Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Boxed In, with Regina Nigro: Nancy Franklin is Probably Excluded from Chicken Cutlet Night

SOMETHING PECULIARAt the end of her New Yorker piece on the Jersey Shore phenomenon, Nancy Franklin (basically) concludes: "this reality television show is kind of trashy!" Yes, Nancy Franklin, it is trashy. It is the latest in a long line of reality series designed to showcase some of the worst-and most entertaining-aspects of human nature. And Franklin is the latest in a long line of critics and viewers to notice that these Jersey Shore people are kind of weird with their questionable aesthetic choices and their odd vernacular and also, they drink and go out dancing and occasionally mack on each other!

Unfortunately, Franklin's piece, though it epitomizes the collective horror Jersey Shore has provoked, fails to go beyond stating the obvious and, worse, fails to articulate why Jersey Shore is so much more of an assault on our senses than a show like The Hills or Rock of Love (which, in its third season, featured one contestant drinking a shot out of another woman's vagina). I've begun to wonder how much of the lingering disgust cultural critics cough up on the page is not an objection to the violence-which has become a staple in a show that has so far aired only six episodes-but an aversion to this particular ethnic subculture.

I mean, sure, even I, as an Italian lady, have no interest in seeing the inside of a tanning bed or "battling" or dissertating endlessly on the correlation between my Italianness and my awesomeness, but once you've accepted the Jersey Shore reality, how long can you keep harping on how these people are so astonishing (and sometimes adorable!) with their "different" conception of the world?

The Jersey Shore cast members define themselves by their ethnicity, participating in a self-validating subculture; people who reject that subculture take pleasure, in Franklin's (accurate) view, in recognizing how foreign that subculture is to them. Is one act of self-definition less annoyingly superior than the other? You don't tan, have no interest in clubbing and working out and getting your nails (silk wraps or acrylics!) black-French manicured? You might not belong in the Jersey Shore world. You might, if you are a young New Yorker who keeps her nails short and thinks about Serious Things and blogs about New Yorker articles, be as much of a curiosity to these people as they are to you. We (I) laugh at bon mots like "You don't even look Italian!" (the insult that Sammi "Sweetheart" flings at the blonde blue-eyed "grenade," who must have a Ph.D in cockblocking) but, ridiculous as it is, that assessment betrays a value system: Skinny blonde pale WASP princesses are deemed not attractive when measured by the JS aesthetic. And this seems curious and laughable to us.

"You don't even look Italian!" is crazy funny but is the underlying judgment (dark hair/olive skin/Italian-looking = pretty; the inverse = not pretty) any worse than any other standard of beauty? It's an alternative perspective, one that I suspect is so funny partly because it is so unfamiliar.

Franklin herself calls Snooki "very peculiar" but: is she? Snooki is a 22-year-old who likes to drink, party and hook up. She is obviously deeply insecure (no surprise: she is a pudgy girl who is all of 4'9) and she copes with that insecurity by acting out, doing flips and cartwheels on the dancefloor-probably so people will say "who is that crazy girl?" instead of saying "who is that midget?" or "who's the fat chick?" or ignoring her entirely. So, Nancy Franklin has never met a 22-year-old who drinks, gets sloppy, is down to fuck and wants to be the center of attention because she is plagued by insecurity. I question whether Nancy Franklin has met any 22-year-olds at all.

But of course Franklin means Snooki is peculiar because she is orange, she likes "Guido juiceheads" and has preferences that are hilariously invalid because they just aren't acceptable to Franklin. MTV has succeeded, Franklin says, in making "us feel as though we were anthropologists secretly observing a new tribe through a break in the trees," except "anthropological study" is just code for "watching unfamiliar practices, which are therefore Strange." And the New Yorker illustration helpfully nails this point by featuring the cast behind zoo-exhibit glass. Which would be totally cool! If this were the 19th century. But right now, it feels kind of like an icky fetishization of difference to which a WASP-y Olympic-level douchetool like Spencer Pratt will never be subject.

But! Maybe Franklin will leave us with something more illuminating than "GROSS!" Here's her final line, commenting on the skeezy Jacuzzi-as-seduction method:

As such, [the Jacuzzi] fits right in, being both of Italian-American descent and an embarrassing reality-show cliché.

This is fun and snappy, but is it noting correlation or establishing causation? Does it intend to do one and, in effect, do both? Let's see: As such, [Nancy Franklin] fits right in [in intellectual circles], being both a reviewer for the New Yorker and possessing a very peculiar sense of cultural authority. Fair?

Regina Nigro is a writer and editor. She is Italian, embarrassing and clichéd.

114 Comments / Post A Comment

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

This article is so awesome I almost want to watch this (reputedly) terrible reality show. I am an Italian who does not like preppy WASPs! Maybe I will see myself in these characters!

(I won't.)

Oh, it is terrible! But it is so, so good.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I think she's just confused that all those explosions she keeps mentioning haven't occurred while the cast are starting their cars.

mathnet (#27)


And I don't watch the show either.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Sweet Christ, where is the meta-enabling tag?! Also, is it meta-enabling when a piece meta-enables a piece that was already meta-enabling?

You meta believe it!

Too many words spilled over a conflicting tv show that takes place too far away. Your nickname, however, is a true anthropological curiosity that, at once, celebrates the jelly donut and derides it.

To be fair, the "grenade" was deemed unattractive not because she wasn't Italian-looking, but because she was, indeed, not very attractive.

sigerson (#179)

You talkin' about Freckles McGee? If so, I have to disagree. She is so not busted.

The "grenade launcher/hippo", on the other hand, is a bit of a big sloppy mess.

I don't think she is physically ugly. It's the way she presents herself and her personality. She hangs out with the pretty girl so she can catch the rejects. Then she gets all hostile when they are not interested. Yet she hasn't even bothered compete by dressing up or putting on make-up. Which is a pretty lazy thing to do.

It's definitely mainly the way she presents herself, yes. But man, the way she presents herself is really ugly.

spanish bombs (#562)

I'm a guy. She was not attractive.

sunnyciegos (#551)

I've watched it. It's really no different than the worst of the Real World.

Nancy Franklin's writing on comedy makes me itchy. She tries hard.

belltolls (#184)

I don't think Nancy Franklin can really comment on this until she has been in the hot tub with The Situation.

Nancy Franklin is just lucky that, since Alessandra Stanley is perpetually and incontestably THE WORST, she can only ever be SECOND WORST. I wrote something about this last year; in 2006, Nancy Franklin reviewed no reality shows; in 2007, she reviewed no reality shows; in 2008, she reviewed two reality shows (a snobby, condescending pan of The Hills and an actually kind of interesting review of whatever "Oprah's Big Give" was); in 2009, she reviewed no reality shows. You know, I get that it's the New Yorker and so maybe there is "a certain image" that would be tarnished by her giving a real, fair shake to a superficial reality show (although that doesn't seem to stop SFJ from writing about some ridic-ass shit), but to be a critic for a major publication who doesn't really engage at all with dominant paradigm of the medium that she's criticizing? That's just fucking ridiculous. HATE YOU, NANCY FRANKLIN.

I'm curious what this phrase "doesn't really engage at all with the dominant paradigm of the medium" means?
(Not that I'm looking to disagree with you, mind! Just curious.)

metoometoo (#230)

Pretty sure it means that since she is obviously not interested in or appreciative of reality television, she's probably not particularly qualified to write about it.

I don't know, I just mean that in this past decade, reality TV dominated scripted dramas and sitcoms in terms of ratings, pop cultural relevance, and just the breadth of shows being produced (I can't source that, it is just a vibe thing, you know?). I'm not saying Nancy Franklin has to like reality TV, I just think it's a little crazy that she doesn't even force herself to respond to it at all except these three times in four years. Whether you like it or not, reality TV is a lot more important than that, and for a major television critic to consider herself so above it is, to me, wrong.

(thank you for adding the "the" to my comment, that was driving me crazy)

Ha! I actually didn't even realize the "the" was missing.

And thanks. I guess I was reading it as implying that there was a dominant paradigm that you were positing within reality teevee itself (which is an interesting topic, I think!), rather than the fact that reality teevee has itself become dominant on the telly. (And that is also something I agree with!)

Guess who needs to learn to parse? This girl!

LesBeFriends (#2,786)

I LOVE Nancy Franklin. And I'm GLAD she mostly writes about the smart shows that are out there. It's too common for snarky teevee reviewers to take a totally laughable reality show and just, you know, laugh at it, and call it criticism (Troy Patterson, I am looking at you, though with love).

Patrick M (#404)

Buuuut she almost never provides anything that the info button on my remote can't do. Like she's so out of touch with the medium (or thinks her readers are) that she spends all of her energy summing up the show's premise and then has no energy left to any thinking about it. She makes me really mad, and I love everybody.

ericdeamer (#945)

Troy Patterson is great and that is far from what he does.

LesBeFriends (#2,786)

Hoarders, Jersey Shore, Gordon Ramsey: Cookalong Live, Alice, The Suite Life on Deck, some show I never heard of called The City. These are the last seven shows TP has reviewed at Slate. He's the anti-Franklin!

katiebakes (#32)

ericdeamer speaks eternal truths!! Love you Troy!


Tulletilsynet (#333)

I don't know. Imagine if there was a certain new electronic medium and it started off with reasonably high hopes but always seemed faintly ridiculous, and many people suspected that it was turning all of human social and intellectual life into a vast circle jerk. But no one knew that for sure … And then one day somebody finally said, Let's just give up all pretence; let's play a huge practical joke on our viewers and call it "reality" (because it's a handy way of demonstrating that reality does not even exist), and let's make a gazillion dollars (and also even get taken seriously by some tools).

What is the proper response of the critic to the imaginary situation just described? Is journalism equal to such a challenge?

Rw (#1,458)

down to fuck… I think I'm falling in love with a Nigro. This was a good piece btw. Cultural tourism is basically the only thing we have left for reality television and the great thing about reality television is that it attracts stereotypes who are always fun/sad/depressing/sad to watch. B.E.T helped me transcend being embarrassed for my people to being embarrassed for the human race, Jersey shore will bring italians to that light.

Regina Small (#2,468)

Wait, is writing about reality television "meta-enabling"? Is watching reality television "meta-enabling"? I think my understanding of this new (and also maybe a little fake?) term is different than yours.

Regina Small (#2,468)

I also have a different understanding of the REPLY FUNCTION than Abe does.

Abe Sauer (#148)

But I know how to use my down arrow. Anyway, ""writing about lowbrow things in a highbrow way to get the pageviews without sacrificing the high-end ads or self-regard." That's meta-enabling. Now, is the New Yorker writing about Jersey Shore isn't the epitome of that definition then I'm not sure what is (where "page-views" for the NYer is "not skipping it to go to the fil review.") And then reviewing a meta-enabling article would itself be some form of this unless it's a double negative and it all goes back to zero.

Regina Small (#2,468)

What if you just really really enjoy writing about lowbrow things in a highbrow way or highbrow things in a lowbrow way, with no regard for pageviews? Is that a thing?

Abe Sauer (#148)

ha ha ha. "no regard for pageviews." You're adorable.

conklin (#364)

And I think it's adorable that you, Abe, think there's enough money in any of the page views generated by highbrow writing, regardless of the topic, to make it a worthwhile exercise to criticize someone's motives in writing about a particular topic.

I mean, in choosing to write about Jersey Shore instead of, whatever, Mad Men again or something, how many extra page views do you think The New Yorker generated? Let's be generous and say 20,000 over and above an average TV review for typical New Yorker fare. (I'd guess not this much, but I'm making your best case. But seriously, it's not like it's some big exclusive and its not like there's a shortage of Jersey Shore opinions out there.) So if they get $15 CPM combined across all units on the page (that's probably close to their rate card, and far from what they get, but again, your best case) that's $300 extra bucks. Si will be thrilled.

Oh, and people (highbrow writers) tend to overvalue highbrow audiences. Advertisers don't find them that attractive. A large part of that is because cultural products that appeal to highbrow audiences don't have much in the way of advertising budgets anyway. And the audiences themselves of true highbrow internet writing don't have much money, probably because they're all waiting for their own highbrow writing to generate some cash.

Not that I'm judging. I live in a shack in semi-rural North Carolina and am considering pursuing an MFA. HA!

In conclusion, I think my eyeballs are very valuable, and I'm happy to point them at the Awl, despite not having any money to give to American Apparel. But as soon as I find some people like me to read me I'll write a brilliant treatise on shows where people lose weight, and I'll get a headband.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I think that it's adorable that you, conklin, think that after ^THAT^, you think might need an MFA.

metoometoo (#230)

"So "Jersey Shore" is itself an amusement on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights, a Ferris wheel of quotation marks, and yet it really isn't fun to watch."

WRONG! It is fun to watch, and also fascinating, and not just in a fetishizing/anthropological kind of way. It's fun and fascinating to because the cast is made up of people who are willing and able to display their naturally silly, over the top personalities and antics for our amusement, without much concern for how they will be judged or how they might present themselves more flatteringly. They might be trashy, but they are also fun and funny and authentic and genuinely likable.

Also, I think Snooki is really interesting because she was born in Chile and was adopted by a (presumably) Italian family, and is now very vocal about her passion for Italian-ness. I would love to learn more about her background and her relationship with her family.

Rw (#1,458)

"authentic" not sure that anyone on a reality show can claim this, shit it's difficult to pull off just being yourself let alone have someone judge you on how much of yourself you are being… and Snooky would be the essence of inauthentic being Chilean and all, and this fact, after you put it the way you did, really creeps me out about her.

metoometoo (#230)

She may be a phony, but on the other hand, she's a real phony, because she honestly believes all this phony junk that she believes.

She might be an Italian descendant. I know some Argentinians who are.

"Nearly two-thirds of Italian descendants live in South America (primarily Brazil and Argentina)."


crookedE (#1,817)

agree! My affection for them has gone from ironic to genuine. Except The Situation, of course, who is kind of a douche.

ericdeamer (#945)

Snookie is likable and cute, like in a totally non-carnal way. She looks like an anime character or something.

djfreshie (#875)

The whole thing is SUPER FASCINATING. Reality television is never just about the people on it. Obviously. Because we (should) all know by now these things are products of the editing room floor. We're not in any way 'Cultural Tourists' we're just audiences wathcing a show for chrissakes, like any other show that has been produced with a particular story arc and characters in mind. Does anyone actually think Bret Michaels, or Flava Flav, or the Bachelorettes pick who they get to give Roses to? Producers people, please. Producers have the say on everything because it's their show. Padma may get to say it out loud, but we (should) all know by now Tom Collichio picks all the top chefs.

Anyways these characters are incredibly interesting, all of them. That she wrote the article about those people, demonstrates that there is something worth discussing. People have a hard time recognizing that it is fiction I think. That it's fiction is what makes it so great! If we watched Snooki 24/7 I'll bet she would bore everyone to tears.

lempha (#581)

Nancy Franklin has one good point that is actually relevant and even attempts to engage with the show earnestly–because Lord knows we do actually know a lot about, for example, Lauren Conrad–"Even now, I know almost nothing about Mike, Pauly D, Snooki, and the rest of them." Wish we could have read that essay.

katiebakes (#32)

Vinny : Jersey Shore :: Jay : Real World London.

You know?

Regina Small (#2,468)

Wow. Yes. Although I think it's probably more like Vinny : Jersey Shore :: entire cast (except maybe Neil?) : Real World London.

katiebakes (#32)

Jacinda Barrett was in that movie with Zach Braff!

TRUE STORY: Jay was in Mr. Holland's Opus with a walk on role. And I rewinded it several times because I loved him.

Miss u, Neil.

HelloTitty (#830)

Time has treated him better than I would have predicted.

HiredGoons (#603)

I don't find the particular appeal in this show.

I'm not saying it's bad, it's probably awesome. It's just that these people could easily be my cousins and their friends, so the novelty was never there. It's sort of painful for me to watch it.

And yes, they love me, but they also act like I'm from outer space.

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: 'Chicken Cutlet" should read 'Chicken Parm.'

hockeymom (#143)

Every single one of my cousins has that gelled hair thing going on. I don't find it that exotic.

OMG. breaking! my daughter just came home and announced she joined "ukelele club". She looks like a 9 year old version of Tiny Tim.

I'm laughing very hard.

HiredGoons (#603)

You're daughter sounds AWESOME.

Tiny Tim the singer, not the Dickensian Tiny Tim I'm assuming. I mean, either one would be rad.

Mindpowered (#948)

The Dickensian Tiny Tim playing the ukelele would be far too much awesomeness.

rj77 (#210)

I'm not saying it's bad, it's probably awesome. It's just that these people could easily be my cousins and their friends, so the novelty was never there. It's sort of painful for me to watch it.

This is why I never watched Cops. With that many drunken rednecks causing a ruckus there's bound to be a relative of mine on there being dragged away in cuffs.

hockeymom (#143)

Spencer Pratt is the worst thing released into the world by the Pandora's box that is reality TV.
That is all.

Dave Bry (#422)

I watched an episode. Because I have friends who I think are good smart people who told me it was a good show. "Fun," they said. And "compelling." They insist there's something more to enjoy than watching dumb people behave poorly. Something other than car-wreck titillation. But I don't know, from what I saw, it was dumb people being dumb. But worse than that, it was dumb people being dumb and mean. I did not find it fun to watch. But, hey, obviously lots of people do. I guess there's nothing inherently wrong with enjoying watching dumb people be dumb and mean to one another. Car wrecks are interesting, along with being horrible. That's why there's traffic jams. But people should be honest about what it is they're enjoying. (I think maybe my good smart friends are confused!) Yuck. I'm sounding a little up-on-a-high-horse here. And maybe I'm wrong. i only watched one episode. But I've watched other shows like this, ones that only differ maybe in degree of gleeful trashiness. And I think it's hard to argue that these shows are not exploitative. If only of people's strange and passionate, passionate desire to be on TV.

Dave Bry (#422)

Oh. Also, the folks on Jersey Shore are not that different from lots of people I grew up around. On the Jersey Shore.

Did you have an IROC?

Dave Bry (#422)

No. But it would have been turquoise if I did. And there were a lot of them around. One of the best car names ever. They should have come out with an I-Qan't-Drive-55.

IROCs, Firebirds, Mustang GTs and the occasional Corvette ruled back when I used to skip school and head "down the shore." Haha Yay Jersey shore reminiscing.

Rumor around town says you mighht be thinkin' 'bout goin' down to
the shore.

Uh, yeah, I think I'm gonna go down to thhe shore.

…How you gettin' down to the shore?

Funny you should ask, I've got a car now..

Ah wow, how'd ya get a car?

Oh, my folks drove it up here from the Bahamas.

You're kidding!

I must be, the Bahamas are islands. Okay, the important thing here is
that, uh, you ask me what kinda car it is.

Uh uh, what kinda car do ya' got?

Dave Bry (#422)

Bitchin' Camero.

And I just ran over my neighbor, Snookie.

At the risk of also sounding high-horse-y (though I will cop to having watched every episode – AND the "extras" on mtv.com!), I don't think it's entirely accurate to call this show "exploitative" if the kind of behavior that the producers are interested in showcasing and capitalizing on is exactly the same behavior that the "cast" is actually proud of. (Whew! That was all 1 sentence. Sorries!)

That is, if it appeared that the producers were in any way "spinning" these folks' behavior, rather than simply allowing their natural jack-assery to flourish, the show would be much more worthy of the scorn that critics are so quick shower it with.

belltolls (#184)

I think there is a reason for that and it is origin of this "Shore" idea. "Jersey Shore' may be "reality" television but it is also very close to the documentary which may have been the its inspiration –(see MTV Real Life "I Have A Summer Share" which was disturbing and sad and profound.)

Oooh, good point, bell!

Abe Sauer (#148)

mmmmmmmmmm. Let's say this show was call "The Rez" and was set on a tribal town and ONLY (key being ONLY) featured stereotypical drunken, unemployed, meth-using, no-good-getting-up-to, laze-about Native American youths. Would it be "allowing their natural jack-assery to flourish" or would it be worthy of scorn?

Well, if the guys on the Rez spent all their time not wearing shirts, and occasionally turning into wolves, then maybe, yeah…

Oooh, Abe. PLEASE to reevaluate that analogy, sir!
Proud of their heritage as they may be, the "natural jack-assery" of my comment referred to the particular fame-whoring impulses of these particular people. NOT these "stereotypical" Italians!

I hope that distinction is clear. 'Cause you're setting up a whopper of a strawman!

missdelite (#625)

@Abe Sauer: You can't compare the two. Guidos choose their lifestyle as a form of self-expression. They're proud of their flamboyant ways. The Native youth you dscribe, OTOH, are for the most part caught up in rather dire socio-economic circumstances.
Honestly, sometimes I wonder if you're really this ignorant or make statements like these to play devil's advocate. Not cute, either way.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, it's not a perfect comparison but it's worth thinking about. Beside them being "caught up in rather dire socio-economic circumstances" if you think a certain segment of native american youth don't "choose their lifestyle as a form of self-expression" or that they aren't "proud of their flamboyant ways" or, in fact, that many the "Guidos" are maybe not so much employing free choice of lifestyle as being caught up in acting in a manner in which their surroundings reward, well, I'm not sure you should be so liberal with the word ignorant.

The hole, Abe. I fear she is growing ever deeper…

"[T]he 'Guidos' are maybe not so much employing free choice of lifestyle as being caught up in acting in a manner [] which their surroundings reward"? So we are to take from this that being "stereotypical drunken, unemployed, meth-using, no-good-getting-up-to, laze-about Native American youths" was intended to refer to "rewarded" behavior? (Emphasis added for the part that I think really contradicts what you're saying, but all of it, really.)

I've thought about the comparison. To call it "imperfect" is charitable, at best.

Mar (#2,357)

No, the "Rez" analogy holds. It's Cultural Studies 101–sometimes, when various groups are derided or devalued by mainstream culture for their "different" characteristics, they decide to make said characteristics a point of pride. There are a couple of different reasons why this is done. Sometimes it is because your only other option is to turn into a self-loathing [whatever]; other times it is because you've decide to rebel against the mainstream culture; or the members of the cultural group might be unable to change said characteristics, so decide that they might as well embrace them. The Venn diagram of these reasons is VERY OVERLAPPY and also BLEEDING WITH SHAME. The Jersey Shore kids are not so much "proud" as they are "indoctrinated," and not so much "loud" as they are "reacting to weird feelings of marginalization by attempting to drown out inner and outer censure though yelling and redundant identity statements (made while yelling.) It's not really that different from the Jack McBrayer Young Ladies Seminary vs. the "yeah I'm a man-fucker, why–you want me to fuck your butt?" schools of gayness. Older gays tended to emphasize their "gay" identities because they felt ultimately insecure about them in the midst of a largely gay-negative culture, while young gays get to be mas macho because nobody cares about gays anymore except Mormons.

There are probably a lot of Native American kids who pride themselves on their ability to drink or do drugs and be self-destructive and generally inhabit whatever stereotypes are attached to their particular tribe. They may even take part in "reverse bragging," which is a poor people thing where instead of talking about how sweet your life is, you talk about how crap it is, trying to out-miserable the other people in the conversation. It's not that you're proud of your shitty life; it's that you manage to see humor in it. If the Jersey Shore kids don't take themselves all that seriously, that's great–and it doesn't automatically qualify them for reality show producer shooting practice.

metoometoo (#230)

Just FYI, it changes a lot after the first episode. It evolves to be much more warm and fuzzy as you actually get to know the characters a bit, and especially after a particular plot development that occurs around the third episode I think, which I don't want to give away.

Well, unlike your friends, I would never insist that the show offers anything more to enjoy than watching dumb people behave poorly, and car-wreck titillation.

Because that's exactly what it does offer. Nothing more, nothing less.

But I find it highly entertaining to watch. I have not felt that way about other reality shows with a similarly trashy aesthetic (e.g. Real World). So I guess, for me, it has a certain je ne sais quoi w/r/t its poor-behavior/titillation quotient.

Dave Bry (#422)

You are more honest than my friends, who I can no longer trust farther than I can throw.

David Cho (#3)

Which episode did you watch?

Dave Bry (#422)

First. And someone else has mentioned here that it showed more nastiness than subsequent episodes, that the guidos and -ettis get more human later?

I think it's pretty safe to say that the cast showed more nastiness to one another in the first episode than in subsequent ones. Now it really feels like they're "us against the world." And, even though "the world" here may actually be just like they are, it still serves to endear the cast to the audience more, I think.

spanish bombs (#562)

Episode 6 was not very good, if that is the one that you watched. The Ronnie/Sammie stuff is the opposite of what makes the show good.

Ugh, this show hits way too close to home for me, having spent too much of my youth and prom weekends at Sleazeside.

evilfred (#2,351)

Maybe I'm nuts, but I actually enjoy the show because despite all of the aesthetic craziness, they seem like actually good kids underneath, and I can on some level identify with what they're going through. Annoyance with a couple being couply. Inability to get laid. Learning how to be an adult. In a way it's like a blenedered up watered down version of Ghost World, as many of the kids learn to function outside of their parent's homes for the first time?

Like Sooki! Who started out crazy but now we know her mooshy centre. I wouldn't still be watching if it was just for passing judgement, I hate shows like the UK The Office where it's all pure embarassment with no one to root for.

You didn't root for Dawn and Tim?!

Dave Bry (#422)

True! (Ah-ah-ah-ahhh-ah.) There has never been a more root-for-able couple!

mathnet (#27)


rj77 (#210)

"She said no, by the way."

Was there ever a more devastating sentence in television?

SO TRUE. (But just makes the ultimate resolution – NO SPOILERS! – that much more amazing.)

Dave Bry (#422)

They probably are good kids. And maybe not so dumb. (I'm feeling bad about the tone of my previous comment.) As someone else pointed out, so much of this stuff is manipulated by the producers. These kids are just kids who want to be on TV too much. Or maybe I should say: who want to be on TV in a way that is not to my taste.

metoometoo (#230)

EXACTLY. Like, yes, obviously at first all you see is trashy ridiculousness, but that isn't what it's ABOUT. It's about HUMANITY.

ericdeamer (#945)

The episode that aired last week I found to be particularly dark and depressing, though still compelling somehow. I think that it did indeed have a lot of the mean behavior that Dave Bry is referring to and that made it less fun. Previous episodes were more fun and had less depressing/mean-spirited content.

I still agree that most of the cast members are likable though, particularly Snooki and "Jwow", who is just epically trashy but cool somehow.

Natan (#1,967)

I'll read this if you'll pay me.

Dave Bry (#422)

But a side of humanity that is pretty ugly, no? The desperate need for attention? The willingness to prostrate oneself so much, to be gross, to be famous?

Totally ugly, sure. But GOD! oh so commonplace nowadays as to be practically unremarkable?

Dave Bry (#422)

Granted. So there's just better and worse ways to watch people prostrate themselves? Or just, more enjoyable and less enjoyable?

Nah, I'ma stick with "enjoyable." NO JUDGMENTS!

(Okay, some judgments.)

spanish bombs (#562)

I'm pretty sure that what we see on the show is generally an accurate depiction of the people, which is why it's awesome.

The Hills was great because it was so obviously fake and LC, in on the joke, so obviously didn't even try to pretend that it wasn't completely. The Jersey Shore is great because it is so preposterous that it can't be made up, yet it is completely unbelieveable.

Pulp (#1,885)

"But right now, it feels kind of like an icky fetishization of difference to which a WASP-y Olympic-level douchetool like Spencer Pratt will never be subject."

I won't say you're wrong, but I will say that as much of the blame for this has to fall on the network as it does on Nancy Franklin for falling for it. In their advertising for the show, MTV did their damndest to make the cast and the Jersey Shore "different". "Turn on your telebox and come watch these Guidos and Guidettes get crazy, as only they can!" was what the ads suggested, and I don't think anyone in the cast has done much to counteract that idea.

Maybe the New Yorker should stay out of the lowbrow game altogether, because then you end up with pieces like this, correctly castigating them for being ethno-snobs but incorrectly trying to talk up a show filled with people who burn my eyes.

OH! And as a friend pointed out, "Guidette" does not appear to be Italianly correct, because "-ette" is French.

hockeymom (#143)

I believe it would be "Guida" or "Guidina" (For the small. Like Snookie).

oudemia (#177)

-etta or -etto (or -etti) are Italian diminutive endings, though.

deepomega (#1,720)

I'm all for cultural relativism, but claiming that there are no possible judgements to be passed upon the JSers is just nonsense. They get in stupid fights (that they are proud of), they act like total assholes (and are proud of it), etc. I will allow that MTV is fetishizing these people, because they are the ones marketing their otherness. But I think arguing that The American People wouldn't watch and make fun of a similar show about, say, preppy dickholes in Adams Morgan is just ridiculous.

Dave Bry (#422)

I agree. I think it the dickholeness that people like to watch.

Regina Small (#2,468)

I'm not claiming you can't pass judgment on some of their choices (the fighting and the antagonism that leads to the fighting isn't defensible). Aesthetic relativism does not equal moral relativism. It's more about how the line between aesthetic judgment and moral judgment is blurred (e.g., "Tape-ups are such douchebags").

And a television critic essentially concluding that "wow, these people are kind of weird and morally bankrupt!" about participants on a REALITY SHOW is kind of…obvious? Jersey Shore does not set a precedent in terms of people acting like assholes on television, but some of the negative reactions to the show treat it that way. I think The American People would indeed mock preppy dickholes (Laguna Beach, The Hills, The City) but that kind of resistance and criticism takes a form that is less problematic. Nancy Franklin might say Lauren Conrad is a big whiny baby but would she characterize her as "very peculiar"?

spanish bombs (#562)

Let's say that LC, or Audrina, got super-trashed and did not understand how to work a telephone. Wouldn't Audrina then be very peculiar? Wasn't she already? In the world of the excellent Gawker recaps of The Hills, isn't Audrina often referred to as something like a unicorn-cupcake-princess? Aren't the generically pretty and extremely Caucasian Whitney's facial features compared to those of a moo-cow?

Regina Small (#2,468)

Getting so drunk you can't operate a phone may be undignified but it's not "peculiar" (if by "peculiar," we mean "unusual" and I think we do). Drinking excessively on a social outing is not really that strange. And that's the heart of my criticism: not that the cast is morally praiseworthy (or really, praiseworthy at all) but that reactions they've provoked are all about or tied up with their supposed strangeness when, honestly, they are as jerky as anyone else.

Picking on Whitney's looks is picking for the sake of picking (also, cheap and lazy criticism?). I think what I've noticed here is mockery not of individual looks but an overaching tickled dismissal of the entire JS aesthetic as "crazy" when it's just different.

Regina Small (#2,468)

While I do ache for the JS cast, I meant "overarching" above.

metoometoo (#230)

I like you.

Reality show think-bait!

evilfred (#2,351)

Of course, it has been done before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eqCBCUawKY

Sure. Wake me when MTV rips off Harlan County…

TLP (#2,995)

When I watch the show (And oh, yes, I do. I can't stop anymore.) I'm much more interested in the non-cast members (The Grenade!) who appear now and then. Rather than being cast (and at least partially scripted) like our Guidos, these locals are just acting out as their natural selves, whoring it up for the camera like a 9-year-old jumping up and down behidn the newscaster on the corner.

I guess I find the common, trashy Jersey folk more close to home than the Poughkeepsie Princesses MTV has shipped in. I've spent my share of time at the (South) Jersey Shore, and Philadelphia tends to contribute a much subtler form of Guido to NJ than NY, CT, and RI. People like The Grenade remind me of my neighbors; Snooks is completely alien to me.

lexalexander (#2,960)

Well, JS is over because now that Sarah Palin is gonna be on Teh Teevees, America will come up with a whole new bunch of drinking games.

nyperry (#3,092)

My bones tell me that Snooki is Spanish Sephardic. I do not see Italy anywhere. However, I am glad they all have work in these hard times.

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