Situating Snookie: The Jersey Shore's framing of an Ethnic Enclave
by Roger Almendarez — Northwestern University
September 29, 2011 – 00:00
For this week, I have chosen a YouTube clip entitled “Jersey Shore Girls at Souvenir Stand in Florence, Italy.” What user mdr226 captures is a banal event-turned-spectacle due to its mixture of spectators, guards, crew, cameras, and cast—all co-creating the space of a souvenir stand. In this clip, two spheres collide: that of the “real” in which Florencians flourish in their everyday and that of the “real” Jersey Shore (MTV Reality Show) cast that moves within this controlled space of the spectacle that I call a media sphere. While this view—from outside of the spectacle—is not available within the 24 minute space of the Jersey Shore text, the show nonetheless fragments moments from the ongoing video record of the media sphere to produce a “Jersey Shore” identity.
Structurally, Jersey Shore uses interview cut-scenes from its cast to comment on and make intelligible the behaviors and practices of the media sphere. I contend that in doing so, Jersey Shore develops an ethnic identity where it not only deconstructs stereotypes (e.g., Fist Pump-Push-Up-Chapstick), but uses the cast to embody them as well, serving to disrupt the notion of an essentialized ethnic other by way of re-representing it through its spectacle. While all communities exhibit dynamics that delimit their boundaries of inclusion, those borders are not always made explicit. Jersey Shore, however—through sound overlays that use music to influence a scene, commentary that translates recorded behavior into its own discourse, and a fragmentation of the media sphere—constructs a representation of a community with its own ideologies and practices.
Though I would not venture to say that Jersey Shore is relatable to any specific ethnicity outside of its text, the concerned reactions from the National Italian American Foundation, the Order Sons of Italy, and Italianaware.com become increasingly complicated when one takes into account that its cast members are not homogenously Italian-American (Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was adopted from Chile, Ronnie Ortz-Magro is Puerto Rican-Italian-American, and Jennifer “Jwoww” Farley is Irish-Spanish American). To end, Jersey Shore’s reality tv aesthetic brings to mind the relationships between a text’s form and its content. I wonder—would this show be different if the majority of the cast identified as Latino/a?
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