I have attempted – unsuccessfully – to record my thoughts regarding my grandfather’s passing. I suspect that the reason for my struggle is that we haven’t buried him yet. That will take place on Wednesday. In the meantime, though, I’ve had a lot of help.
I spent last night hanging out at Geno’s place. I hadn’t seen him since Matty’s wedding and we both uncharacteristically had time in our schedules to hang out. It was during this time that I watched my first (and hopefully only) episode of Jersey Shore. It was a two-hour episode that I could not really understand because the only information I possessed about the show came through second-hand commentary or criticism of the show via outlets like Saturday Night Live or Grantland.com. The following is a list of things that caught my attention during the two hours:
1. Ronnie and Sammi’s destructive relationship: I know it’s likely the result of editing, but I saw them in situations where they were “not fighting” for about two minutes, and situations where they were “happy” for zero minutes. I am hesitant to judge them too harshly because I have also been in destructive relationships which have defied logic.
2. Jwoww’s boobs: Sadly, they are not real. Also, based on what I saw last night, she’s something of a button pusher. She’s the only one who revealed her motivations for questionable acts, and generally, these reasons were based on personal curiosity. I respect that.
3. Something about “meatballs”: Or more accurately “meatbawwwwls.”
The main thing that caught my attention was the repeated statements made by male cast members regarding the status of their romantic relationships. A couple of the guys had “girlfriends,” but spoke of those relationships in paradoxical terms, expressing their desire to have it both ways – they want to continue those relationships, but don’t want “to be tied down.” It’s not a difficult concept for people to relate to, we want the best of everything at all times. I think, though, that for the members of the show, it’s a symptom of their celebrity: unlike most of us, they really can have it both ways.
Another example of this paradox comes in their employment at the t-shirt store. Despite their overall behavior and portrayal as something less than intelligent, most or all of them were smart enough to parlay their success into more money than I’ll likely make in my lifetime. If they’re careful, they might never have to work a real job for the rest of their lives. That truth tuns their “employment” at the t-shirt store into nothing more than a narrative device, in last night’s episode used to create conflict twice: first to highlight the one guy with the abs’ inability to work because of his on-going rehab, second to illustrate the continued conflict between than same guy an the pregnant that I was first introduced to through Bobby Moynihan’s impression. Of course they’re not going to take the job seriously. Who the hell would work a job they don’t need to? It’s a weird culture. I am certainly not the first to say this, but watching the show requires a remarkable suspension of disbelief. Watching millionaires pretend to slum it the same way they did before they were millionaires is bizarre. This dynamic was on full display in the last ten minutes of the episode.
The copious promos for the episodes which took place during the commercial brakes within the show itself hyped a fight at a club as the climax of the episode. It was also hyped as “the biggest fight ever.” By the time the show slogged its way to the final 15 minutes, we had seen the promo somewhere between six and two hundred and forty-seven times. My brother and I (also a relative newcomer to the show) basically agreed that we had made it this far and that we might as well see it through the end.
It was a let down. In the end, it’s not completely clear what the conflict was and who the antagonists were. In short, the biggest fight, like, ever, was a bunch of shoving and people holding other people back. And also Jwoww’s boyfriend shoving her to the ground.
The most compelling part of the show (possibly staged, I am a cynic) came in the form of Mike (the aforementioned guy with abs, I guess) and his stalker. This guy kept insisting that they were friends, that he had hung out with Mike and his friends, and had pictures saved on his phone. To his credit, Mike tried to be diplomatic about it, saying “maybe we did, I don’t remember,” and things like that. One of Mike’s friends had to step in and tell the guy to beat it.
This is the only thing that actually interests me about the show, which is an extension of another MTV reality series, The Real World. The producers of both shows actively ignored the fact that the situations on both series were far removed from reality. As Chuck Klosterman wrote, during the first few seasons of The Real World, not a single cast member ever accused the other of “only saying that because we’re TV,” even if that would have been the best comeback most of the time. Likewise, Jersey Shore features rich and (in)famous people attempting to do and deal with things that non-rich and non-famous people do and deal with. But the group crosses the street and there is a throng of people in the background watching them do it. A girl I wouldn’t touch with ten-foot pole covered with an eight-foot condom flashes her upstairs and downstairs just to be invited to hang out with them for a few moments. Aside: Apparently, D.T.F. means “Down to F*ck,” but D.T.A. means “Down for Anything.” Good to know. Their lives are foreign to me and seem unrealistic, but it is their reality. That’s why it irritates me to hear them say that they want to enjoy the perks of a relationship and the single life simultaneously, but seems perfectly logical to them.
All of that said, that was the first and last time, Jersey Shore.
The highlight of the night came during the final half-hour of Jersey Shore. MTV ran an ad for an upcoming show called Catfish. Based on the commerical alone, it appeared as if the premise of the show was taking people involved in on-line relationships to find their on-line partner to see if they were who they said they were.
“I’m all in,” I said after the commercial ended. “What?” Geno said incredulously. “You don’t even know what it’s about!” he continued. “If the show is what they just said it is, people’s hearts are going to get broken or it’s all going to work out. There’s no in-between. I’m down for that,” I said. “Why call it ‘Catfish?'” Matty wondered aloud.
Now, this ad came on before the “climax” of the Jersey Shore episode. So when the supposed biggest fight ever went down and then the credits rolled, there was a stunned silence in Geno’s living room. “That’s it?” Geno said. “Eff you, Jersey Shore,” I shouted. “Wow,” Matty added. “Damn it, I was just Catfished!” I said. That’s what set it off.
A long-standing tradition of our group of friends is our shared ability to take a small, humorous kernel and extrapolate it out to a ridiculous degree. We immediately began a pseudo-intellectual debate on the possibilities of naming the show after Catfish. In five minutes, were in hysterics. We doing that thing where your statements are punctuated by laughter and that somehow makes everything funnier. It was the best laugh I’ve had in a while.
Of course I did the internet research and now know why it’s called “Catfish.” The show is based on a controversial documentary of the same name. It’s based on the supposed real experiences of one of the guys in this picture. I wasn’t really paying attention. Let’s just put it this way, our fake ideas were a million times cooler than the truth. I would like to respectfully rescind my all-in wager.
Thanks Shannon and Geno for all the food and the laughs. It helped a lot.