Following the crowd

With the recent announcement that the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore is appearing in Toronto come February, I think it’s safe to assume that the show’s Ontario ratings will jump as those not well-versed in “Jersey speak” attempt to acquaint themselves with the ignorant, crass and offensive.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – it’s MTV, it’s a joke, it’s funny, don’t take it seriously.

But the fact is that shows like Jersey Shore are the new “it” thing. Quotes making their way into Twitter and Facebook statuses and people willing to shell out their hard-earned cash for a glimpse of the over-tanned and over-gelled speaks volumes about who we are as people.

Are we shallow or are we pretentious? Are we voyeuristic or is this just another example of society’s infatuation with the freak flag? Why do we stop living our own reality to indulge in the highly-edited version of somebody else’s?

Clearly, Jersey Shore is not the beginning. Blame Survivor; it’s clear that at the turn of the century we got a taste of a brand new type of programming – a “realistic” glimpse into the lives of other people who are “just like us”.

After all, couldn’t everyone relate to Richard Hatch or Sue the truck driver?

After that, it was a reality TV free-for-all as The Amazing Race, The Bachelor, Big Brother and The Biggest Loser made their way to mainstream television, beginning their decade-long fight with award-winning writers and audiences who longed to be challenged.

Sure, these shows were entertaining (so is watching a frat boy do a keg stand), but what do they offer? It’s like eating pan-Asian cuisine – suitable at the time, but you never walk away satisfied.

And when Laguna Beach entered the scene, the craze soared to a whole new level.

Sure, MTV’s The Real World had been around since the mid-90s, but most of us were too far removed from the Generation X crusades that made up the controversy behind the series.

But suddenly with a Hilary Duff theme song and a variety of dramatic camera angles, a whole new generation was introduced to a different kind of programming. After all, Laguna Beach was real.

Unlike The O.C., these were the real lives of the rich and fabulous – and they were only a couple years apart from us in age.

Steven was a babe, Kristen was a bitch and L.C. had long, beautiful hair – it was a winning combination.

Surf culture took off, blonde high-lights skyrocketed and Laguna was the talk of the town.

Why embrace who we are when we can mimic the spoiled and cavalier?

Sure, most of us don’t drive a Lexus, but that doesn’t stop us from attempting to impersonate near-actors.

As the franchise progressed with an inevitable spin-off show called The Hills, the scripted drama engulfed us all.

Credible journalists began covering Lauren-Speidi drama, and the heavily-styled cast was soon appearing in (horrible) movies and writing books.

Suddenly LA’s superficial club scene was an accredited destination. Plastic surgery, Botox, cheap sex, drugs and bad music were not only pined for, but justified.

By watching The Hills we weren’t only supporting the Speidi press machine but funding their lifestyle. Those boobs and that nose – we bought them. And so it continues with Jersey Shore.

We claim to hate it, we mock them endlessly and Michael Cera embraced his inner “Guido” with his own makeover, but by making it the go-to series for the university-aged demographic, we’re essentially justifying their ignorance, stupidity and the qualities many have spent their lives working to fight against.

Sure, we chalk up our viewership to a fascination with the ridiculous, but when we waste hours of our own lives observing the empty existence of others, isn’t that a little ridiculous?

The cast of Jersey Shore are gracing magazines, creating slang and have reached the point of getting paid to appear at nightclubs.

What’s “the situation”? We just sponsored the cast’s Ed Hardy wardrobes.