Does 'Jersey Shore' Promote Cyberbullying?

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Does 'Jersey Shore' Promote Cyberbullying?

Jersey Shore.jpgWhen we watched characters like Snooki and Vinny disparage Angelina on season 1 and 2 of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” – like when Vinny said, “OK, Kim Kardashian... more like the Rob Kardashian of Staten Island, you ugly b*tch!” – we all laughed, whether we wanted to admit it or not.

And every time Pauly D and the Situation refer to what they deem unattractive, heavier girls as “grenades,” we can’t help but crack a grin at their outlandish statements, like this one made by the Situation in the first season: “When you go into battle, you need to have some friends with you so that just in case a grenade gets thrown at you, one of your buddies takes it first.”

But what are the repercussions for hearing these degrading statements once a week on MTV? Catastrophic, especially if you are a student.

Reality TV shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Real Housewives” have shown teenagers that it is OK to assume the role of the bully and victimize others. After all, if teenage “idols” are taking the airwaves to bully, why can’t students take to Twitter and Facebook to put down their friends?

With terms like “grenades” and “landmines” (what “Jersey Shore” stars call skinny, unattractive girls), becoming common vernacular in the school hallways, it has become beyond easy to take those terms to the Internet and do some real harm on social networking sites.

And with the rise of cyberbullying and subsequent student suicides, people have started to speak out against “Jersey Shore,” noting that this show in particular promotes humiliating others and gossiping.

One commenter posted to the MTV community a few months ago, “The worst part of the show is the constant bullying!  Whether or not Angelina is the greatest person in the world doesn't excuse the fact that you are showing bullying on national television.  Again...what message are you sending to teens and young adults?  In the wake of recent suicides because of bullying, I am shocked that you would think it's okay for this to not only take place, but to air it on national television. “

Even reality stars themselves from these controversial shows are admitting that their shows may be a direct catalyst for bullying and cyberbullying.

“Unfortunately I do think that reality TV has spawned a whole culture of bullying," said Phaedra Parks, a member of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” series, in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month. “I believe that the behavior you see on reality TV does not exactly exemplify how adults should be conducting themselves."

What’s perhaps most disturbing about all of this, is the stars feel comfortable enough to promote oppression while filming (mostly so they can get those fat paychecks), yet they are the first ones to hop aboard the anti-bullying bandwagon.

Specifically, Vinny from the “Jersey Shore,” the castmate who referred to another one of his castmates as an “ugly b*tch,” has made it quite known that he is against bullying. In fact, he recently filmed several segments in which he explains to kids what to do if they are cyber-bullied. 

Does anyone else find this ironic?

As someone who watches “Jersey Shore” – and certainly laughs every time the cast prays for a “grenade-free nation” – I can also assure you that what I find funny about these comments is just how inappropriate these comments are (not the fact that they are making fun of others). However, I am not confident that 15-year-olds following this show can watch it with the level of maturity that the show calls for.

So what are we to do? Are we to ban our kids from watching shows like “Jersey Shore” and the “Real Housewives?” Of course not. In some respects, one could argue that kids who watch these shows have a better chance of fitting in than those who don’t.

But perhaps our high schools need to consider offering an elective that explores the implications of reality TV on human behavior – much like colleges do.

And perhaps most importantly, our kids need to remember that these “actors” are being paid –hundreds of thousands of dollars an episode— to say lines that will deliver ratings even if they are hurtful messages.

But, I assure you, no one is getting paid when you call your classmate a “grenade.”

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