Jersey Shore is no longer just a destination — it’s an industry. Since first storming MTV airways in December 2009, the reality show Jersey Shore has filmed five seasons and given viewers countless nuggets of wisdom, like this quote from Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi:
“I don’t go tanning anymore because Obama put a 10 percent tax on tanning. I feel like he did that intentionally for us, like McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning . . . because he is pale and he would probably wanna be tanned.”
Apart from her sound political opinions, Snooki and the other cast members of Jersey Shore have created an enterprise based on binge drinking, narcissism and promiscuity. The show also pulled in 8.45 million viewers for its Season 3 premiere, a record for MTV.
Despite these high ratings, several sponsors have pulled their funding from the show, including Domino’s Pizza and American Family Insurance. The clothing company Abercrombie and Fitch formally asked the cast to stop wearing their clothing. Several American organizations have protested the show, including UNICO, the National Italian-American Foundation and Order Sons of Italy in America.
So, despite all this backlash, the show is still one of the most popular reality shows on television. Why?
First, the sex. The show targets the young adult demographic, which undeniably is also a demographic filled with hormones. Showing these young people a group of boisterous 20-somethings engaging in noncommittal intercourse encourages college-age kids to engage in the same thing. Jersey Shore doesn’t show the emotional trauma, physical toll and social ramifications promiscuity can have. This not only portrays an unrealistic happiness; it also glorifies it to an extreme.
Second, the drinking. Jersey Shore doesn’t show responsible adults drinking in responsible amounts and making responsible choices. Instead, it shows young, attractive people drinking until they reach the point of unconsciousness and making rash decisions that many would consider regrettable. And MTV markets this to impressionable, barely legal teens just graduating from high school and some entering a college campus where they will be pressured to drink at some point. If they follow the example of the Jersey Shore cast, more and more college campuses can expect lawns strewn with passed-out freshmen and brain-damaged students.
With responsibility being damned by the masses and intelligence sacrificed for popularity, we as a nation have to ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice for entertainment. Though the show is marketed to legal adults, children in high school and junior high are watching and having their values twisted, distorted and warped. How much degradation are we willing to tolerate? Will the rising generation be an army of “Guidos” and “Guidettes” or a nation of strong leaders and independent thinkers? The choice is with the viewer.