I may have told you this before, but I have have very specific taste in media consumption. As far as books go, I’m a total snob. I don’t read things marketed as detective stories, romances or mysteries. And it is a point of pride with me that I never have and never will read one word of anything Harry Potter. I have my own selections, new and classic, that draw me and I sneer at other people’s pedestrian choice of reading material.
On the other hand, my choices for TV watching are trashy and getting trashier by the moment. There was a time when my two go-to shows were Judge Judy and COPS. Looking back on it, I was classy then. I scan the channel guide for reruns of Wife Swap. My current crop of favorites are things like Toddlers In Tiaras, (some) Real Housewives and Enough Already! with Peter Walsh. Occasionally if I feel so moved, I sit through an episode of It’s Me Or The Dog.
But now I am at the bottom of the barrel. Don’t hate me when you read the next sentence.
I watched the season finale of Jersey Shore.
I started watching here and there this season, but I knew all about it before I started. GTL, DTF, smushing, gorilla juiceheads – everything. My Martini Night partner has a 21- year old daughter who is obsessed with the show and because my partner honestly believes that the sun rises and sets in that girl, she as the mother is all wrapped up in it, too. Believe me, there is not a single Martini Night that does include some eye-popping revelation such as the time the family went out to dinner and afterwards the girl begged her father to turn left to the Shore instead of right to go home so that they could go look at the t-shirt shop on the boardwalk. The father did it. Or when they (mother and daughter) fix their hair up into a big Snooki bump and put on thick eyeliner to watch the show*.
Jersey Shore is kind of a comfort to watch. It’s the same thing every time. They eat standing up using their hands, the kitchen sink is full of dishes and the bedrooms are littered with worn clothing. They dress up, check if their coochies are hanging out then call cabs and go clubbing, where they get drunk and fall. Sammi and Ronnie fight then sit on upholstered furniture outside in the humid open air. The sameness is a thing that you can count on.
There’s a theory that the reason our society is so consumed with celebrity gossip is that we no longer have long-established traditional neighborhoods with real life characters to observe and bond us together by discussing their life events and peccadilloes. Manys the times my mother’s neighbor rushed in through the back door to breathlessly ask Did you hear about Helen? or to inform her that Lenny was so drunk he couldn’t even walk home. Celebrity watching takes the place of that now. We observe, we comment and we share. And now the people of TV reality shows are stand-ins for our neighbors.
So on the finale, the kitchen was a mess, their coochies hung out but they didn’t care, they danced and got drunk, Sammi and Ronnie had a fight and then summer was over and they all went back to from whence they came.
There’s a whole roiling subtext of ethnic stereotypification, gender-based double standards for social behavior and some unmistakable signals that domestic abuse is just over the horizon. Just like the good old days!
*Actually, I love this kind of thing. Don’t hate.