In an effort to prove that the Hamptons are not the only place to vacation on the East Coast, MTV brings us ‘Jersey Shore,’ a reality show that follows a group of self-proclaimed “guidos” and “guidettes” who spend a lazy summer partying at the shore in a guesthouse paid for by MTV. Think ‘Real World’ but with no diversity. Instead, the housemates chosen for this show are all unnaturally tan Italian-Americans with funny accents in their early twenties.
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When they’re not recovering from hangovers, they pass their time at nightclubs drunkenly rubbing up against strangers… and each other. Cue the make-out sessions back at the house’s hot tub, from which spring some spectacular wisdom (in addition to some less spectacular STDs). Witness for yourself:
As a native Californian, there are many things I don’t understand about the East Coast, but after watching ‘Jersey Shore,’ I can take guidos and guidettes off that list. A few episodes is all it took to understand the guidos’ obsession with tanning, the guidettes’ fascination with cutoff shorts. And thanks to the clip above, I now know that if I’m gonna wear anything at all in a hot tub, I should wear a thong bikini rather than my bra and panties since that’s a little bit more classiuh.
Certainly, ‘Jersey Shore’ is a great spectacle, which is exactly what MTV meant for it to be. The show takes the public drunkenness of ‘Girls Gone Wild,’ the superficiality of those ‘Real Housewives’ shows, the egomania of the ‘Tyra Banks Show,’ the cattiness of ‘The Bachelor,’ and the casual hookups of pretty much any other reality show that throws strangers together in a house, and wraps them in body bronzer, gym bodies and Ed Hardy T-shirts. The result is a masterpiece of reality television programming that’s chockfull of sex, violence, drama and memorable one-liners.
But the show’s real genius is not in how it packs elements of all reality shows into an epic dysfunction fest that we can’t pull ourselves away from, but that it repackages those elements with a guido culture that we’ve rarely glimpsed before on national television.
Watching ‘Jersey Shore’ is like observing wild animals at the zoo. The guido culture has very specific customs that govern wardrobe, mating rituals, nightclub etiquette and personal grooming habits. Ultimately, the show is an ethno-cultural exploration of this exotic species that is just as educational as a PBS program on aborigines — and far more fascinating.
With enough time and exposure, it’s conceivable that guido customs will even be appropriated by mainstream Americans. Consider how foreign hip-hop culture once was or how marginalized the gay community used to be. Compare that with today, when there are white kids in Idaho who wear baggy pants and listen to rap music and straight metrosexuals who are into manicures and “manscaping.”
Judging by the splash ‘Jersey Shore’ has already made, there’s no reason to doubt that guidos will increase their indelible imprint on popular culture. Beyond the standard fan sites and blogger recaps, ‘Jersey Shore’ characters have been parodied on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ appeared on late-night talk shows and have earned a slew of celebrity fans. Just the other week, actor Michael Cera (“George Michael” to fans of Arrested Development) was hanging out with the ‘Shore’ kids, one of whom gave him the “blowout” hairstyle common to guidos.
There are rumors of a new dating show in development for the pint-sized guidette Snooki, and there’s also talk of ‘Jersey Shore’ being renewed for a second season (just as I had predicted in last month’s column!). And just imagine how many people will dress up as a guido for Halloween this year.
Guido fever could spread from the Jersey Shore to the West Coast. There could be clothing lines (besides Ed Hardy), cookbooks, talk shows and magazines. There could be a political action committee with a Guido Agenda aimed at turning your children into orange juiceheads. The blowout hairstyle could become the hottest hair trend since the Rachel!
I know I’ll be thinking twice about my attire next time I enter a hot tub.