Television Retrospective: Jersey Shore’s Final Season

Elaina Lin, Theatre and Dance Reporter

Surfing through channels, a scene of a bitter verbal fight pops briefly across the screen. Further examination will reveal a depiction of people going through their daily lives and routines, nothing too far out of the ordinary.

Normally, I enjoy watching reality television, anything from “American Idol” to “Project Runway,” or “America’s Next Top Model” to “So You Think You Can Dance.” These shows have something in common – they are competition-based. The type of reality television show that gets me wondering is “Jersey Shore.” There seems to be no actual motivation behind the participants in the various acts of debauchery depicted, with simple plot lines and little in terms of actual acting.

For those uninitiated, “Jersey Shore” is an American reality television series that first premiered on MTV in 2009. The show coversthe lives of eight individuals who live together. Each season differs in the location of the show, from Seaside Heights, N.J. to Miami Beach, Fla. and most recently, Italy. The participants are all Italian-Americans, and due to the show’s nature, it has caused some controversy regarding the portrayal of such stereotypes. A lot of controversy revolves around calling themselves “guidos” or “guidettes,” terms which are generally regarded as ethnic slurs. Nonetheless, the show has been a success, with a sizable contribution to popular culture rising miraculously from the muck.  The show’s final season premiered on Oct. 4.

The participants of the show are between ages 21 and 30. Together, they live luxuriously debauched lives,with hook-ups and break-ups that elicit untoward drama. The most notable cast member is probably Nicole Polizzi, otherwise known as “Snooki.” It is not exactly known why she is famous, but it could be due to her apparent craziness on the show, as described by many viewers. She became most popular when a video clip of her being hit in the face in a club surfaced online. Regardless, she is one of the highest paid reality television stars to date, with a salary of $150,000 per episode.

In retrospect, “Jersey Shore” has been something of a cultural phenomenon.  Since its first debut in December 2009, it has become the biggest show during the 30-year history of MTV. In fact, the University of Chicago hosted a conference regarding the examination of the hit reality show.  What makes “Jersey Shore”tick, for those who have actually watched a full episode, is how the show relates the actual social issues. Most don’t find the show to be promising. With scenes of Snooki being punched in the face by a man in the first season, as well as the camera capturing several moments of the gang quarreling, what makes the show so popular? Taking a closer look, the Italian-Americans, by calling themselves “guidos” or “guidettes”, explore their racial and ethnic identity, strive to define gender equality, and face the psychological effects of celebrity, as well as social exclusion.

One might find that watching a show portraying a group of people’s daily lives, especially people as ridiculous as those in “Jersey Shore,”  to be utterly pointless, but perhaps their lives are a reflection of how we, as a nation, watch television. It is only on television where we could settle down, relax, and take a moment to speculate on the world, even if what we’re watching is the (almost) ordinary lives of regular people who could very well be just like us. Perhaps the fantasy is better than the reality.