Fourth Edition, November 2011
260: Best Essays in Intermediate Composition
1st Place Winner
Here’s the Situation…
An Evaluation of MTV’s “Jersey Shore”
It's ten o'clock on a Thursday night. The popcorn's ready. The anticipation is palpable as MTV's hit series, “Jersey Shore,” has its second season finale tonight. There has been enough drama, cat-fights, bar-fights, hook-ups, jokes, pranks, and controversy to accumulate a pretty decent ending to this fiery season, which was set in Miami. The drama is addicting – which is why we watch it – otherwise we would not be amused with such ridiculous antics brought about by these self-proclaimed American-Italian “Guidos” and “Guidettes.” No one questions the offensive series and how it may falsely portray the population of New Jersey or American-Italians as a whole. No one questions the fact that all of the binge-drinking, unprotected sex, slanderous name-calling, and the like may have a negative effect on America's youth. With the promotion of destructive behavior, and no display of its consequences, one must ask: is this series appropriate for cable television?
It airs at ten o'clock, which should be past many of our impressionable teenagers' bedtimes, but MTV's demographic appears to be youth-oriented. An article in the McClatchy-Tribune Business News states that MTV is “the highest-rated basic cable network channel among the important demographic category of people ages 12- 34” (Ruscitti). Stating that “the important demographic” watches MTV proves that the channel influences a large range of people, some perhaps too inappropriately young to watch it. Shows like “Made,” and “Teen Mom,” are centered on many teenagers' lives – which would be perfect to target to a young teenage audience. Unlike “Jersey Shore,” these shows are usually educational. “Teen Mom” shows the positive and negative effects of premarital sexual relations and its consequences of motherhood at an early age. It does not glorify underage sex, but it actually condones abstinence or the use of birth-control. “Made” is a show about young teens who wish to improve their lives via sports, hobbies, academics, and social activities – all very positive, and very effective. On the other hand, “Jersey Shore” glorifies sex, drinking, tanning, and so forth without its consequences and the only reason it is popular is because of its offensive drama.
Admittedly, it is an addicting show. I watch it as I would watch a car accident: thankful that I am only a bystander and not the actual offender. Every episode, the eight cast members drink themselves into oblivion and usually start a fight, hook up, or pass out. This behavior is entertaining to us. None of the actual real-life consequences are aired on the show. In fact, one of the “Jersey Show” girls, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was arrested in July for “disorderly conduct.” A report from the New York Daily News, “'Jersey Shore' Star Snooki Arrested,” states that “she was passed out face down in the sand... she couldn't even stand up” (Goldsmith). Fortunately, she was famous enough for someone to help her. The average drunkard would not be received so kindly.
It is interesting to note that this incident was never aired on MTV. Not only would this have been a dramatic episode to fuel great ratings for the channel, but it would have shown the young audiences that binge-drinking has its negative effects that even the beloved stars of “Jersey Shore” endure. Perhaps MTV did not want to look bad by exploiting celebrities, but it's too bad these men and women of “Jersey Shore” are exploiting themselves once a week to America. They are either getting wasted, getting into fights, and basically ruining their reputations for all of America to see. However comical to us, their actions do have consequences that are not fully displayed on the show. Snooki’s little run-in with the law enforcement was not put in the media, and the cast of “Jersey Shore” remains invincible to crimes under the influence.
Apparently, the cast of “Jersey Shore” is invincible to the effects of skin cancer as well. The motto in the house “GTL,” which stands for “Gym, Tan, Laundry.” This is their mantra and their daily lifestyle. Sure, they are being responsible and doing their own laundry. They are also health conscious and hitting the gym daily. The promotion of tanning, however, is absurd. These orange-coated cast members are always discussing their tans and bickering over who has the best tan in the house. In fact, on the last episode during a “Superlative” sequence, they joked about their obsessive indoor-tanning lifestyles. Cast member “Pauly D” mocked that he was “most likely to get skin cancer.” As the rest of the house laughed at this remark, it made me think of the millions of Americans who face skin-cancer due to UV rays - whether from the sun or from tanning beds. You're right, Pauly, it is “funny” that you may get skin cancer, but it's a fact that, according to The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “using tanning beds before age 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent and occasionally using tanning beds can triple your chances” (FDA). Melanoma is not something to take lightly; it's a cancer of the skin and it is very fatal. The use of tanning beds is dangerous and its America's youth should be made aware of the consequences, not promoted.
Most significantly, there is a recurrent theme of their sexual escapades on the show, and there are many double standards surrounding them. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is known by his cast mates and MTV viewers for “hooking up” with a girl almost every episode in each season. “Hooking up” can range from kissing, to oral sex, to sexual intercourse. Might I add, he’s “hooking up” with a different girl – every episode, every season. Not once was a condom displayed, or birth control pills popped, or any type of precautionary measure to prevent STDs taken. It's almost as if Chlamydia does not exist in Seaside Heights, New Jersey – or South Beach, Miami, for that matter. A lot of “Jersey Shore” audiences are in for a big treat when they leave these vacation spots with much more than a souvenir. In fact, The Journal of Sex Research, a scholarly journal involved in the scientific study of sexuality, states that:
Fifteen- to 19-year-old women and 20- to 24-year-old men have the highest rates of gonorrhea. In addition, at least one half of all new HIV infections occur in people under the age of 25 (CDC, 2003). Behaviors associated with high HIV and AIDS risk, such as binge drinking, sexual intercourse with multiple partners, and low frequencies of condom use, are prevalent in college populations.
The fifteen to twenty-five year old population most at risk coincides nicely with MTV's demographics of “people ages 12-34.” I really just could not believe that with all of the sexual exhibitions, there was no mention of sexual health, sexual safety, or pregnancy concerns. There should be a general warning prior to the episode that condones some kind of preventative measures, but sadly, there is not such a warning. Sexual transmitted diseases are very common, and easily transferred, but “Jersey Shore,” the cast, and the producers at MTV make no mention of the severity or the concerns of sexual health.
The increasing rate of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are synonymous with the televised glorification of sex. Conversely, the show “Teen Mom,” which addresses this prevalence, tries to promote awareness in order to decrease the amount of children born to teenage girls. “Jersey Shore” promotes these high-risk behaviors by humorously displaying them on air for everyone to see. The Journal of Sex Research also states that “televised media has a negative influence on sexual risk-taking among young people, observing that media may encourage stereotypical sexual attitudes and push youth to engage in sexual behavior before they are ready.” You know, the “important demographic,” who is apparently watching MTV, may be getting these adult ideas a little too early. The number of sexual partners on the show is humorous to them. Two of the girls in the house, Snooki, and Jenni “Jwoww” Farley, made a scoreboard of the amount of hookups each cast-mate had over the season. The Situation obtained the highest amount of “smashes,” as they call sexual intercourse. Yet cast-member Angelina Pivarnick is still referred to as the “Staten Island Dump” for her sexual escapades – because she is a girl. The men are seen as “studs” for engaging in this many hookups, as the girls are seen as gross. This unfair double standard is comical to everyone in the house, it is never questioned, and the double standard often brings laughter to the audience watching it. It is a perpetual cycle of sexual inequality that is being glorified in this show.
The show's promotion of destructive behavior was never apparent to me until the second season finale. It was the last straw. I've realized that every episode is the same – someone fights, someone hooks up, something humorous happens and everyone goes home happy and unharmed. Unfortunately, the effects of their lifestyles are very detrimental. MTV's allowance of this monstrosity is absolutely inconceivable. After the airing of the season finale, it is evident that “Jersey Shore” fever is among us, with “Snooki” being a top Halloween costume, and people are still religiously devoting themselves to a “GTL” lifestyle. It may be comical, and it may seem harmless, but the hit series is offensive and makes you think, what are we really watching?
Salsano, SallyAnn, prod. "Jersey Shore." MTV. New York, New York, 29 July 2010. Television.
Ruscitti, Keith (18 May). Seaside Heights sees good times when MTV show returns. McClatchy - Tribune Business News. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 2035844551).
U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Link Between Tanning Beds and Cancer to be Examined at Capitol Hill Briefing Researchers and Patient Advocates to Share Insights With Lawmakers in Advance of FDA Hearing. (2010, May). Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA,165. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2014712891).
Walsh, J., & Ward, L.. (2010). Magazine Reading and Involvement and Young Adults' Sexual Health Knowledge, Efficacy, and Behaviors. The Journal of Sex Research, 47(4), 285. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2105919131).
Goldsmith, Samuel. "'Jersey Shore' Star Snooki Arrested in Seaside Heights, Charged with Disorderly Conduct: Report." New York News, Traffic, Sports, Weather, Photos, Entertainment, and Gossip - NY Daily News. 30 July 2010. Web. 08 Nov. 2010. <http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/07/30/2010-
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