I saw a whole lot of Snookis on Halloween, but no matter how high your pouf or how tight your skirt, I bet you didn’t hold a candle to the original. The Snookster and her shrill, well-oiled fellow castmates of Jersey Shore produce hours of vapid, ridiculous, endlessly compelling entertainment, working with nothing more than over-gelled hair and sheer dumb conviction. Gym, Tan, Laundry: the secret to successful young adult life and the only reason I get out of bed in the morning. As the Situation so insightfully puts it: “If you ain’t been to the gym, you don’t look good. If you got no tan, you’re pale. If you ain’t done laundry, you got no clothes!” Preach.
Casual viewers might think the antics of J-Woww, Vinny, Pauly D, Snooki, Sammy, and the Situation are completely constructed, a product of MTV’s gaudy schizophrenic TV machine. But Jersey Shore is no Teen Mom—the individuals featured are, during their every minute of screen time, representing their true selves and the greasy, sexy subculture they worship so fervently. On Long Island (where J-Woww and I hail from), girls just like this get manicures every Friday and slap on leather cutout dresses for the club. They’re loud, vicious, dramatic, and covered in hot messery from head to toe. But seeing those trashy girls roaming around high school and my local bagel joint wasn’t uncommon.
I spent my after-prom at the Jersey Shore and casually navigated grimy streets teeming with drunk guidettes, feeling resigned but not surprised. I honestly could not see the appeal of such a specific, grating minority of the teenage population and doubted whether the show would have success beyond the niches of Italian clubbers on the East coast.
When the Shore hit major airwaves, I made sure to watch the first episode and I was delighted by the realism—a reaction that many of my bad-TV-watching friends definitely did not experience. Sure, they were stuck in a fake-looking house with stupid gimmicks like a duck phone and a confessional, and the producers had set them up with absolutely useless “jobs” at a T-shirt shop. But the kids themselves felt shockingly believable. They came off as so aggressively wild, vain, and irrational that the show began to feel like a Discovery Channel special. Gross, half-naked female clubgoers (“grenades” if they’re fat, “bombs” if they’re fatter) kept revolving through the house, as if the “juiced-up gorilla” male castmates needed mediocre, screechy, drunk sex to survive. The girls picked fights with each other for no reason, scratching and sobbing as if language were not enough to describe their infantile frustration. The good young people of Jersey Shore have put other similar ensemble shows to shame, proving to the skeptical viewer that the plastic, heavily marketed “reality” of MTV isn’t enough to contain the outrageous, slutty reality of their lives.
I have gotten more attached to these well-groomed, panty-less partiers than I care to admit. I chant “Tee shirt tiiiiime” and “CAB’S HERE!” at my suitemates before we go out, and I’ve started to become self-conscious about my straightened hair—I just cannot get mine as shiny as Sammy’s. I know the Shore buddies are irresponsible and would probably act more bitchy than hilarious if I ever encountered any of them in person, but they are just so free. Unencumbered by the rules and expectations of normal society, they bang in the hot tub, shimmy their breast implants, and pound five shots in a minute with furious abandon. Suddenly, I can’t wait to visit home and drive past the tanning salon. Inside, I’m sure I’ll see a row of young guidettes-in-training, attaching their hair extensions and getting ready to party with no shame.