I’m no prude. I’ll watch just about anything, and laugh out loud, from the homoerotic comedy of Tosh.0 to gruesome war movies to, well, as I said, just about anything. So I was shocked at my reaction to my first viewing of Jersey Shore, the wildly popular and culturally ubiquitous MTV series populated by such characters as Snooki and “The Situation”: I found it the single most disgusting piece of television I’ve ever seen.
Jersey Shore is, of course, rife with all of the reality show tricks-of-the-trade. Half the show, it seems, is taken up with teasers before the multitudinous commercials, and recaps following them. There’s lots of mellowdrama predicting how the castmates will work together in their new Miami Beach environs. There’s the gorgeous house, provided by MTV, and the obvious lack of jobs held by any of the characters. I’m honestly able to look past any of those contrivances.
It was the pure banality of the characters that ultimately turned my stomach. Call American Idol insipid entertainment if you will, but at least I can find a reason to root for a few of the contestants each year. And in Survivor or Big Brother, there’s always the sociological angle of watching individuals morph as a result of group dynamics.
But, as far as I could tell in the 30 minutes that I watched before I could watch no more, there is no reason to watch the characters of Jersey Shore other than voyeurism. There’s no story, no character development. There is pure exhibitionism. In that sense, Jersey Shore is like pornography. And, also like pornography, it’s completely predictable what will happen: party, fight, sex, repeat.
I’m not one to proclaim the denouement of our culture or our country based on the devolution of our fetishes, but after seeing Jersey Shore, I might be ready to change my tune on that.
This post was written by Tony Jones and originally published on the Tony Jones Blog. Follow him on Twiter: @jonestony