Amy Kelly is the CEO of Parent eSource, the global resource, community, and social media trending firm she founded in 2010 to transform the communication between parents and their children. Parent eSource has achieved stunning results by helping countless parents better understand the changing world their teens live in and providing innovative resources to help parents connect with their connected teens Amy has established her revolutionary perspective, resources and technology and is a sought after expert in sharing her insight and parental connection advice.
Part of our Teen Influencer Series
Snooki summed up the Jersey Shore influence pretty well in the final episode of season two by announcing that if she were president, “The economy would rise, everyone would be tan and all the radios would play house music.” Luckily, she doesn’t have a chance. However, even though the influence of Jersey Shore doesn’t span the nation, it certainly resonates with many teens today as, at the very least, a good form of entertainment.
The Jersey Shore is a popular MTV reality television series that features eight New Jersey natives whose favorite past times include tanning, working out, slaughtering the English language, clubbing, getting drunk, eating gluttonously and having unprotected sex with multiple partners. The cast members include Jenni a.k.a. JWoww, Nicole a.k.a. Snooki, Vinny, Sammi, Mike a.k.a. “The Situation,” Pauly and Ronny. These members were chosen allegedly at random– though I don’t see how they could have randomly chosen worse representatives of New Jersey– and given the opportunity to live in a Seaside Heights beach house for the summer with seven other strangers. The opening credits alone are filled with profanity, loud party music and a quote from JWoww that I can’t even begin to categorize– “After I have sex with a guy, I will rip their heads off.”
Since the Jersey Shore airs on the MTV network, it is viewed mostly by a teenage to early twenties demographic. Chances are, your teen has seen at least one episode of Jersey Shore, if not for genuine interest in the show itself, then at least to see what all the hype is about. The fact that Jersey Shore has an influence over many teens raises a bit of concern. From one angle, the show glamorizes the lives of seven twenty-somethings wasting their lives with materialism, gluttony, lust and essentially any deadly sin you can think of. Alternatively, the show mocks them for their unfaltering stupidity and egocentrism complete with cricket and “womp-womp” sound effects. Still, the bulk of the show portrays them as they actually are, which is mostly just egregiously hedonistic and at times pretty terrifying.
What’s most concerning about the Jersey Shore influence is the promiscuous sex with random partners that often follows a night of clubbing and binge drinking. The house even has a designated “smush room,” which is a guest bedroom in the house that members often fight over reserving for the night so he or she and that special someone they met at the club can be alone to “smush,” slang for have sex. However, privacy isn’t always a top concern at the Jersey Shore house, since Pauly and The Situation often “hook up” with girls they’ve brought home from the club in the same room with one another. Despite all of the featured sex with multiple partners, not once on the show is the subject of birth control or other forms of protection mentioned.
Although the show’s display of each member with multiple sex partners alone is pretty alarming, the sexism and objectification of women involved in the methods used to lure women is perhaps the most revolting. The women can be just as guilty of sexism and objectification of men, however they typically aren’t as active in the approach. For example, the men have a strategy they call “fishing,” where they stand on a balcony above the boardwalk and whistle at women they find attractive (from a 50 feet above vantage point, at least) and wait till one of the women “catches the bait.” Catching the bait basically means that they respond to the whistling in one way or another and agree to meet the charming sources.
Upon meeting the women who “caught the bait,” the men assess them on different levels using slang terms. A “grenade” is a woman whom they find unattractive for whatever reason, but has to be subdued so she doesn’t interfere with the seduction of her attractive friend. A “hippopotamus” is a girl they find unattractive, as you may have guessed, because she is heavier set. After further introductions, the assessment becomes more detailed and a final verdict is made about whether or not the woman is “DTF,” which is slang for “down to…” you can probably guess the rest.
These same methods of assessing women are applied in the club setting. Though the men prefer attractive women (who don’t have a slang alternative, by the way), they will often “settle” for a grenade to use for the night. On a few occasions, women have made it all the way back to the house with the men before realizing they didn’t want to go through with the set-up. On one episode it was because one of the women was engaged. These women are abruptly insulted, reprimanded and thrown out of the house. The Situation responded to one of these women saying “Don’t come over somebody’s house at f—n 5 a.m. and expect to play checkers.”
Despite all of the negative messages in the Jersey Shore, there are often themes of loyalty, family and comradery among the group that are actually quite admirable. Even though they just met each other in the past couple of years, the members often refer to the group as a family. They eat dinner together almost every night and they only leave the club as a group. They look out for one another. Despite their ostensible disregard for human beings other than themselves, the cast seems to actually be capable of genuinely caring for one another beyond what that person’s use is to them. This may not seem so impressive for those who have never seen the show, but among the sea of filth and hedonism, it’s the one trace of humanity the Jersey Shore has.
From another angle, the Jersey Shore provides a concrete, allegorical example of all that is loathsome in the world. Teens can use bad examples just as much as good examples as guides for what not to do. All great literature has a hero and a villain and it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two. Jersey Shore exposes us to what used to be a culture of well-hidden villains that deserve public criticism. Watching the Jersey Shore can sometimes make you feel like an anthropologist uncovering a new and peculiar species. I often find myself shocked that people like this actually exist. Your teen should rightly be aware of cultures such as the one portrayed on the Jersey Shore, however, it should be well understood (and it is to most teens) that the Jersey Shore is to be criticized rather than praised.
Parents should be aware of this influence so they can share their criticisms of the Jersey Shore lifestyle with their teens. The teen influence of the Jersey Shore isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long the influence isn’t biased. The Jersey Shore is unavoidably a part of our culture and whether we like it or not, we shouldn’t ignore its existence. It’s doubtful that teens approve of everything that takes place on the Jersey Shore, so it gives them the opportunity to be critics of the salient negative messages portrayed on the show. Teens are typically influenced by media role models when they don’t have a parental structure that guides them in determining which role models are positive influences and which are negative. Helping them understand the difference can often make all the difference.
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