Jersey Shore: isolation as a requirement for insular cultural groups

If you haven’t heard of MTV’s newest reality show: “Jersey Shore,” then you might be living under a rock. It follows the (mis)adventures of 7 Italian-Americans spending the summer partying at the Jersey Shore.


I wasn’t a watcher, but I got to enjoy some of the more choice quotes through my co-workers (thanks guys!). However, yesterday my roommate threw a few episodes on during a lazy Saturday morning.

What hit me is how much I was reminded of a line from Goodfellas where Karen starts getting introduced to the culture of being a mafia wife:

“there was never any outsiders around, absolutely never… being around each other all the time made everything seem all the more normal.”

Any community that engages in activity that the general public finds unsavory, faces a lot of pressure to conform to the group. Avoiding the general public is an effective defense mechanism against this pressure, but ends up creating a feedback loop where that group becomes more isolated and gets less feedback from the general public.

Is isolation a requirement for counter-cultural groups?

Just to be clear:

The show has caught a LOT of flack for promoting negative Italian sterotypes. These 7 self-described “guidos and guidettes” are definitely pretty polarizing figures. It’s hard to justify their status as nationally televised personalities (read: potential role-models), but I’m not going to pass judgement on them. They are young party-goers who are not particularly unique in prioritizing the fun of a highly-sexualized party lifestyle over more socially redeeming pursuits.

My take is that any blame here fits squarely with the network execs who are exploiting the choices of these young adults through a slew of reality programs (Real World, Road Rules, etc.).

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