08 August 2011

The Jersey Shore Goes To Italy

The general convention among recappers is to try to get the old review up at least by the day after the episode airs. However, sometimes a recap requires much more thought than one mere dizzying night can provide. So far, season 4 of The Jersey Shore has given me a lot to think about.

Things have changed since chapter one of The Jersey Shore Chronicles. At first it was a Real World-style show about "guidos," a social group traditionally unacknowledged by the rest of America despite its innate look-at-me peacockery. Call it Real World on a cocktail of steroids, acid, and hot pink leopard print. Fitting right into zany Seaside Heights, the cast came off as cartoonish and hilarious to the rest of the world. These people said stupider things on their own than any writer could ever dare to present to an actor. They gave themselves nicknames to further remove themselves from reality. The joy was that the show was both real (these people actually live their lives this way) AND fake (these people are aware that they're on camera and naturally want the attention that MTV gives everything else).

As the seasons progressed, down in Miami and then back up to Seaside Heights, it was clear that the gang was becoming more and more self-aware. Now it wasn't just the producers telling them to get into crazy situations - each cast member seemed to have introduced a producer-homunculus into his or her own tanned brain. "Look, a tricycle in a china shop - I better get on it and ride around!" "Yikes, a stalker - public argument time!" Are these thoughts genuine or are they manufactured? In the tricycle case, Snooki probably just really wanted to write a trike. In the case of the stalker, it seems clear that at least one producer (if not also Pauly D's internal Produciny Cricket) prodded the drama along. Real vs. Fake blurs here - where are the guidos making stupid decisions, and where are the producers making them do stupid things? More importantly, does it matter anymore?

And so we arrive at Jersey Shore Season 4, meeting each member of the JS family as they have glamour shot passport pictures taken. Snooki wears Jackie O sunglasses and a huge, floppy hat. Deena turns around and bends over for her picture, thus exposing her asshole directly the passport photographer. Everyone else poses like it's 8th grade graduation day and they're on their way to a pool party, flexing in their trunks. ARE THESE PICTURES ACTUALLY BEING USED FOR REAL PASSPORTS? Obviously not. THEN WHY ARE WE WATCHING THIS? Because of the whole real vs. fake thing. In season one the gang might have been dumb enough to think they could pose for passport ID pictures in silly hats, but it didn't happen then. It happened now. You'd think there would be a general, base-level rise in (at least the availability of) intelligence - as with inflation - but no, Jersey Shore really wants us to believe that the gang is just as silly and absent-minded and show-offy as they ever were. The trick is, they ARE just as silly, but not like this. We are being shown fake versions of already fake, already hilarious characters.

Here is what is fake in reality, rather than fake in fakeness, and thus much funnier: the fact that Snooki has a boyfriend named "Jionni." Jionni is very close to "Gianni," which is how Italians spell their version of "Johnny." Jionni doesn't mean anything. THIS is what we tune into Jersey Shore for. Well, this and Vinny's uncle's advice on dating Italian women: "Check under her arm. If she got-a hair, you good-a to go!"

As Ronnie and Sammi arrive in Rome, the thought occurs to me that I could have had to go to high school with these assholes. The thought describes my distaste perfectly - "Oh God, now I have  to go to math class where Ronnie's going to fartingly terrorize the whole fucking period" - and it also describes how far away I feel from them and why it's even possible to laugh now. Oh, these assholes. Oh, these assholes!

Deena face plants in the airport several times because of all the bags she's "luggaging." She wonders if the boys are "having this much problems." THIS IS REAL/FUNNY. Snooki is pissed that the boys got to the house first and throws a fake tantrum. THIS IS FAKE AND ALSO UNFUNNY. Ronnie and Sammi see each other for the first time in months and are obviously (and wordlessly) hit by a ton of bricks. THIS IS REAL DRAMA. Ronnie and Sammi's totally well-handled hug gets slowed down x100 as chicka-chicka-chunnng music plays it into commercial. THIS IS FAKE DRAMA.

Within the first hour of living in Rome, both Pauly D and Snooki reference King Kong's asshole. To be fair, Pauly D just said something about their front doors being King-Kong sized, but still. You know what he meant. Pauly D is very attractive to Deena this season, and although it hints of real drama, it will look like fake drama when Deenz climbs drunkenly into bed with him, Jersey Turnpikes him, etc. The true drama of the situation will be all the ignoring and arm's-lengthing Pauly will do. As a matter of fact, it's already happening - to avoid speaking to Deena directly, Pauly D pours shots of limoncello for the whole house. "BITTER AND SOUR! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!!!" bellows Ronnie. 

More REAL drama: the hair dryers are blowing out the villa's vecchio wiring, and no one can get primped for the club. Unfortunately, not much comes of this. They all find places to blow dry in the kitchen or near a corner, and it's fine. Sensing the lull in tension, Ronnie decides to sit on a fragile side table and immediately snaps it into a million pieces. My roommate Brian calls him a bull in a china shop, which is where my "Snooki on a tricycle in a china shop" thing must have come from. Derivation!

More FAKE drama: The Situation is going around telling his loudest-mouthed roommates that he's crushing on Snooki and he expects her to cheat on her boyfriend with him. Cheat on Jionni? But Snooks would have to be absent-minded and generally unaware of all consequences for that to happen! Ohhhh nooooo! It couldn't be more obvious that Sitch is cooking up trouble where there wasn't any before, but that's just the thumb-sized producer living in his brain: "Isn't Snooki looking good this season? Shouldn't you be telling other people about how much you want to bang her? Go ahead, tell the people that aren't Snooki. Look, here's Ronnie. Tell him."

The next day, the girls get lost on their way to breakfast and end up coming back home, where a pigeon flaps menacingly around their heads. Deena is astonished: "Who flies that close?!?!?!" The audacity! What kind of a person flies that close? The kind of person that is A PIGEON.

Later on as Snooki does crunches on the floor (REAL progress), Vinny stands over her wearing only a towel, thereby flashing his uncles. Considering his history with Snooki, it's either a sign of friendship, a partially hidden attempt to entice Snooki, or (literally) a balls-out gesture with little to no thought behind it. REAL stagnation.

More FAKE drama: Deena uses Sammy's hair straightener, only it's REALLY HOT. It's this sort of stupid chicanery that would otherwise turn me off to the show. Why doesn't it? YOU DON'T HAVE TO MAKE UP THE DRAMA, SALLYANN SALSANO. And almost as if Salsano had read and responded to that sentence herself, the Situation pulls Ronnie into the living room and whispers "Iiiiii...kiiiiiiiinda...boinnnnnked...Snoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooks." A) This did not happen. B) Snooki has no capacity to be able to tell if it actually happened or not. C) This all amounts to the wrong kind of drama, but with any luck, it will lead to the right kind of drama: what is the actual nature of Snooki and the Situation's relationship?

At a club where no one speaks English, the nature of their relationship is decidedly rapey and terrible.  All of the roommates struggle not to vomit as they each notice Sitch engulf Snooki. And yet no one notices at all when Deena claims Pauly D's face as her own. What is it about Deena that makes her so difficult to acknowledge as a sexual being? It must be the farce she puts on every time she bends over to do the Turnpike. The whole situation plays like a sad mockery of Pauly D and Jwoww's crazy Season One near-sexcapade. Now that was some REAL sexcapadery.

And so a comparatively boring episode of Jersey Shore takes on a vibrant secret life when cut into cross sections that display the levels of fakeness, realness, fake-seeming realness, and real-seeming fakeness within. The season preview promises several more episodes' worth of actual drama unfolding between Snooki and the Situation, disguised as meaningless hookups and pushy teasing. Also, people get carried out on stretchers at least twice. MAMMA MIA, ANDIAMO!

all photos courtesy mtv.com

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