Exactly what we were all worried about has come to pass. The greatest sociological experiment of our time has been ruined. Yes, Jersey Shore returned last night and this zoological recreation of a group of wild guidos in their native habitat has been altered forever and totally ruined. What was once a show about how these creatures existed in the wild, wave-filled savannah of the-Mid Altantic is now about these very same animals trying to integrate into mainstream society. What was once about being young and not apologizing for the accompanying debauchery is now a show about growing up. Like the day a once-fun celebrity checks herself into Betty Ford, it is a sad, sad day indeed.
The whole first dispatch of footage from this year's experiment was sort of like watching The Big Chill with familiar faces forging bonds, retreading their old dynamics, and going through the motions of their young lives, but there was something dead at the center, something had fundamentally changed.
But, as always, there were things to be learned from our guidos. Mostly it is in terms of their vocabulary. Most of us are are by now fluent in guido, but they still have some linguistic vagaries that we need to master.
Crimeful: Something that is not technically illegal by letter of the law, but is somehow unfair, unethical, or otherwise unsavory. Dab Out: To be angry at someone as a spot on the carpet. And just as you scream at your rug while trying to get some red wine or bodily fluids out of the rug, this is usually how someone treats the object of their scorn.Meep: The sound that two opposing forces make when they meet lovingly in the middle. Usually these forces are genitals. Good Exit: To leave a place calm, sober, dignified, and in control of all of ones faculties. This rarely happens with the guidos. Piss Excellence: A state of grace where someone is so great that he has excellence to spare, which means the essence of excellence is processed by his kidneys and expelled through the body, much like toxins leave the body. This is different than the Piss De Resistence, which is when you're trying to be excellent, but you just find it hard to pee.Sand Trópez: The name of a store in Seaside Heights which was not named for the French town that it sounds similar to, but the store's owner, Trópez Aguidoozierra who everyone called Sand Trópez because she had sex with so many guys on the beach that her ass was often covered in little white grains and the occasional string of seaweed. She eventually saved up enough money (possibly from some of those sexual encounters) that she opened a slutty clothing store on the beach. It is decidedly not Maternity World, though women shopping at Sand Trópez often end up shopping at Maternity World rather soon. Eskimo Brothers: Two men who have both had sexual intercourse with the same woman. The etymology of this word comes from the two figures that used to illustrate the wrapper of an Eskimo Bar, a frozen ice cream treat that is a favorite of the guido species. Because both of the brothers went into the same mouth, often leaving a loamy white mess at the corners of said mouth, they are essentially combined in the same corporeal space much like the two brothers on the wrapper.
But as much as the guidos and their language stay the same, many of our beloved subjects have changed drastically. Let's take a look.
Snooki, obviously, is pregnant. This has not stopped her from wearing inappropriate clothing made out of sparkly animal prints, doing her nails in ridiculous colors, wearing far to many hair extensions, or driving a car that is both matte and pink at the same time. She is essentially the same on the outside. Being a guido was about identifying each other based on superficial characteristics like hair, skin tone, style of dress, and the like. The problem with Snooki is that she has been altered internally, perhaps biologically. It's as if the changes that are happening to turn her into a mother are also mutating her guido physiognomy so that it is similar to other homo sapiens. It's not that her style is different, but her behavior is. She can't go to the gym, she can't go to the tanning salon, and she was never much for doing her own laundry, so if she can't participate in the sacred guido rite of GTL, then she is essentially kicked out of the tribe. Even worse, she can't partake in the group's other sacred ritual: getting shitfaced.
Now, Snooki actually can go to the gym and to the tanning salon, but she can't do anything there. She just tags along with her friends, becoming a nuisance and getting that sinking feeling in your gut when you're in a familiar place but you can't engage in the same recklessness there as you used to in the past. This may be why she doesn't go to Karma, a place that has the same exalted status in their culture as a church. She knows that if she goes, she can't get wasted. Also, she knows that a pregnant women in a club is universally trashy. It's like the incest taboo, something that is so bad it is held in contempt in every culture of the world.
That is the predicament our Snooki finds herself in. She is there, but she is essentially not there. She is with her housemates, but she is in an entirely different place than them altogether spiritually. That is why she eventually asks Danny to get her a house of her own and, by some miracle that not even the scientists who put together this public experiment planned for (actually, they totally did) he has an apartment for her right next to the vaunted Jersey Shore house. Now she is both spiritually and physically removed from the house. She will be there, but she will not be. Snooki is in a stage of transition, and everyone is having a hard time dealing with it. Speaking of having a hard time dealing with transitions, The Situation is completely sober this summer after entering into rehab for abusing prescription pain killers. He also quit smoking and drinking. He says, while driving to the shore, that he hasn't crossed the bridge into New Jersey sober since the first summer. That was only two summers ago, so what he means to say is, "Last year, I crossed this bridge totally fucked up," but leave it to The Situation to find a way to make this even more dramatic.
While his drug abuse does explain some of his behavior in the past few seasons, he still has to make amends to the housemates for basically being a giant jerk for the past several years. He thinks he can do this by cooking dinner. This is an ancient guido tradition where a person makes a hearty meal for the rest of the family and if they are really angry they will not eat the food. But, if they do not find another form of sustenance, it means that forgiveness is given. Such an emphasis is placed on food in this culture that it can be used as just about everything: a bribe, a bargaining chip, a method of seduction, a bond. And it can be used in the opposite way. If one is excluded from the group meal, it means that they have been shunned from the clique and will not be supported by their brethren, just as The Situation once "excluded [members] from chicken cutlet night," he is now hoping this will bring everyone back together. (This is also strangely relevant given Sammi's refusal of allowing herself nourishment before going to the club, as if she is somehow denying herself inclusion, but seeking it at the same time.)
Situation is cooking a huge dinner when everyone arrives and everyone thinks it smells gross. Then, he complains that no one is helping him make a dinner that he planned. Oh, Situation may be sober, but he is still the same. No one asked you to do this, why should they help? Speaking of their arrival, it was funny how everyone chose rooms. Instead of charging for the best spot, everyone spoke about it calmly, installing three girls in one room, three boys in another room, and, for the first time, Ronnie and Sammi in their own room. This always made sense, but never happened for strange political reasons, most of which had to do with no one wanting to be around them when they fight and no one wanting to share a room with The Situation. But now, thanks to an air of maturity that is saturating the proceedings, they are alone as God and the Duck Phone intended. As Ronnie says, "Now we can fight in peace."
So, back to The Sitch, who is now sober and talking about it like he just changed religions. Of course he is, because that is essentially what he has done. He has forsaken a key component of the guido creed and is forging out on his own path. Much like Snooki he is both there and not there. He is in Karma, but he is sober (well, except for the excessive caffeine in Red Bull). And when he tells people in the club that he isn't drinking they say, "Oh...that's so...uh...cool. That's really awesome of you," but their eyes are saying, "God, who is this boring asshole." Situation seems to be having the same reaction to being out sober. He says it's fine, but it's really not. He finds it difficult to dance on the battlefield like he once did and deal with all these wasted men and women. He sees how crazy he used to act and not only struggles with his current identity as a sober person, but also his past actions: the fights he started, the grenades he shoved in his mouth, the staggering silliness that he engaged in night after night after night.
Yes, The Situation is talking a lot about his sobriety and what it means for him and trying to make amends for all the things he has done wrong in the past. It is strange and it is also intensely boring. Sorry, buddy, but it is. The only thing that will make it fun is if he fucks up and none of us really wants that because the impact of that would actually have horrible real life consequences and, as much as all of the observers of this experiment may despise its former alpha male, we don't really want him to be a disgrace. Deena's transformation, physically at least, might be the most shocking. While The Situation seems to have added some bulk, Vinny has gotten thinner and paler, and Snooki, of course, looks like she's trying to smuggle two pounds of stolen goods out of a store in a one pound bag, Deena looks radically different. She's lost weight and seems to have cut back on the makeup which makes her, well, pretty. And not in that over-done sequins, feathers, and fake eyelashes guidette way, but in a more conventional way. Before she looked like a tall slender drag queen birthday candle that was lit on a birthday cake for Lady Bunny and sort of melted into a squashed, faded, discombobulated mess of sparkles and eye shadow. But now, Deena looks damn good.
This may account for why she has a boyfriend. Yes, Deena is dating a boy named Chris who seems nice and normal and handsome in a non-offensive or exciting way. He is sort of like a nice sofa from Jennifer Convertibles. That makes sense because he sells furniture for a living, which, while an unglamorous job for sure, seems like a nice solid income. Deena is going to need that someday. What is she going to do after she gets paid for doing this science experiment? Go to dental hygienist school? Become a beautician?
What we can't account for is Deena's insistence on crying. She cries after she's been separated from her boyfriend for one day. When Vinny is talking to him in the club about furniture, Deena shows up and makes a huge stink because she thinks that he is somehow harassing her boyfriend and she starts to cry again. She continues sobbing for the rest of the night, even though Chris is there. However, after he leaves for the week, she somehow stops with the water works.
Vinny has one theory for this behavior. He says that Deena is addicted to Chris and that it is an unhealthy relationship. I have another theory about Deena's tears. No, it isn't the alcohol (which I'm sure we could blame it on if we really wanted to). It is, as I always say, because Deena is a closeted lesbian. What she is crying about isn't getting together with her boyfriend, it is breaking up with her girlfriend. Yes, Deena has been in love with Snooki for years, as evidenced by all the time they spent together and, you know, when they would get drunk and Deena would instigate hookups and perhaps even an occasion of oral sex.
Yes, it appears that Deena always hoped that she could sway Snooki onto her side, but now that she is pregnant and engaged to a man, Deena has lost all hope. That is why she is going full-tilt boogie into breeder mode. And not only does Deena have to accept that Snooki will ever love her, but she doesn't even have another "meatball" to hang out with now, since Snooki can't get drunk during the day, show off her vagina, and messily make out with the only other girl who is as short as she is. Deena may be in a couple, but spiritually, she is all alone. So, to convince herself she isn't a lesbian, she got this boyfriend and she is overcompensating for the fact that she doesn't want to be with him by thinking about him and talking about him all the time. However, when she gets drunk and the truth of her love for Snooki comes out, she is driven to tears. She is crying because she is afraid that Vinny is telling her boyfriend about the time in Italy when Deena stole a girl from Vinny and made out with her, effectively blowing her closet doors off their hinges. Then she cries and cries and cries for the loss of her beloved Nicole. Oh, it's such a sad conundrum that Deena is stuck in. Things are quite different for Vinny too. Not only is he a bit thinner and paler and has a new horrible tattoo that stretches across his chest and ruins the clean lines of his deep-V T-Shirts, but he also claims that he is going to be celibate.
As an expert in the guido culture, this is strange to me. The culture is usually about indulgence, in food, in drink, in indiscriminate sexual activity with women in outfits of questionable taste, but now everyone is denying themselves. The Situation has given up drinking, Snooki has given up partying, and Vinny has given up sex. Now, while the other two have serious motivations for keeping their ascetic lifestyle in check, Vinny has nothing at all. It seems like he is unnecessarily complicating his life, especially because the guido defines celibacy quite different from most people. This is a culture of extremes, so if one is not out sleeping with a different woman every night, then a man can not jerk off or make out with another woman. (He also can not have sex with a woman who is on her period unless that girl is his private property. This is because the guidos mistakenly believe that having sex with a woman on her period will result in pregnancy and a man should only knock up a woman who he intends on marrying. This is wildly misguided and also vaguely romantic at the same time.)
So, here is how we are starting off the summer, with the same people in the same place, but nothing is at all familiar. It reminds us all of the first dispatch of this experiment just three short winters ago. Remember those two hours. There was Snooki showing up and getting so drunk she vomited and no one liked her. DJ Paulie D got in a fight at Bamboo (which used to allow our clan into the club in those days). There was hot tub hooking up, drinking games, goofing off at the shore store. And then there was a moment that changed the course of history: Snooki getting violently punched in the face in a bar. It was just a preview too. This is what was coming. We had never seen anything like this before, and they promised that, as insane as the first two hours were, it was going to get even crazier. Would would meet a whole new species, and it would teach us wonderful and horrific things about ourselves, about our own humanity.
And now look at these two hours and what did we get? People complaining about having to go out. Everyone waking up sober at 9:30 in the morning. Choosing to stay in on two nights of the weekend. Sure Ronnie got drunk and Sam and Ron fought, but it wasn't the same. Maybe it wasn't the same because it was the same. We're always hoping for more, better, more daring, crazier. And we got the opposite, duller, more staid, more, dare we say it, sober. And just as the world disparaged this experiment for its trashiness, something strange happened and we found out that it was that trashiness that we were interested in all along. And so sun sets on the shore and it throws its fading rays across the rooftops, casting shadows into the water. The boardwalk grows dim, the sand loses the heat from the mid day sun, and somewhere, off in the distance, a roller coaster is still running, but there is no one left to ride it and as it takes its initial plunge, no one screams.
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[Photo Credit: MTV]