With Snooki headed to the Triad this weekend, including a stop at Wake Forest University, it seems like a good time to reflect further on The Jersey Shore and, by extension, other reality shows that attract viewers with outrageous characters and bizarre situations.
Obviously, MTV is targeting a young audience with reality series like The Jersey Shore (not to mention with dramas like Skins), so I decided to ask some of my Wake Forest undergraduate and graduate students whether or not they watch and why.
The series is clearly polarizing. (You know from my previous post how I feel about it!) There are a number of students who dismiss the series out of hand, and one told me that not only does she not watch it, she no longer admits to being from New Jersey.
For others, it is entertaining precisely because of the colorful characters and the situations explored in each episode. There seem to be three categories of viewers. The first group cites the entertainment value of programming that is so outrageous that “you just can’t make this stuff up.”
As one student put it, the show offers a catharsis by allowing “people to poke fun at or learn from types of people who they would otherwise probably have no interaction with.”
The second group is related but more restrained in its approval and appreciation for the show. These students watch because they cannot seem to turn away even if they are ambivalent about The Jersey Shore.
Their response seems a lot like morbid curiosity. Most of us have experienced this – you are driving by a car accident and don’t want to look, feel badly about looking, but can’t help but look.
Rubbernecking from across the room while multitasking may be the preferred way to encounter Snooki, The Situation, their pals, and their frenemies. There is a social aspect to the series for some viewers.
Finally, a third group of viewers emerges. The final group is the one I speculated about in my first post on this show.
Some students report that they do appreciate the public indignity of the characters on the show because their lack of self-awareness (this is a kind way of referring to what’s going on with The Jersey Shore regulars) and bad behavior makes viewers feel better about themselves in comparison. One should hope…
Because my observations and conversations about viewers of The Jersey Shore are anecdotal, I can’t speak to the proportions of viewers who fall into these categories, just that there are distinct viewing patterns among my students.
At least hearing from students themselves sheds some light on the question many parents, faculty, and Wake Forest staff are asking: Why Snooki?