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Francesca Salvato (Thunderpants): The “Situation”: How Shows like ‘Jersey Shore’ are Corrupting Today’s Youth.

April 11, 2012

By Francesca Salvato

Team Thunderpants

 

            The reality television series Jersey Shore premiered on MTV in December of 2009, and follows the cast of “Italian American” twenty something’s in their lives of partying and drunken debauchery at the Jersey Shore. Since the show has aired it has quickly become one of America’s most watched reality series, yielding record ratings for the MTV network. The series’ cast has also been credited with introducing unique lexicon and phrases into American popular culture. The University of Chicago and the University of Oklahoma are among the educational institutions that have had classes or conferences about the show. Some of these coined phrases however have caused significant controversy within the Italian American community and sparked outrage from groups such as the Italian Defamation League and Unico National, the largest Italian organization in New Jersey, have both spoken out against the offensive use of the terms, “guido/guidette” The problem is that “guido” – slang for a working-class urban Italian-American – is widely perceived by Italian-Americans as a pejorative word, like “spic” or “wop”, and the stereotype is unflattering. Unico’s president, Andrew DiMino, said: “It’s a term used to insult us, implying we are all uneducated people without social graces.” New Jersey state senator Joseph Vitale has called on MTV’s parent corporation, Viacom, to take the show off the air. “It promotes hatred and insults women of this state,” he said. “If this were the same with African-American or Hispanic or Polish kids, there would be hell to pay.”

 

And yet the series has quickly become part of American pop culture, along with terms such as “grenade/s” being used to describe unattractive females or males usually picked up by the male cast members during drunken escapades. The term “smoosh” coined by Jersey Shore’s mascot Snooki, for sex, has also been added to the lexicon, along with the ever popular “GTL” describing the essential activity carried out by the male cast members, gym, tan, laundry. The show has had a huge impact on today’s youth in the way these cast members lives are depicted in the series. They are kids without responsibility, partying, getting drunk, hooking up, and being hung-over. So how is this different from what goes on on almost any college campus throughout the country? Well, for starters it isn’t being broadcast to your home every Thursday at 10 p.m. The show glamorizes the “get drunk, hook up, and hangover” party lifestyle that these cast members are taking part in, and when some young people see this they think, “Hey these guys are just like me!” and they mimic the behavior being played out on the series because it is familiar and comfortable to them.

 

So whose reality is this?

 

MTV has been one of the first networks to cast reality TV Shows, such as The Real World, Road Rules, and these shows weren’t criticized nearly as much for the effect they had on today’s youth, so why has Jersey Shore gotten such a bad wrap? Well, I don’t think its just the Jersey crew, Teen Mom, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, 16 and Pregnant, are all shows within the reality t.v. gambit that have given the impressionable youth of America a false idea of what is “normal” behavior, and even if it’s not considered “normal” it gives them a false sense of what appropriate adult behavior should be. So why watch it? This question seems to be a difficult one to answer both by fans and critics of reality television alike. Well, for starters it is entertaining isn’t is? Many people will openly admit that watching trashy reality television in some sense makes them feel better about their own lives, giving them the reassurance, “At least I’m not as bad as that!” But, when does the line between guilty pleasure and infatuation become blurred? It seems that by witnessing the use of the terms mentioned, and the constant references being made to shows like Jersey Shore, demonstrates the significant impact these shows are having on not just today’s youth, but on society and viewers of all ages. America’s obsession with reality t.v. has allowed shows like Jersey Shore to become part of our popular culture, but when it begins to shape the ideas and values of our society, in particular, the values of the youth of America, I would hope that there would be less of an emphasis on “smooshing” and “gym, tan, laundry” and more of an emphasis on education, community outreach, and not being a binge-drinker with a third grade vocabulary.

Let’s hope I’m right.

 

Sources:

Benigno, Anthony (July 28, 2010). “‘Jersey Shore’ glossary: This dictionary of terms will get you (fist) pumped for season two”. Daily News. Retrieved February 3, 2011.

Gorman, Bill (January 7, 2011). “‘Jersey Shore’ Season Premiere Draws 8.45 Million Viewers; 4.2 Adults 18-49 Rating”. TVbytheNumbers.com. Retrieved January 7, 2011.

“MTV GREENLIGHTS SEASON FOUR OF ITS RECORD-BREAKING SERIES “Jersey Shore”” (Press release). MTV via tvbythenumbers.com. January 25, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2011.

 Pilkington, Ed “Italian-Americans hit back at Jersey Shore’s use of the word ‘guido’ MTV in hot water over reality TV show’s depiction of loud-mouthed stereotypes” The Observer,  Web article Jan 2010.

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9 Comments
  1. Jason Wolkon permalink

    While I haven’t watched too much of Jersey Shore, it’s cultural impacts have become a big part of todays pop culture. I agree that if there was a show like this that portrayed a different racial group, such as African-Americans or Hispanics there would be a bigger outcry and movement to cancel the show (at least hopefully). Jersey Shore’s impact on todays pop cultue has become overwhelming, with ads on tv, t-shirts, and the stereotypical catch phrases that come from the show. As we learned in class, television has become a very popular outlet for texts that come to define and comment on our culture, and we must step back and analyze the impacts of all these texts, especially Jersey Shore. Supporters may argue that Jersey Shore and other television programs are merely meant for entertainment purposes; while Jersey Shore may be considered entertaining for some, there are deeper implications and the bigger picture must be considered here.

  2. Audrey Manning permalink

    I am ashamed to admit that I do watch Jersey Shore when it’s on. However, I think that some of the episodes I saw recently may have turned me off from the show entirely. As a female, I was astounded by the way Paulie and Mike treated the women they brought home. In the event their dates weren’t “DTF” (look it up if you need to!), the men would blatantly announce their disinterest, call a cab, and kick them to the curb. I felt mortified FOR these women, and even angry that none of them stood up to this misogynistic behavior.

    It is undeniable that the guilty pleasure we call “reality television” is perpetuating a patriarchal, racist, and generally immoral social. But some of them are fun to watch, just because of their sheer ridiculousness. But as this blog reaffirms, television’s images are not received passively; instead they will be absorbed and interpreted by the viewers. With that being said, it is a frightening thought to imagine a world full of children who idolize Snooki and The Situation. But what is the solution, and is it realistic?

  3. Leah Moskowitz permalink

    After reading your blog on the Jersey Shore I completely agree. Being half Italian myself, my mom completely discouraged us from watching the show. She won’t even let us use the world guido/guidette. She asked me why I would want to watch a show that belittled my people and my heritage. I often dismissed her but as the seasons progressed I know exactly why she discouraged us from watching these shows. Jersey Shore produced and is still producing a huge culture. When it first came out everyone was repeating the phrase “GTL” people were having parties that were Jersey shore themed, poofing their hair, as well as loading on the bronzer and attempting to dress like the cast of the Jersey Shore. Not to mention the goal was to “black out” and “hook up” like the Jersey Shore cast. As stated in the blog, the show promotes unrealistic images as well as inappropriate role model for the teenage youth of America. MTV should think again before they attempt to promote this “trash” on TV.

  4. Michael Budhram

    Jersey Shore is such an insufferable television show; however it has become a pop culture phenomenon in that it has attracted a large, diverse audience while portraying negative messages in terms of how to treat women and how racial disparities are supported. The reason why we are attracted to reality television shows is the same reason why people love television. It provides an escape from the stress of daily living. And with reality shows, they provide situations that create a lot of drama and conflict because it is absent from our own lives. It fulfills this idea seen in social comparison theory, where people alter their own behaviors and thoughts based on those who surround them. The opinions of others offer accurate reflections of different situations. In downward social comparison, people compare themselves to other people’s situations in order to feel better. In this case, people think “I’m not in bad of position as that other person”. This is a self defense mechanism to not become more stressed. Another thing about reality television, they promote the male gaze, in that hegemonic structures are not questioned. In Jersey Shore, the female cast members are terribly mistreated by the male cast members, however, when it is never questioned and is chalked to “Boys will by boys”. If the female cast members were to act out, it would be seen as unusual and out of character. Intersectionality of racial and gender issues become taken advantage in order to make profit on television. If it continues to make a profit, it does not become questioned or reformatted, even if the situations are unethical or offensive. MTV has devolved from something that was a medium to express music to a reality television wasteland, ever altering the minds of young people.

  5. Jessica Crowe permalink

    I can say that I am guilty of watching reality TV especially the shows mentioned in your post. I feel that watching these shows allow for me to relax and escape from a day of stressful school work or work day. When watching these shows on TV it is hard for people to realize that the scenes are often dramatized a poor portrayal of how people should act on a daily basis.

    I must say that although I am not italian the show the jersey shore is a disgrace to the italian heritage especially when they filmed them being in Florence. I studied abroad last spring and truly wanted to blend in with the the culture there and not be viewed as an American while living there. In italy they have this theory that we are drunk loud and annoying when we go out to the bars or clubs which is true. I must say that when I went out to the clubs you could tell who the americans were and who the true italians were. The italians were nicely dressed, had one to two drinks and did not dance promiscuously like us Americans.

    I remember stumbling across an article about the view of the florence mayer and the cast coming to Florence to film the show. I believe this statement sums it up nicely, ” If you want to try to make Florence seem like a party town, you better know it isn’t so. The clash of cultures is rooted in opposing views of what it means to be “Italian.” Florence—the land of Michelangelo, Dante and Gucci—has always regarded itself as an emblem of Italian elegance and courtly etiquette.”

    With that being said The thought of being around a bunch of snooki’s all the time makes me sick to my stomach.

    the article website : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304563104576353810943734854.html

  6. Francesca Salvato permalink

    I just want to thank everyone for their responses. I think that you all had really smart things to say, that better articulated the points I originally set out to make. I really enjoyed reading what you all had to say!

  7. John Delahunt permalink

    I completely agree with your analysis of MTV’s show Jersey Shore. I watched the first three seasons but lost interest after they went to Italy. The cast members of Jersey Shore have negatively portrayed Italian Americans by bringing popularity to terms like Guido and Guidette. They glorify getting blackout drunk and hooking up with random girls in almost every episode. What is portrayed on the show happens on college campuses all over the nation. This goes along with what we have discussed in class that what is shown on t.v. is a representation of our own culture. I think it is important to remember that even though this is described as reality t.v. the cast of Jersey Shore are actors. By this I mean that they know that they are on t.v. and that their show is a big hit. So they are going to portray the type of persona that is going to get them ratings and help them stay on air and make more money. MTV supports the type of messages that are being portrayed on their show. Apparently when the crew was in Italy part of the deal with them being allowed to stay in the city of Florence was that they would not be able to served alcoholic drinks while out the clubs. Yet during the show you can clearly see them ordering “drinks” and acting intoxicated. This clearly shows that MTV realizes that glorifying binge drinking helps them keep their fan base interested in the show.

  8. I agree entirely with you reflection of the Jersey Shore. When I first watched the show, I completely hated it. I felt like in lamest terms I was losing brain cells and giving my time away to such a corrupt show. As our youth watches shows like this, they think that they world revolves around a egocentric concept to be well liked and become famous. When in fact what makes someone well liked is being themselves something that the characters in the Jersey Shore do not. As the people in the show entertain an audience by corruption, drinking, gambling and partying which is something that our new generation of students should not be focusing on? The next generation of students should focus on changing our society and bettering themselves and their education and not watching shows that deem society as corrupt.

  9. Melissa Calderon permalink

    Melissa Calderon

    As soon as I saw your was blog about Jersey Shore I wanted to know more. I have never watched the show, only seen commercials and obvious references on other TV shows. What especially comes to mind is South Park making fun of Snooki, which was a bit extreme but I guess that is the point (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmV8wlBSuCY&feature=fvst). I try to distance myself from I guess you can say “trash TV,” but I do have friends who watch it and always asked them “why?”. I never really got a good answer, maybe it does entertain them by making them feel better about themselves or secretly wanting that lifestyle. The cast of Jersey Shore’s lifestyle is glamourized and normalized, so many behaviors like you pointed out and there are so many young people who are easily inflenced and tricked. The show creates an image, using/creating stereotypes about Italians to make money. I am good with my reality TV on Food Network.

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