No, I'm not kidding. It isn't real. Those people auditioned, were hired, relocated into that gaudy house, and then filmed. The episodes aren't real, either... No, I'm not kidding. Those episodes are edited together based on a storyline the writers create by putting The Situation and his crew into situations where the writers know how they will react. It isn't "real."
It is amazing how much convincing it has taken to prove to my freshmen that the Jersey Shore is not real. These are the same kids who have no problem suspending disbelief long enough to just accept that Peter Parker can climb walls when he wears the right spandex suit but who cannot just accept that the animals on Animal Farm speak English and build a windmill.
These conversations help to illustrate a critical shift which ought to be happening in literacy instruction in American schools: rather than studying literary works, we need to be studying literary processes.
- We need to study the process by which 360 hours of Jersey Shore footage gets edited down to 44 minutes for a one-hour weekly episode.
- More importantly, we need to understand the process of acculturation and normalization which occurs in a viewer when they watch entertainment labeled as reality.
- We need to study the process by which lighting, angle, score and juxtaposition are used by news organizations to communicate a message beyond the news.
- More importantly, we need to study the subtle and not-so-subtle biases which shape the decision-making about what makes air and what doesn't.
- We need to help young readers learn to discern which sources on the internet are valid and which are not, and even what we mean by "valid."
Are these lessons more or less important than Shakespeare or great novels and poetry?
As with the television news, whose producers must pare hours upon hours of worthy news into 20-22 minutes of air time (including sports and weather), when we must choose what literacy lessons to keep and what to cull for our limited amount of instructional time, on what should we base that decision?