Funny thing, the world was supposed to end yesterday. I thought the apocalypse may postpone my defense of Jersey Shore, so I waited, hoping for the fall of society… heh heh. Now, since the show just wrapped up, I feel obligated to talk about it. So I’m kinda stuck. And scared. The end of my world is nigh.
But let’s feel our way through this. Ew, feeling my way through Jersey Shore… the mental images…
Justin, it’s okay. They can’t hurt you. Jersey Shore is over now, and you’re speaking in complete retrospect. It’s not even a big deal anymore… actually, you’re kinda woefully behind the times. Why don’t you defend something that’s actually relevant, like Madonna or decorative yard inflatables?
Ah mental straw man, that is where you are quite wrong (as straw men frequently are, unless you’re a spineless orator). Like Snooki revealing her lady parts in a conga line, Jersey Shore reveals more about our culture than we ever wanted to know, ever.
Any good story needs a bad guy. Someone who embodies the evils of the world, some entity that showcases the opposite of our morality. We can largely agree that shallow, promiscuous, lewd, arrogant, lazy, self-absorbed, vain, petty people are in stark contrast to what we perceive as “good.” Feel free to add your own adjectives.
But read that list again. Am I missing any descriptors for Jersey Shore?
So they’re not role models. No defense there.
Let’s take a different approach. Maybe they are good because they are popular? Maybe they provide a positive cultural zeitgeist when talked about outside the show? Is that redeeming?
Well actually, that’s another negative point in their tally. As Cracked writer David Wong writes in a 2011 retrospective, “The Jersey Shore cast members are the highest grade of villain — the kind who are objectively repulsive, yet have enormous popular support from … somebody.” The notoriety makes us hate them more.
So they are bad, rich and incomprehensibly popular. That’s all slurried together into a… vomit cocktail… of hate, or something. Give me a break, I was hoping for an apocalypse.
They have power and influence without positive merit, and we loathe them for it. We also loathe the fans who continue to give them that power. This show was, has been, and will be surrounded by hatred for all time.
So… what redeems them? Well, they willingly became our society’s benchmark for terrible television. That’s something, right?
Jersey Shore is the perfect villain for our era. They give us easy jokes and common foes, spawning Twitter feeds and hate speech. We rely on such mockery. And they did it all for fame and money (yet another negative point for them). They are important to our culture today, not for goodness, but for… something else.
I can’t say it better than Cracked. “We get to first revel in how much better we are than the shrieking, drunken Snooki, and then congratulate ourselves a second time for being better than the millions of adoring, approving fans that we imagine Snooki must have.”
Jersey Shore is bad, and we’ve taken that for granted. The cast members flash their genitals and vomit on the beach because we need a lowest common denominator. They are purposefully reprehensible because we need them to be. Not just the fans, not just the network. All of us. We needed Jersey Shore. And if the world had just ended like it was supposed to, I could’ve gone to my grave without saying that.
But looking beyond the rapture, what can we rely on now? What truly reprehensible show do we have to replace it?
TLC spawned Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, but the chubby little trailer queen doesn’t have the same unifying power as the orange denizens of the East coast. The Boo Boo family has some redeeming qualities, mostly in that they don’t pose for the cameras. Being yourself when people hate your lifestyle is… kinda neat.
Jersey Shore has… friendship? Maybe? Love for family, I suppose? I really don’t know. In any case, this is not like Honey Boo Boo. Here, the major draw resides in manufactured misdemeanors. Put simply, Jersey Shore is obviously false. But there is value in falseness too.
The redeeming quality lies not in the show itself, but in the fact that these people have been our villains for 4 years. That is six seasons of escalating hijinks, six seasons of drunkenness and debauchery, six seasons of fulfilling our need to have something to mock. The Jersey Shore gang sacrificed their dignity to become our villains. On the week of their conclusion, that is worth celebrating… I suppose.
I can’t believe I had to say that.