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"BENNIE GO HOME!"

By Michael Murray | TV | December 18, 2009 | Comments ()

By Michael Murray | TV | December 18, 2009 |


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Snooki has over 7,000 Facebook fans.

If you're one of these people, you now know that Snooki got punched in the face. On a widely circulated clip from MTV's "The Jersey Shore," we see Snooki--her absurdly tanned skin the color of a dying lung -- standing up on a barstool while at a nightclub.

Like a lady.

Wearing a luridly colored Ed Hardy baseball hat, she's leaning into a pack of boozed-up men. A tornado of posturing rage, she's shrieking, "Get your ugly ass out of my face!!" at one of them while waving her hands about his face as if trying to swat him out of the way. As this show is a real class factory, the guy she was yelling at spins around and punches her in the face. A quick edit takes place and we next see Snooki curled in a ball on the floor sobbing. This is followed by a shot of a cuffed man being led to a police cruiser, as a faceless voice announces, "You're going to jail."

See Clip.

MTV would hate to in any way be seen as promoting violence against women, and so they did not include this clip in Thursday's episode of "Jersey Shore." No, to do so would be exploitative, so MTV just used the clip as a teaser, running it ceaselessly so that they could, you know, generate a ground swell of interest on an important issue.

Or something like that.

"Jersey Shore" is a reality show that follows eight of the "hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos," as they party their asses off for a summer on the coast. The four girls and four guys are thrown together in a house and made to work menial jobs selling t-shirts in a boardwalk store, all the while encouraged to let their Ids run riot, and that my friends, is the show.

Everything about "Jersey Shore" is sleazy and exploitative. If it was some sort of comedy in which a bunch of actors were portraying Italian-Americans on spring break, the howls of protest would be immediate, and the show would be yanked off the airwaves -- amidst much humiliation and apology -- in a flash. But as it's a reality show in which "real" people are portraying their "real" lives, it's managed to hang in there. After all, if it's the ethnic group that should be complaining, that's actually providing the satiric material to be used against itself, it can't be wrong, right?

Or something like that.

Certainly, nobody expected a sensitive coming-of-age portrait about how a group of people were able to overcome the potent and limiting tribal influences of the culture that weaned them, but this, this is like seeing everybody you ever hated in high school writ large.

Let's look at Snooki, whom we last saw lying on the floor of a bar sobbing.

Her real name is Nicole Polizzi. At 21, she's an aspiring veterinary technician who is short, over-confident, obnoxious and likely looks like her dad. On her first night in the beach house, she got repellently drunk. Overestimating her 6-out-of-10 looks, and wearing nothing but her bra and leopard thong, she clamored as seductively as she could into the hot tub, whereupon she crawled all over the sniggering guys. It was an unlovely spectacle that did not serve her well. As her housemate Angela bitchily noted from the sidelines, "A thong bikini would have been a little bit more classier, if you're gonna wear anything at all, you know what I mean?" "Amateur," Angela seemed to be saying.

And so, after one night, Snooki had managed to effectively alienate herself from both the Guidos and the Guidettes. Feeling left out and rejected, Snooki made a big, attention-demanding display of pouting in solitude. This strategy proved ineffective, and so she packed her suitcase and made a display of leaving the show altogether, because she felt like an outcast, and as she tells us, " I AM NEVER THE OUTCAST!" She is talked off this cliff and decides to stay. Later, she brings home some boozy guy she picked up, only to have him vomit when she tried to make out with him.

In two short episodes, Snooki has managed to accomplish what takes most people all of their high school and college years. In short, "Jersey Shore" packages the most humiliating and vile experiences of everybody's youth and sells them as something as powerful and seductive as celebrity.

It's a train wreck, of course, but one that's hard to turn away from.

The three other women on the show (one, Angela, has been sent home because she refused to work a shift at the T-shirt store because she was a waitress who was "used to doing great things") are all variations on a theme, with each one espousing a sort of sociopathic feminism, in which the absence of ethics is the same thing as empowerment. (This is exactly the same, only more so, and more effectively so, for the men.)

Watching the women, who go by names like JWoww and Sweetheart, it's hard to ignore the fact that they're not exactly the cookie-cutter beauty queens we've become accustomed to seeing on reality shows. They're not the girls you go out into the world to find, but the ones who happen to live beside you.

In contrast, the guys are all muscles and machismo. Tanned and waxed, with more hair product and fragrance than any of the girls, they strut about and flex their muscles, fully expecting the world to crumble before them.

The primary Alpha in the mix is Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino. His defining characteristic is his abs, which he's continually referencing and showcasing. It's his University degree, if you know what I mean. He travels easily through his sexist landscape, exuding a relaxed and entitled charm that suggests he's utterly in love with the control he has over his world.

See Clip

The summers belong to these men. They get in fights, pump their fists in the air and dream about having a stripper pole in the kitchen. Right now, they're everything that they ever wanted to be, and the naïve certainty that carries them through their days is kind of stunning to watch. Of course, this window of limitless opportunity will surely close, and the day will come when they stand before the mirror, meticulously grooming their now imperfect bodies, wondering whatever happened to all the girls they so casually dispatched back in that glorious summer at the Jersey Shore.

Michael Murray is a freelance writer. For the last three and a half years he's written a weekly column for the Ottawa Citizen about watching television. He presently lives in Toronto. You can find more of his musings on his blog, or check out his Facebook page.


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