My Blog__ Shore Seriously: Season 4, Episode 7
This week's episode, "Meatball Mashup" made me think seriously about trainwrecks. This whole show is basically a trainwreck but episode 7 really caused a scene. A vagina-laden sloppy makeout scene. Deena and Snooki were a formidable mess and if I was driving past in a car I would have slowed down to check it out. Hell, I probably would circle back to see it again. If there's one thing I love in this world, it's a trainwreck.
In last week's recap, Mish brought my attention to a New York Magazine article that says, in her words, "reality television is more about the jokes and comments we make while watching rather than the content of the program itself." Does that mean we're making fun of people for enjoyment? Is this just a cathartic schadenfreude for those of us who haven't managed to snag these arbitrary careers in fame?
According to this 2009 report in Science Magazine, the pleasure part of our brain lights up when people experience misfortune and it lights up even more when we envy those "superior and self-relevant" people. I think to accept this premise of schadenfreude (aka getting pleasure from the pain of others) you have to concede to being envious of the cast of Jersey Shore. I'm going to throw it out there that I take pleasure in these trainwrecks because I relate to them.
I'm not saying I've flashed my vagina at a club (or anywhere) or hit a police car...but I've definitely had a nipslip in my lifetime and there was one time when I was 17 and crashed my friend's van into a city bus (sorry again Eric!). Undoubtedly, there's something comforting about seeing a trainwreck on TV because it's an alternative to the way women are supposed to be. With so much emphasis on being perfect, thin, talented, beautiful, well-mannered, it's refreshing to see women in media who are completely off the rails in an honest way. It's a reminder that we are not perfect and that even those who seem put together (Britney Spears circa 2003) fall apart (Britney Spears circa 2008).
Obviously, I'm not condoning Deena and Snooki's behaviour on that fateful trip to Riccione. It wouldn't come out of nowhere if I suggested that these two have a problem with alcohol. Currently they are being paid to drink and in the future they might be paid to attend rehab chez Dr. Drew. While I don't feel guilty about loving the trainwreck aspect, I do feel guilty about participating in this "paid to drink" grey area of reality television ethics.
As I said in my "Reality Kills" post, I think that people who go on reality TV are ultimately accountable for their behavior and its consequences. However, from various interviews with cast members of these shows (notably Johnny Bananas from MTV's The Challenge on Grantland.com), it's obvious that the producers intentionally find fragile personalities and fill them up with booze. Is this all in good fun or are we seriously fucking people up? As with everything, it's probably somewhere in between.
Interestingly, the boys don't seem to have this problem. All they've done so far is try to get laid, get laid and make everything into a catchphrase. I bet they are the kind of guys who still quote Adam Sandler movies. Ronnie, good try with your "What the Fiat." Don't hold you breath for an endorsement deal. You can talk Charlie Sheen all you want but trainwrecks are decidedly female because of the societal shame associated with them. Who wants to be Lindsay Lohan's intern? No one.
Instead of Celebrity Rehab, I'd like to propose Celebrity Feminism 101. Nothing too aggressive, just a basic introductory course that explains to Ronnie, Mike, Vinny and Pauly D why every lesbian in the whole world threw up in their mouths when the boys discussed how meatball-on-meatball action didn't turn them on. That's right, boys. It's all for you.
It didn't seem like Deena or Nicole were trying to be sexy or get male attention during their marathon makeout session. They've both been down this saliva-swapping path before with girls and there's a genuine possibility that they just dig on each other. Nevertheless, the boys (Vinny especially) shame them with terrible puns at the first opportunity. This isn't an isolated incident. The boys (Vinny especially) shame all of the girls for any sexual behavior whether its gay or straight.
Snooki was also shamed by the priest in last week's episode for dressing how she wants to dress. When she stood up for herself I was very proud of her. Recently, I dealt with a religious administration in a non-religious environment who routinely made me feel ashamed of the way I dressed. I wish I had been as quick as Snooki was to defend my body and my choices.
I stand behind my little trainwrecks and I hope they don't get themselves into too much trouble. They reiterate that women don't have to be perfect yet illuminate the shame bestowed on them if they dare step out of bounds. Regardless of what you think of Jersey Shore, these episodes are an eye-opening glimpse into the state of feminism in pop culture. There's still a long way to go. Snooki and Deena, I salute you.
Read last week's recap here.