Jersey Shore’s Reluctant Role Models

February 4, 2010 1:51 am0 comments
Cara Sprunk

When you think of role models, you might think of your parents, a favorite teacher, maybe even President Obama — people who put themselves in positions to be influential leaders to the youth of America. Celebrities have somehow become a part of this group as well. These are the people whose sex tapes make their rounds on the Internet, whose drug binges are detailed on the covers of all the tabloids, and whose sexual preferences are publicly dissected.
Celebrities, for the most part, signed on for the roles of actors, singers, or, nowadays, reality stars. They never signed on to be of role models, yet they have been thrust into the position, and when they fail to meet the most puritanical expectations of the American public, they are mercilessly criticized.
Unlike some others, Miley Cyrus has finally accepted her role model status (following a slew of scandals). In the February issue of Harper’s Bazaar, she’s quoted as saying, “My job is to be a role model, and that’s what I want to do, but my job isn’t to be a parent. My job isn’t to tell your kids how to act or how not to act, because I’m still figuring that out for myself.”
So maybe a role model has changed from its original definition — someone worthy of imitation — or else Miley has it wrong. Either way Miley clarifies that just because someone is a “celebrity role model” in the public eye, it is not their job how to guide people’s actions.
MTV’s Jersey Shore exploded over Winter Break as everyone followed the drunken havoc Snooki, the Situation, JWOWW and the rest of the cast wreaked in Seaside Heights, N.J. Despite the show’s unbelievable ratings, lots of people expressed their disapproval, in particular Italian-American groups who were outraged that these guidos and guidettes were seen as representatives of their ethnic group.
There is no argument that many activities depicted on Jersey Shore aren’t worthy of imitation, and if the show marketed itself as being completely representative of Italian youth, it wouldn’t exactly be good P.R. for them. The show actually does show positive alternative-family values (i.e. the fight Ronnie nearly got into while defending Snooki), but it was created, not so that the impressionable youth of America will mimic it, but rather for the sake of entertainment.
MTV is probably not aspiring to create a new generation of fist-pumpers who spend their days on GTL (gym, tanning, laundry, duh.); instead, they aim to entertain those like us, who are unlikely to be able to relate to Pauly D and Snooki (Sammy Sweetheart and Vinny, the college educated housemates, may be somewhat more relatable).
Since the goal of the controversial show is not to set examples, it is absurd that so many Italian groups and politicians attack the show for its content. American culture expects celebrities to live by such high standards that we can’t just accept their actions as ridiculous and move on. For some reason it is assumed that there really are millions of impressionable people out there that, after watching The Situation creep on girls, feel inspired to go to Karma and do the same thing (and then call the girls’ friends grenades and hippos). If that is the case, the root of the problem is education, and not reality TV.
The next time pictures of Miley in a wet t-shirt are “leaked” or The Situation insults a fragile girl, accept that these people are merely entertainers, and they are doing what they do best.