It would be too easy for me to rail on the hormonally hyper-charged new hit show Jersey Shore. Like Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, and a ton of other pop culture media outlets over the last decade, the whole point is to indulge in as much vicarious sex as possible. What really disturbs me more than usual is that Jersey Shore is a reality show, where something like Gossip Girl or Sex and the City is clearly all fantasy. It’s debatable how scripted any reality show is, or how much it actually reflects reality, but the understanding of all involved in the production and watching of Jersey Shore is that it basically represents the lives of actual, fairly ordinary people. They might be more attractive and promiscuous than average, but if they were too far beyond the norm to which any viewer is accustomed, the show wouldn’t work.
At least the appeal of the Jerry Springer Show was to denounce this kind of behavior! Nothing about the advertising, presentation, or public reaction to Jersey Shore smacks at all of satire. It’s clearly meant to be taken, essentially, at face value.
So what the popularity of Jersey Shore proves is that we have now reached a point where idiots trying to have as much sex as possible is grounds for legitimate mainstream entertainment. It’s not a comedy (the infamous punching episode shows that), and it’s not social commentary (I’ve yet to read of any serious analysis related to it). Thinking about all of this last week made me remember something.
The Spur Posse. Nearly 20 years ago, in 1993, a national news story broke about a group of high school boys who had a contest going where they scored each other on how many girls they could sleep with. The story only became news because there were suspicions of rape, but it turned out it was all consensual. The girls were only too happy to play along. The story was treated on the news as scandalous, shocking, a cautionary tale about where we might be headed as a society. After the dust settled and the boys made the rounds of the talk show circuit, it was so that we could all shake our heads and wonder what this country was coming to.
How much things have changed in less than 20 years. The young men (and women, for that matter) of Jersey Shore have become sex symbols and icons to our youth specifically because they’re idiots who have as much sex as possible. (Don’t bother arguing otherwise–I work on a high school campus and a college campus; believe me, this adulation is quite real and totally sincere.) There doesn’t even seem to be an allowance for discerning taste–they all appear to have “hooked up” in whatever combinations they can imagine, in less than one season. Where is anyone–outside of old fashioned fuddy duddy prudes like yours truly–suggesting that this is a horrible, horrible thing?
One supposes that had the Spur Posse story come to light today, rather than being vilified as dangerous predators, those boys would have landed a sweet reality show contract and become instant celebrities on the media’s lucrative pervert circuit. From being scrutinized on PBS to being worshipped on TMZ, in less than two decades. I can think of no better illustration for what we have become.