Exploritory Essay on Culture Today
It’s hard to think that in 1995 when country singer, Shania Twain, released her music video for “Any Man of Mine” she caught a ton of backlash for exposing her mid-drift. Now, the norm for reality television shows is “the less the clothing and the crazier the actions, the better.” The television show Jersey Shore is an Americanreality television series that premiered on MTV on December 3, 2009 in the United States. The series follows the lives of eight housemates spending their summer at the Jersey Shore and the following seasons follow their lives in Miami Beach, back at the Jersey Shore, Italy, and finally it has been confirmed that the cast will be returning to Seaside Heights for the fifth season. The life of the eight cast members proves to be extremely controversial by depicting a life of non-stop partying and a life style that includes profanity, drinking, smoking and sexually explicit behavior. Because of the shows wide spread popularity, Jersey Shore has been dubbed a cultural phenomenon and according to records, the series has acquired record ratings for MTV making it the network's most viewed series telecast ever. Jersey Shore has taken this generation by storm and with strong disapproval ratings. Despite its lack of class and explicit content, Jersey Shore has become all the rage and is a show that catches a large portion of viewer’s attention every Thursday night because of society’s obsession with immorality, false reality, and controversy.
Jersey Shore became so popular due to its strategic audience targeting. According to MultiChinnel News, the hit television series targets the ages between twelve and thirty-four. Not only is Jersey Shore easily accessible to this audience because of its prime time viewing placement but it also targets an age group that is easily influenced and is ready to accept a new trend at any given time. This generation has been exposed to things that were unheard of in past centuries and nowadays the higher the shock value, the higher the ratings travel up the chart. However, even though the more extreme the better, these indecent acts depicted as a part of the casts’ daily life is giving the public the wrong impression of what is acceptable and what is not. By making an immoral act commonplace it no longer appears to be shocking and the public falls into a belief that it is tolerable to act in such appalling ways.
Commonplace behavior on the hit series Jersey Shore includes profanity, drinking, smoking and sexually explicit behavior. This reality show floods teens with displays of this type behavior. A study completed in 2006 by the Kaiser Family Foundation said, "While reality TV draws viewers from virtually all demographic groups, it is disproportionately popular among preteens, adolescents and young adults." The Foundation concludes that type of programming has an unhealthy influence on teen behaviors. The reality television show also harbors and gives life to the fact that pleasure is often derived from watching immoral acts that mirror the audience’s desire to act in a similar way, giving them permission to do so.
This intertwines with the false reality factor that is Jersey Shore. Viewers make a connection with the cast members on screen because they believe that the false reality depicted on the television is real. This connection is based on lies. According to MultiChannel News, although cast members are not given scripts or told to act in a certain way, the show’s producers have creative control and can edit the program to alter or distort the actions of the stars. The public is only shown what the producers picked out and are viewing the cast in the light the producers wish them to be viewed. The Kaiser Family Foundation also argues that "reality shows may provide inaccurate or unhealthy information to viewers (for example, showcasing multiple plastic surgeries or more rapid weight loss than most experts would recommend)." The Foundation's conclusions are this can produce expectations among viewers to duplicate the behavior they have witnessed, often with unhealthy and unrealistic results. By being shown a false reality, the public interprets it as truth, and mimics things that in some cases are unattainable or dangerous.
Jersey shore also stays afloat even though the series is seen as a bash on Italian Americans. The controversy lies in the portrayal and propagation of Italian-American stereotypes. According to Doug Sarti, “With the group’s overwhelming Italian-ness always front and center, the heavy-handed stereotypes are hard to miss. Especially with the epithet guido as well as the female version, guidette, tossed around liberally. The slang term guido is viewed as an ethnic slur, and it’s astonishing to think that MTV would condone the use of this, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Domino’s Pizza and American Family Insurance have already pulled their ads from the show and the clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch has reportedly paid the cast members to not wear their clothing. Italian-American advocacy groups have even called for a boycott. By telecasting such hatefulness, MTV is giving off the wrong impression that to do so is acceptable.
It’s hard to say what is worse: the universal immoral behavior the characters involve themselves in, or the racial undertones unmistakable in the way that MTV has presented the program. The "Cleveland Plain Dealer" published an article in 2008 that asked directly if reality TV induced bad behavior in teens. Bob Abelman, director of the media arts and technology division at Cleveland State, told the paper reality shows made the role of parents and teachers more important than ever. Nevertheless, it’s easy to say that once someone starts watching the show, they are unable to stop. Like a drug, the show grabs its victim, gives them a good show, and leaves them wanting more even though immorality, a false reality, and controversy is wrong.