In honour of last night's premiere of Season 2 of Jersey Shore (no, I didn't watch it), I want to compare the Brooklyn "Cujjin", circa 1978:
to the Jersey Shore "Guido", circa now:
Of course, the first image is of John Travolta as the iconic "Tony Manero" from 1978's Saturday Night Fever. The second image is of Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, one of the "Guido stars" of MTV's utterly ridiculous reality show, Jersey Shore.
Yeah, "Tony Manero" was a character Travolta played, but guys like him really existed. At that time, every New York guy wanted to be "Tony Manero", and if you resembled him in any way, you were called a "Cujjin". You didn't need six-pack abs, or a white suit; hell, you didn't even need to be Italian. All you needed was the blown-back hair, the attitude and the body language, and you were set. The tight slacks, shiny shoes, Quiana shirt and Italian horn necklace didn't hurt, but the goombah attitude was a prerequisite.
Now, not only do you need the six-pack, the attitude and the 'do, you need an agent, a publicist and a bodyguard to fend off the paparazzi. The differences between a "Cujjin" and a "Guido" are as vast as the differences between the "Klingons" and the "Romulans" from Star Trek.
As depicted in Saturday Night Fever, a "Cujjin" eventually grows up; on Jersey Shore, "Guidos" become famous for their abs, hair and fist-pumping techniques, sign some lucrative contracts, and get to play themselves on television until the public grows tired of their schtick. They are not required to act like adults; even though the "Guidos and "Guidettes" are in their mid to late 20s, acting like a grown-up is hardly necessary. However, acting like a petulant child is preferred. Throw in some sloppy drunkenness, a few hook-ups and cat fights, and you've got a recipe for a hit televisions show; no acting whatsoever involved. And that's the part that steams my broccoli.
"Tony Manero" was a fictional character. Yeah, "Cujjins" were real, and even James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and the rest of The Sopranos cast portrayed spot-on, true-to-life goombah New Jersey mobsters. How do I know? Trust me, I know. But, "The Situation", "Pauly D", "Snooki" and the rest of that group are nothing more than caricatures of themselves. Yes, they are real people, and it's totally fine that they refer to themselves as "Guidos" and "Guidettes". But the difference is, we are laughing at them, not with them. They are laughing all the way to the bank, and that's all THEY care about, but it sets a horrible example for the rest of us. To think that all you have to do to make your way in today's world is get drunk, throw a few punches and act like an ignorant moron, doesn't wash with me, and I don't find it amusing or worthwhile. I know the moms and dads of these people love them and are proud of them, but at some point they have to ask themselves, what exactly should we be proud of? Is my kid making a valuable contribution to society by acting like a buffoon for millions of people? Yes, there are plenty of people you could name who act like buffoons and got paid handsomely to do it: Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell and Will Ferrell come to mind, but, the thing is - they ACT. The "Guidos" and "Guidettes" are not acting. The really sad part is, they're being exploited and don't care. As long as the scratch is deposited into the right account, they can go on being buffoons until MTV pulls the plug. And who knows how long that will take.
Part of me is sad for the likes of "Snooki", "The Situation" and the rest of them. One day soon, when they've outlived their usefulness, the harsh reality of what they've done will dawn on them. John Travolta is remembered fondly for "Tony Manero", even though he did reprise the role in the horrific sequel, Stayin' Alive. I doubt anyone will remember Jersey Shore fondly. It will certainly be interesting to see how the "Guidos" and "Guidettes" deal with the fallout.
Yo. Have a good freakin' weekend.