Stop Hating on the Jersey Shore
Jersey Shore fever apparently is still running high. If there was any doubt whether the super-coiffed, super-tanned cast of Jersey Shore could pull in big ratings once the show left American soil, the numbers from last Thursday’s premiere on MTV prove that fist pumping is captivating no matter where it happens. The season four premiere of the hit show outdrew the season three debut, receiving the third-largest audience in the show's history as well as the biggest turnout for any premiere in the network's 30-year history.
MTV sent the Shore cast to Italy to film this season, and there have been some complaints from pop culture analysts and viewers who think the show is trashy and the cast mates will ruin America's reputation more than they already have. Those critics have little ground considering the popularity of the show, and the show's following will soon become even more pervasive.
Since the season one premiere, haters have continued to disparage the cast complaining, "All they do is party and try to get laid." People need to get off their high horses and look around. A really large chunk of 20-something-year-olds in the United States are doing the exact same thing: partying and getting laid as much as they possibly can. As for the fighting and drama? Any group of eight 20-year-olds in one house without TV and cell phones is going to argue and go a little crazy sometimes. The only real difference between Snooki and another 23-year-old is that every single thing Snooki does ends up on TV. People watch her every move, pass judgment and think it's OK to tear her apart. Obviously these kids are not partying all the time—cameras focus on the most dramatic and drunken scenes, because that is what people want to see.
The main issue parents have with the hit reality show is the influence that the characters have on the viewers, who are primarily teens. Critics say that high school and college students watch Jersey Shore and think that the behavior displayed on the show—excessive drinking, tanning, smoking, and reckless behavior—is okay to engage in because it is glamorized by the cast. I find it extremely annoying that parents seriously think their kids are going to start drinking and tanning because the cast mates do it on Jersey Shore. Teens have been engaging in this behavior for years, long before Jersey Shore aired. I'm pretty sure there are worse things your teen could be watching and is probably watching—porn, R-rated movies that glamorize the use of cocaine and heroin and all sorts of disgusting, horrifying things on the internet.
Jersey Shore was never meant to be anything more than mind-numbing entertainment, and people need to accept it for what it is instead of scrutinizing and condemning every episode. The show actually strikes me as very different from other reality shows like The Bad Girls Club, where the girls take pride in being manipulative and deceitful as they physically and verbally abuse each other. They treat the experience as a game of survival of the fittest. But even amidst the fighting on Jersey Shore there is always a sense of family and true friendship. They even have Sunday dinners, which bring them all together simply to enjoy each other's company. I would love to have a Sunday dinner with them— the food always looks so good. When they do their GTL, or when it's t-shirt time, they seem like they have been best friends since the second grade. They do have fights that sometimes become physical, but they are not evil or manipulative, nor do they hate each other's guts. The characters are in the prime of their party years with entire summers off to tan, drink and hook up. They really are just looking to have a good time just like any other young person. But their good times happen to be broadcast on television for millions of viewers to see.
The characters’ lives are not peculiar or especially crazy either. While many believe the hype is largely the show's train wreck appeal, people love the characters because they’re fun and look like a blast to hang out with. As an avid Shore watcher, I think calling the show a train wreck is really misleading. Sammi and Ronnie had serious relationship problems, J-Woww had relationship problems, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino can't get enough one-night-stands and Snooki has a tendency to drink too much. I can't even find flaws with the other three castmates: Deena really is a blast, Pauly D is absolutely hilarious, and Vinny seems like one of the nicest, most down to earth guys you will ever meet. They have problems, disagreements and their own personal issues, but the only thing deserving of train wreck status is their fashion sense, strange hair and excessive tanning.
One thing I have to praise Jersey Shore for is that it counteracts the glitz and plastic of shows like MTV's The Hills. The drama of young, rich, fake west coasters is the complete opposite of what the Jersey Shore cast stands for. Even though they enjoy blowing out their hair, fist pumping and going into hot tubs with just underwear, they do it with an odd sense of pride that is both hilarious and fascinating. People especially tend to hate on Snooki; her size, silliness and orange colored skin makes her an easy target. But Snooki actually has a lot of redeeming qualities that viewers overlook. Snooki is not afraid to be herself and has this natural confidence about her I find enviable. The only thing fake about her is her tan.
Believe it or not, Snooki could actually be helping New Jersey's image. Results of a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll suggest that Jersey Shore does not negatively influence public opinion of New Jersey and in fact has generated some positive attention by spotlighting the state's beaches. The nationwide survey found that 43 percent of those who have seen the show have a favorable opinion of the state, as compared to 41 percent of those who have not. People seem to be oblivious to the fact that the cast mates are not supposed to represent New Jersey—that was never the intention. Many critics are privy to the knowledge that most of the cast mates are actually from New York. The cast mates were chosen for their distinct personalities and temporarily lived in a hot vacation spot for the summer that happens to be in New Jersey. That's really all there is to it.
Jersey Shore fame has been a blessing for Seaside Heights. The t-shirt shop where cast members made a living during season one, The Shore Store, has become quite the hotspot. Shore Store owner Danny Merk told MTV News, "People from all over the world … a lot of kids came down here from Australia, they want to see it because they go to New York City and it's so close to New York, they have to make the trip. So, Australia, California all the time, Ireland, Germany, Israel," Merk said of the show's international fanbase. "It's crazy!" Of course, the Shore Store is cashing in on the increased tourism, but the positive buzz has been good for the boardwalk in general. People have been flocking to the boardwalk to catch glimpses of the cast mates. "It's busy in here all the time now," Merk said. "People want to buy little things. But it's helped all the places on the boardwalk because you can't just shop at one store. So they're going to every store, they're paying for parking, buying a slice of pizza, playing a game. You can't pay for the exposure we got. Grateful's not even the word."
A message to those Italian-American groups spending their time and effort trying to get this show off the air: I think there are more important things happening right now that could really benefit from all that effort. Cast mate Vinny acknowledged this recently on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: "One time we were in a bar and a guy walked by and said, 'You are everything that's wrong with this country today.’ I was taken back by that. There's the economy, poverty, equal rights — and Jersey Shore is the worst thing that's wrong?" Don't forget, the cast mates didn't make themselves famous or start the Shore craze, you did! So don't feel ashamed if this show is your guilty pleasure. Millions are tuning in around the world, and I bet some of your friends are lying to your face when they tell you they would never watch “that crap.” As far as reality TV goes, Jersey Shore is the cream of the crop. Would you rather be watching Keeping up with the Kardashians?
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