I recently had the opportunity to visit an old friend who lives near Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Thrilled as I was to have a real vacation for the first time in years, and beyond excited to see my friend again. I must admit to a certain trepidation at the prospect of spending a week on the infamous Jersey Shore.
I was sure it would be packed with Snooki and Situation clones, and all that implies so I steeled myself for the psychological blow and headed for the coast. The media had tainted my impression of the place, and I only expected the worst. How wrong I was! People, neighbours and strangers know II hate reality television. Actually, hate is too tame a term — I loathe and despise it with the white hot hate of a thousand suns.
It has ruined several good cable television networks (I’m looking at you, TLC and History Channel), who have chosen to replace quality programming with cheaply produced reality shows like Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo , Lizard Lick Towing , and Duck Dynasty , all for the sake of money. The term “reality TV” is oxymoronic; nothing could be farther from reality than this dreck. I would be hard-pressed to choose which of these programs was the worst, seeing as how there are so many in the running, but MTV’s Jersey Shore , which ended its run in 2012 but whose influence is still felt, has to be among the worst offenders.
During my time there, I often found myself wondering what would take longer for the Shore to clean up: the physical damage done by Superstorm Sandy, or the damage done by Jersey Shore to the area’s image in the eyes of the world. Thanks to MTV and a myriad of magazines and pop culture sources, I imagined the Shore as a culture-free zone, filled with loud, narcissistic orange glowsticks masquerading as people, whose lives revolved around the club, the gym, the tanning bed, and how to score by midnight. What I found instead was a beautiful, quiet community filled with the friendliest people you would ever want to meet, who eagerly welcomed me and never made me feel like just a tourist. This really hit home for me as I sat in ScoJo’s, a local family-owned restaurant. It was only my second visit there, yet the waiter remembered what I’d ordered the previous morning and asked if I wanted “the usual” — two visits and I already felt like a regular! I felt embarrassed that I’d fallen for the hype and ashamed that I had measured the area and everyone in it by Jersey Shore ‘s pitifully short yardstick. I, of all people, should have known better, having been misjudged by the media’s portrayal of Southerners for most of my life. But I’ve learned my lesson: I’ve already planned my next visit to the Shore. I miss it terribly, and I can’t wait to go back (fair warning to the staff at The Chegg: you may have to set up a cot, as I plan to spend as much time in your phenomenal establishment as possible).
From the catfights and paternity tests of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich to the obviously staged antics of the repo and pawn shows, to the endless drama of the so-called real housewives and the fictional Amish mafia, reality television is speeding up the dumbing down of America. Worse yet, it has ruined the perception of what reality really is, and it would seem that no one is immune — including me.