive practice because it’s not only not about the Jersey Shore, it only features one cast member from New Jersey and she doesn’t even live on the Shore! (Last I checked, Hazlet isn’t on the shore.) It’s about unintelligent, undignified twenty-somethings from New York who are transplanted to the Jersey Shore; and in the process raise havoc amongst the locals. (How about, “They Came to the Jersey Shore!”? That’s a nice alternate title, seeing as it plays up the horror these idiots are met with when the weather warms up.)
Authenticity aside, another question that begs to be asked is how do shows like this draw such huge numbers, besides the fact that there’s a good number of stupid people on the other end of the receiver? How do people like me not only know about this but end up watching some of it and talking about it? Simple: good old fashioned Schadenfreude. With any reality show you have three groups of viewers: the ones who watch and wish they were on the screen, the ones who watch and admit it’s a ‘guilty pleasure’, and the ones who merely watch for their daily dose of ‘Well, at least my life isn’t like THAT!’. In the case of “Jersey Shore”, we watch because we love to laugh at the guidos when they claim it takes them 30 minutes to do their hair, and we love to laugh at the guidettes when they get punched out. (Quick side note: Some may say that it’s crass to derive humor from physical assault, but it’s so hard to agree with them when you know they’re probably thinking to themselves, “Bitch had it coming”. Snookie’s no angel, and seeing her laid out was probably a laugh and a half for some.) At the end of the day, their success is partially derived from the world watching them and forming their fingers into an L on their forehead while laughing at them with the other finger pointed directly at their tan lines. This makes the show useless, because if we did it in front of their faces, they’d probably get the hint and knock it the fuck off.
Which leads me to a great big suggestion for this upcoming summer, for anyone who lives on the Jersey Shore and is tired of these dipshits: I suggest we fight back. All that are against the Guido/Guidette scourge should take the battle to the boardwalks this summer. If you see one of them, laugh. Point and laugh. Ridicule the fuck out of these douchey poseurs and make them wish they never spiked their hair up that morning. Ask them if their half Oompa Loompa. Point out the ridiculous tan line they have going across their scalp. Make them wait in line behind you for funnel cake, and order the most complicated thing on the menu. Laugh whenever one of their stupid little nicknames is dropped into conversation. You say you’re “The Situation”, eh? Well meet, “The Neutralizer”, asshole; I outrank your ass!
One last thing: MTV, you suck even more at this Guido Chronicle project because someone else has beaten you to the punch. PLUS, they remembered to be creative (and accurate) with the title.