Reality and ridiculousness battle for airspace

By Chris Exantus

Despite any and all negative publicity, the cast of Jersey Shore has earned MTV its highest ratings of any show and is paid up to $30,000 per episode to fight, drink and party.

 

There’s a certain fascination that comes with watching reality television, perhaps because these shows often feature everyday people rather than actors.

Suddenly, fame isn’t something that’s restricted to the upper-class or the extremely talented — anyone can be famous.  And in today’s YouTube-centric society, it seems that fame is only one step away.

But does it come at a cost?  There seems to be concern over some of the negative aspects found in reality television, especially in regards to Jersey Shore.  Reality television has never shied away from the exploitative nature of the genre; in fact, it often revels in it. Yet, the show affects millions of television viewers in a way that no other has before it.  The rampant drunkenness, misogyny and overall stupidity from its cast of colorful characters created a cultural phenomenon that has swept the nation.  Yet, should its acceptance in pop-culture be worrying?

While the show has grown in popularity since its inception on MTV in 2009, Jersey Shore also has its fair share of critics, many of whom lambast the cast’s frequent partying and accuse the show of promoting negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.

“It’s completely scripted and unrealistic,” freshman Salma Ali said.  “It’s an embarrassment to human culture.”

Not everyone is so hard on reality-based programming.  In fact, the idiocy of Jersey Shore’s cast members is what many believe fuels America’s irony-laden fascination with these people.

“I think it’s just the stupidity,” said freshman Mike Breen, an avid viewer of the show. “They all have a good time and they do stupid things.  I think that draws us into the show to see what they do next.”

That seems to be a common theme among supporters of the show. Most of their enjoyment comes entirely from watching the ridiculous antics of the characters, knowing that these people are incorrigible in every way.

“I think it’s just stupidly funny,” junior Brittany Gajewski said.  “You can’t help but laugh at these people and how idiotic they are.”

While there seems, at least, to be an understanding of the comical nature of what drives the show, many are worried that it is younger children who are at risk of being negatively affected by shows such as Bridezilla or Bad Girls Club.

In fact, a recent study from The Girl Scout Research Institute reveals that younger girls who regularly watch these shows are more likely to take part in “drama,” or use physical force as a solution during any confrontation.

Ashley Reichelmann, a Rider University adjunct within the sociology department, weighs in on the potentially harmful effects on younger audiences.

“With reality television like Jersey Shore, we’re physically taking a real body and a real name and presenting it as reality,” Reichelmann said. “For a developed mind, we know it’s not reality, but what about the large group of individuals who are being raised in this reality world?”

Even its supporters agree that younger viewers should be kept away from these shows.

“I think there is some truth to it, and reality television isn’t helping in any way,” Gajewski said.  “Instances of Jersey Shore are unacceptable for children to watch.”

Despite any level of controversy, reality television is here to stay as it proves to entertain just as much as a fictional sitcom can. Once upon a time we found brutal gladiatorial matches entertaining; it only makes sense for us to watch with a certain demented glee as two individuals drunkenly shout at each other.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi stars in her own episode of E! True Hollywood Story, despite the fact that many believe she is undeserving of such fame.
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