Tuesday, 08 December 2009
By Justin at BeDeviant
I’m starting a new series of posts called “Cultural Exegesis”. The basic premise of these posts will be to examine an aspect of culture and evaluate the merits (or lack thereof) in light of the Biblical narrative.
This week I’ll be taking a look at the MTV series entitled, “Jersey Shore”. Here’s MTV’s description of the show:
MTV has focused its lens on various subcultures and rites of passage, uncovering a host of memorable characters in the process. With its newest series, Jersey Shore, MTV peels back yet a different curtain to follow eight young adults as they move into a summer share to indulge in everything Seaside Heights, New Jersey, one of the most popular summer hot spots, has to offer. Jersey Shore uncovers sometimes surprising, often hilarious and usually over-the-top personalities as they juggle work, love, nightlife, friendship and the drama that ensues. In the end, viewers see that there is more to these tan and buff individuals than hair gel.
Simply put, this is Real World New Jersey. MTV has cast various young, attractive, East-coasters to star in a reality show that follows their exploits over the course of a summer. All in the context of a beach house on, where else, the Jersey shore.
In light of William Romanowski’s seminal work, Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture, we will pass “Jersey Shore” through the matrix of cultural exegesis that Romanowski provides in the appendix of his book. This matrix looks for cultural themes, trends, contradictions and values.
“Jersey Shore” Values/Themes
- Clearly this show values personal presentation and the self. One young man named his six-pack abs, “The Situation.” Another brought two dozen bottles of hair product to the beach house, “I can’t be without hair gel,” he says.
- Everyone tans artificially. Vinny, a young guy on the show, has a tanning bed installed in his house. All are physically fit
- The people of “Jersey Shore” value “having fun.” Numerous references were made to getting drunk, “hooking up,” and “getting freaky.”
- They value their independence. One female, J-Woww, described how she “rips off the heads” of the men she dates (and I use the word “date” loosely.) Simply put, she enjoys being on her own. Most of the other cast members reflect this.
- Community is also valued. If there was one bright spot in this show, it’s the fact that all of the cast members have a desire to be in community with one another. Family is highly valued. The “group” and being together is a high priority for everyone on the show.
“Jersey Shore” Reflections
- I stumbled on this show when I was at the gym last night. At first I was hesitant to watch, with the crass language, scantily clad cast members and over-sexed atmosphere that permeates MTV anymore. However, Romanowski maintains that one can become a “cultural exegete” of nearly anything that culture produces while constantly asking the question, “What is God doing here? What does he want to do?”
- The Spirit I believe has a desire to wake these young people up from the stupor of self-indulgence. Speaking from experience, it can only take a person so far.
- What has happened to MTV? As I watched, I found myself thinking, “This is all one, big commercial.” The shows exist for the sake of the commercial, not vice versa. There is little to no creativity involved in a majority of what I saw in the half hour I watched. The formula seemed to be: Attractive Young People + Unfamiliar Living Situation + Illusion of Challenge to be Overcome + Alcohol + More Alcohol = MTV programming.
In order to do cultural exegesis well, one must be able to enter into any given cultural situation as an alien, observing as if for the first time. One must also have a grasp of the biblical narrative and what it values and upholds.
With that, let’s exegete together. Have any of you watched this show? If so, what did you think? What were your thoughts? What values did you see? What emerged as a theme? How does this compare against the biblical narrative?