Situating Snookie: The Jersey Shore's framing of an Ethnic Enclave

Curator's Note

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 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?       


 Great post! I am very curious about the "relatability" factor that you bring up towards the end of your piece. Although I do agree that on the one hand, the ethnicity presented on Jersey Shore is indeed a world unto itself, I do think that reality shows need some aspect of universality in order to hold their viewers' interest after the initial shock value wears off. I find it interesting that the discussion around the cast members' ethnicity has been so specific (Snooki is Chilean, JWoww is half-Irish, etc. etc.), and wonder if that is a bit of a red herring. Perhaps the Jersey Shore is presenting a kind of generalized working class non-whiteness, as evidenced by some of their own comments where they distinguish themselves from presumably "typical" white people. I wonder how much shows like Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, Mob Wives, Russian Dolls, and others, allow for a representation of non-normative whiteness, without going into the problematic territory of representing more recognized minorities such as African Americans, Latinos, etc. 

I'm fascinated by the video you've chosen, not for its entertainment value: as you point out, the video is "banal."  What is interesting is how many such videos like this show up on YouTube.  People are fascinated by the celebrities, whether they be actors or reality show stars and what would have been closely held personal footage in the pre-YouTube era becomes a part of the overall text of the show. 

One wouldn't easily recognize this as a part of the Jersey Show "media sphere," except for the title making it relatively easy to find for Jersey Show fans.  This clip has over 66,000 views!  In terms of accessibility, these examples help make the stars more accessible: they're doing what we might do, and the lack of editing emphasizes the real.  When one then watches the actual show, the connection with the characters/participants becomes even deeper.

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