“In 1992, America wasn’t always the villain. We were a big, stupid cheerful people that gave the world MTV, rap music, and the Karate Kid, while our chief ideological rivals, the Russians, mostly exported clinical depression, political jailings, and atrocious consumer goods. Now we stand alone as a hegemonic superpower that force-feeds the world computer-generate pop music and soulless effect-driven movies. We still represent freedom but it’s mainly the freedom to make sickeningly huge sums of money…”
-Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stones Issue 1164, Aug. 30, 2012
America is not what it used to be. America was a magical place filled with liberty and opportunities, a dominant superpower, and someone to cheer for and with. We now have the ability to record our history with more than just ink and paper. Internet, photographs, TiVo, and cell phones all capture moments that may be seen hundreds of years from now. You can watch a movie from the fifties and immediately determine the mindset of the time: they call that a bikini? Why is everyone white? Do any of these women work? Turning on the television, a commercial of the new, final season of Jersey Shore is on. Unsure of its own meaning, serious or parody, it uses the slang it’s been teaching America since 2009. “I am a meatball, I am a gorilla, we’re gonna go smush, it’s T-Shirt time,” they said. These words coming out of our mouths is a sad realization for our country. We have taken this seriously and have recorded this ‘reality’ show in our history.
According to TV by the Numbers, a telecasting data provider site, Jersey Shore is MTV’s most viewed show, ever. MTV means Music Television, but it certainly hasn’t been known for its music lately (sure, there are those awards shows they host once a year, but any other day between 3 and 8 a.m., there’s no music). Jersey Shore also reminds us of others, like Teen Mom, 16 & Pregnant, Real World, Snooki & JWOWW, Super Sweet 16, and MTV Cribs, just to name a few.
Not all reality television is bad. It actually began as a type of show to educate people on aspects of others’ lives they may have never considered, or give those who could relate a reason to feel they weren’t alone. They were not meant to create mass followings or horrible trends. Reality TV didn’t start with Jersey Shore, but somewhere along the way, it did peak and create a movement. When people see money, when they see viewers tuning in to watch a train wreck, they see a pattern. Profits drove people who might personally disagree with what they’re filming to find the next best thing. Shahs of Sunset, Geordie Shore (British Jersey Shore), Asian Jersey Shore (which thankfully never made it to air; all episodes, however, can be found on YouTube), Snooki & JWOWW, and the Pauly D Project are just the spinoffs more directly related. What Jersey Shore did was show that if you can get people together, make them drink, fight and ‘smush’, you have a recipe for money. They did take a cue from their predecessors who used the same formula, such as Bad Girl Club and the Real World, which then inspired a long and now dead run of ‘For the Love of…’ TV shows. Inspiring horrible trends may be the only thing Jersey Shore has been good for, that and exposing the greed of the American TV industry.
Maybe that is the real story –America’s greed. It’s so substantial that we are willing to make reality shows about anything and anyone on any network (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, anyone?). We follow people around to showcase them in their weakest moments. We purposely find people who are different, who probably shouldn’t even be around other people and put them with others similar to them. The worst is that most of these shows aren’t real. We purport these shows to be something they’re not. These people are not as ‘dumb’ as they look, but if getting drunk and being promiscuous makes millions of dollars, someone’s going to make a million dollars which will in turn make the directors and producers millionaires.
We do not want to be seen as the nation that created Jersey Shore and other fake reality shows. We don’t want to influence people to get fake tans, drink, and just be outlandish in hopes of making it on TV one day. We don’t want to see a little Situation running around all over America. You could turn it off, you could change the channel, but it doesn’t matter if one person chooses not to watch because almost 7 million other people do. Until the mentality changes, nothing else will. We will forever be a joke to other nations – they won’t fear us or accept us, and they will pity us. Jersey Shore did more than blow up on a national scale; it blew up on an international one. If you associate New Jersey with Jersey Shore, what do you think other countries associate America with? We need to switch back to real reality TV because no matter how entertaining it is, we don’t deserve to be lied to. We owe ourselves a better view, a better representation. Our history is about correcting mistakes, and America better learn from this one.