Instead of the expected weekly dose of Ridiculousness, MTV broadcast last Thursday a special programme on Jersey Shore’s Snooki. Yes, I confess: I’m addicted to Ridiculousness, as I should be, being a specialist in Gender Studies. Its viral videos offer, after all, the most complete corpus one could wish for on the absurdity of human behaviour –in particular that of the US male teens and twenty-somethings of the infamous Jackass generation. I have never seen a complete episode of Jersey Shore, nor of Geordie Shore, and I’m not looking forward to seeing Gandía Shore, thank you very much. Snooki, though, has become this big eyesore on my screen(s), whether I want it or not.
The Snooki special showed at one point President Obama confessing, bemused but embarrassed, that until a week before he didn’t know who Snooki was. Now, the question is whether Snooki knows who this Obama guy is… If you don’t know who she is, then, obviously, there’s something very wrong with you. Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi (b. 1987) is a big TV celebrity whose fame, like that of fellow Jersey Shore cast members, among them Pauly D, comes from a most unglamorous, not to say ugly, reality show. This has been raising quite a stir since 2009 because it shows with no taste whatsoever the lives of a bunch of Italian-Americans (with plenty of hard partying, booze, casual sex, etc.). Guys and gals are presented with no embarrassment at all by MTV as Guidos and Guidettes (Snooki, by the way, is actually Chilean but was adopted by her still proud Italian-American parents at six-months old). Both the inhabitants of the real Jersey Shore and the associations devoted to promoting Italian-American culture are mortified.
I am also mortified because a) Obama thinks he SHOULD know who the Snooki woman is, b) the Snooki woman has the cheek to ‘write’ books though she’s never read one (what she says, not my opinion). She’s published three so far (ghost-written by someone else, of course): A Shore Thing, Gorilla Beach, Confessions of a Guidette. Yes, they have got very bad reviews from Amazon readers but a few of them make the point that these books are just for fun and there’s nothing wrong with reading them. Naturally that is the case if you think that your life is anyway not really of much value, so why not waste a few precious hours reading utter trash –or watching Jersey Shore. (Unless, that is, you do with at least half your critical brain alert to what’s going on, as I try to do when I watch Ridiculousness – yes, the typical intellectual excuse).
In our appallingly bad times (better, in any case, than WWII or similar), one is tempted to absolutely disconnect from anything intellectually more challenging than Jersey Shore and, well, escape. It’s an option that millions have embraced. What baffles me is why anyone would want to go as far as to read a book by Snooki… Anyway, I’m sure we’ll soon have academic papers on the issue of the mis-representation of Italian-Americans in Jersey Shore, on the ethnic identity problems highlighted by Snooki’s insistence on suicidal overtanning. There is always someone consuming all kinds of trash with an academic brain on the alert (I do that all the time, as I said).
I’m just begin my Cultural Studies colleagues out there to, please, please, please, ignore Snooki’s books for the sake of the fast dwindling good writing left in our world. Yes, it’s sheer snobbishness but when I started working on Popular Culture back in the early 1990s, I never imagined the Snookis of this world would take centre stage. And be welcome to it!