05 August 2010
Because it was on TV: Jersey Shore and Manufactured Reality
Last week we all had the chance to enjoy the auspicious premiere of one of our Generation's Greatest Television Events, Jersey Shore. This is...okay, so I had never seen this trainwreck before last week, like most of my demographic I assumed the worst about the show and tried to ignore its existence. As more and more people seem to be watching these shitheads though I had to jump on. What I can tell you is that this television show is far far worse than anything I could have assumed.
Watching it though got me thinking about its nature. It's so obviously a fake show with artificial drama and quirky editing layered on to generate stories out of supposed "reality." It's not unlike any other contemporary reality show but still, something about Jersey Shore stands out. It's just an absolute trainwreck.
What really gets me is when the acting in a "reality" TV Show is visibly sub-par. Jersey Shore is like this. Unless Snooki, Paulie D and Ronnie really are just stilted and awkward in real-life, I have a hard time believing what we're seeing is actually transpiring in these idiots' lives. Thus it's pretty clear that whatever we are watching on television is somewhere between reality and fiction, which is actually interesting.
The manipulative nature of Reality Programming in itself tells us much of how we tend to generalise life events into stories and events. I'm actually amazed to some extent that producers and editors are able to catch a great deal of footage of someone's daily life, then chop and edit this random tape into a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end, encapsulating an episode of a season, then on a grander scale seasons within a series. What becomes of these shows then is this imparted artificiality embedded on to what is presented as reality. Pretty fucked up shit.
Jersey Shore peaks among these shows though, because it really wears its trashiness on its sleeve. The egos, vanity and materialism on constant display, not only apparent but celebrated and used as constant lifestyle validation, is mind-boggling. Not to mention they've taken back the word Guido like Rappers and Richard Pryor did with "Nigga" in the 70s and 80s. Not that it's implicitly terrible to nullify racial slurs (this can lead to a whole other topic, really), but what the hell are these guidos thinking? What's more is that this show has reached a status where although most of its viewers outwardly comprehend and acknowledge that it is a trash show, they continue to watch. It's half-kitsch, half-post-modern which has found an excellent niche in our zeitgeist. Almost every regular viewer probably hates the show and believes its people (characters?) to be just as despicable as every non-viewer. The only difference between watchers and non-watchers requires an acute meta-understanding of both the context of the show and the audience. A recognition that both the premise of the show (as well as the genre) is ridiculous with enough self-respect to also recognize that viewing the show in itself is an act of ludicrocity.
Either that or Snooki's boobs pack the viewers in.
Right then. Jersey girls aren't trash. Trash gets picked up (Buy the T-Shirt here). I can't believe the cats on this show - there is a self-conscious awareness of how low-functioning their lives are yet there is no will to change. There is no desire to ever not be who they are, which is a stunning thought to any mild-mannered suburban Kant reader. It's a full-flung force against knowledge, work and humility, destroyed by Gym, Tan and Laundry.
What becomes dangerous then is when these characters' lives are idealised as real people's lives. It becomes the end goal for many self-respecting viewers who once watched MTV for its Celebrity Jokes and Controversial Madonna videos. Dammit. That's probably overstating things but it's important to note how mental attitudes have morphed over generations. Jersey Shore is still abhorred by youg'ins, yet it's accepted into their culture instead of lurking on the perimeter. That alone is far too great of a sin to be ignored for very long. Basically, I'm a big advocate of bombing New Jersey. Oh wait...Miami now? Well, fuck LeBron anyway.
And The Situation's like 30 what the fuck is he doing with these kids?
Jersey Shore comes on tonight at the 10 spot.