Tuesday, 22 February 2011

drop the grenade

I keep meaning to talk about Jersey Shore, but I get distracted. Well, now's my chance. I still have not seen an entire episode, but I continue to run across references to it. (Just yesterday I overheard a girl in a high school hallway urging her friend to drop that grenade -- presumably a boyfriend, for whom I developed an immediate sympathy.) As I said somewhere else, you can tell how important a piece of art is by the way it pervades culture. It is, for instance, hard to go through a week without a single reference to the Beatles or Simpsons or Bible. A few years ago I was in an amateur production of The Wizard of Oz, and noticed how that story has become part of our frame of reference. Paris Hilton is so famous that her life has become a work of art. Not great art, perhaps, but pervasive. Whatever Time magazine might say, she is far more present in our culture than Jonathan Franzen.
Which brings me back to Jersey Shore. What, I asked Ed, is the appeal of Snookie and The Situation and the rest? Do you and your crowd want to be like them?Yeah, he said.
But aren't they all kind of awful? Shallow and self-absorbed, and dim with it?

Well, yeah.
So do you admire them?
No. But it'd be cool to live like that.

This is an interesting idea -- to aspire to a condition we do not admire. I remember wanting to be like OJ Simpson back when he played football. But not afterwards.
I think the appeal of Jersey Shore lies in its fantasy factor -- like Lord Of the Rings, it dispenses with the petty irksome details of modern life. No one on the show worrries about money or sick children or the drudgery of a daily job. The conflict is epic and eternal: good versus evil (good being defined as hot and fun to be with, and evil as ugly and boring). But when I tried to explain this to Ed, he shook his head.
It's just a show, Dad. Funny and stupid, you know?
And hard to miss.

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