“Gym, Tanning, Laundry”, these three words have become increasingly popular among teenagers because of MTV’s hit reality television show, Jersey Shore. Television shows and their stars can become very influential to many of their viewers. Many of these viewers strive to be like these stars and mimic their style and attitude, in hopes of living the same careless lifestyle that has made these stars known around the world. Unfortunately, these television shows don’t always portray certain aspects of life realistically, and therefore send a false message that can be very deceiving. Studies show that television shows tend to follow several popular trends that do indeed portray the wrong reality.
Harry F. Water’s article, “Life According to TV”, analyzes the different trends that television shows and movies in popular culture tend to follow. Harry Water’s focuses on George Gerbner’s research on the scientific examination of television far beyond familiar children-and-violence arguments. He describes television’s reality warp dealing with sex, age, race, work, health and crime. Water’s states in his article, “People over 65, too, are grossly underrepresented on television. Correspondingly, heavy-viewing Annenberg respondents believe that the elderly are a vanishing breed and that they make up a smaller proportion of the population today than they did 20 years ago.
In fact, they form the nation’s most rapidly expanding age group” (Waters, 1982). Jersey Shore is a reality television show similar to that of “The Real World” and markets binge drinking, partying, fake tanning, and sleeping all day. It seems that the drama-driven cast seems to be promoting a careless way of life, and in fact might be rubbing off on its viewers. Elderly people are rarely seen on the show, and the stars are constantly shown going out with other young people, and going to bars and clubs that consist of other people around their age group. Even though some of the stars on the show are in their 30’s, they still live a constant partying lifestyle and act as though they are still young and essentially do not have to grow up yet.
Teenagers watching this show can see this lifestyle as normal and strive to live their life the same way. The stars in the show live in a nice house and are constantly spending money, even though they only work at a pizza, ice cream and t-shirt company. In reality, these types of jobs would not cover the type of expenses these lifestyles come with. This lifestyle is extremely glamorized and in reality, someone living the same lifestyle as these stars would not be living nearly as luxuriously as they do, due to the success rate they have gained from the show. Many of these stars are on the front of magazines and all over different television talk shows because their show has become so successful and is increasing in fans. Some worry that viewers might have more motivation to be like these casts members and partake in inappropriate activities in hopes that they too will get famous.
David Showalter a columnist for New Jersey newsroom says that, “MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ success is a cultural phenomenon” (Showalter, 2011), and for the most part he is absolutely correct. Jersey Shore has been a huge success, but for what? Partying? Another aspect of life that television shows often times portray unrealistically is health. Water’s states in his article, “Although video characters exist almost entirely on junk food and quaff alcohol 15 times more often than water, they manage to remain slim, healthy and beautiful.” Jersey Shore is centered almost entirely on partying and living that partying lifestyle- partying all night and recovering for half of the next day in order to be ready to do it again.
However, the majority of the cast appears to be extremely well fit. This can confuse viewers because constant partying and binge drinking daily can be extremely harmful to one’s health. Even though going to the gym is part of these cast members daily routine, it does not make up for their excessive partying and will eventually catch up to them, when the viewers are no longer watching. These stars go out almost every night and are constantly shown belligerent to the point where they can’t walk and are starting fights in clubs and other public places, and for some reason young teenagers are seeing this as something cool to participate in. In an interview by Steven Guarino, he states, “Alcoholism is promoted on the Jersey Shore so much that it could influence younger viewers to drink irresponsibly.” The motive and center of the show is clearly the stars ongoing party lifestyle and their crazy drunken endeavors.
The Situation, one of the cast members, has even stated in the first season on the first episode, “You can hate on me all you want to, but what can you possibly say to somebody that looks like Rambo, pretty much, with his shirt off.” Therefore, although the stars are constantly drinking and eating poorly, they still remain slim and good-looking, when in reality most people would be looking the complete opposite. Walter’s article also states, “Frequent TV watchers, the Annenberg investigators found, eat more, drink more, exercise less and possess an almost mystical faith in the curative powers of medical science.” When watching television shows, sometimes we get hooked and start to believe and agree with these stars way of life, not noticing the reality of it and allowing ourselves to get sucked into popular culture.
Tanning is another major part of the popular Jersey Shore lifestyle. As we know, fake tanning can be very harmful to our skin, and cause skin cancer. However, the Jersey Shore characters act as if it is a way of life. Waters also states in his article, “Television may well be the single most pervasive source of health information. And it’s over idealized images of medical people, coupled with its complacency about unhealthy life-styles, leaves both patients and doctors vulnerable to disappointment, frustration and even litigation” (Waters, 1982). Despite what children have heard from their parents or other people, the un-healthy diets they see on television can appear healthy to them because they seem to be working for these reality TV stars and consequently can end up being more influential than what they’ve heard.
Snooki, one of the show’s main characters, recently said on a Jay Leno show, that she’d like to change the world by installing cancer-causing tanning beds “in everybody’s homes.” Every member on the show tans in a tanning bed daily as a consistent part of their daily lives, and considers being tan as one of the main things one must do in order to be good looking. The cast members are very forward about this and seem to see nothing wrong with it.
The Situation states in the second episode of the first season, “I wait till the last minute to shave, I wait till the last minute to put my shirt on ‘cause you feel fresh. These are rules to live by, shave last minute, haircut the day-of, maybe some tanning and the gym. You gotta do the guido handbook.” These quotes seem to be aiming towards the casts members’ hopes to influence viewers to live these similar lifestyles and to shoot to look like them, even if it’s not what’s best for the viewers’ health and unfortunately television shows continue to influence people in the wrong way.
Although Jersey Shore seems to capture every negative aspect of reality television and continues to be unrealistic, it somehow remains the most viewed series on MTV. The third season finale delivered 4.8 million viewers; almost triple the audience who watched the season premiere on December 3 (Martin). It is clear that the Jersey Shore phenomenon is continuing to grow and become more widespread than ever before. This can be very troubling to parents and the messages being sent to young teenagers is influencing them in a very negative way, while showing them unrealistic “reality television”. With popular culture becoming more and more deceiving, viewers can forget to question who they are really taking after.