Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fake Outrage About "Jersey Shore"

The Situation, DJ Pauly D, Snooki, J-Woww - recognize the nicknames? No surprise if you don’t. They’re half the cast of MTV’s latest “reality” show, Jersey Shore, and their latest escapades will air tonight at 9, as they share a summer rental house on - you guessed it - the Jersey shore.

Last spring the fake outrage was about MTV’s series College Life, where a bunch of UW-Madison kids were given cam-corders and set about documenting their excessive drinking, sexual escapades, and the usual stuff college freshmen do. Bascom Hill withdrew its support of the series early on, claiming it portrayed the world-class university in a false light.

For anybody who’s ever gone to college, it was a pretty tame series.

Now, the outrage is from certain quarters in the Italian-American community, denouncing the cast members of Jersey Shore as shallow, superficial, and in no way representative of typical young Americans of Italian descent.

They whine that Mike (“the situation”) is a misogynist, Vinny is too self-absorbed, and that Snooki and J-Woww are trashy and promiscuous. Well, I’ve seen (skimmed through via DVR) four of the five episodes out so far (under the guise of “staying current”) and I concur. But I’m neither outraged nor shocked. It’s just TV being TV.

I caught a clip of the gals on The View excoriating Jersey Shore the other day - Joy Behar whined the loudest about how the show doesn’t represent Italian-Americans. Behar was born Josephina Occhiuto, so she has plenty of Noo Yawk Italian cred, and she said Jersey Shore was trash - not like the “great art” of The Sopranos.

I’m sure the folks at MTV were crushed.

I’ve said it many, many times before: television’s default position is excess. Have you ever noticed the kind of people who are picked to participate in “reality” shows, whether it’s network fare like Survivor or The Bachelor, or cable stuff like The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Jersey Shore? Most of them are not “normal” people.

Normal is boring.

Put eight Dean’s List students in a summer rental at the Jersey Shore and you’ve got the recipe for a show that will get no ratings. Check the Facebook posts of your friends who watch The Bachelor, which started a new series earlier this week, and you’ll find a lot of people glad the airline pilot gave the wacky, needy, neurotic girl a rose - because they know she’ll make the show interesting.

Reality TV fans will never forget one of Wisconsin’s greatest contributions to the art form, namely Susan Hawk, the truck-driving lady from Waukesha, and her “rats and snakes” rant at the end of the first-ever Survivor show. And Richard Hatch, who walked around in the buff much of the time on that show.

Normal is boring.

So no, I’m not outraged about Jersey Shore, even though my wife is of Italian descent. Her family name is Zarantonello.

In fact, the show is so formulaic it’s almost boring


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