Digging deep into the annals of history, one cannot help, but, feel awed at the immense progress that has been made in the arena of communication and media technology. In just one century, we have been able to move from the basic communication methods when people expressed themselves through signals to the modern age communication methods where, through the click of a button, one can transmit a message from one corner of the world to the other.
In essence, the media industry was traditionally used to generally inform the public with newspaper and radios being the most used media. However, the advancement of technologies and needs by various audiences has introduced other aspects of media such as entertainment and marketing—with Media such as television and the internet gaining an increasingly large audience. In this paper, central focus is going to be on analyzing visual media, specifically reality TVs, and how their influence has been felt in the world today.
In doing so, The Jersey Shore, a popular reality TV show in America, will be distinctively forecasted with other shows such as Friends being sparingly mentioned for comparison purposes. The Jersey Shore was chosen based on the various media dynamics entailed in it, its unmatched popularity, and the numerous themes addressed in it. All these intricacies make it a fitting show worth being analyzed.
Overview of the Jersey Shore
The Jersey Shore is an American-based Reality TV that commenced in the year 2009 at MTV. Ever since then, the series has been able to produce several episodes and, currently, the audience is waiting for the premiere of season 6 which is to be released in the due course of this year (Gorman).
In essence, the show revolves around the lives of 8 participants staying at the Jersey Shore in U.S. hence its name. Though in season 2 and 4, the cast moved to Miami Beach and Italy respectively, and then came back to their original residence in the seasons in between.
More importantly, the Jersey Shore depicts various themes in teenage life and early adulthood such as love, alcohol and drugs, relationships, work and how people tend to communicate to one another in all these facets of life. As we move from one season to another, various dynamics are introduced and removed while we get to witness how the manner of communication amongst the housemates changes.
Being a reality show, meaning that we get to witness live and spontaneous unfolding of events; the audience experiences a lot of suspense, intrigue and drama. This, probably, is the reason why teenagers are addicted to this “reality show” with reports from several scholarly quarters affirming that the Jersey Shore is MTV’s most viewed telecast series, in spite of just having been incepted recently.
Main analysis of the Jersey Shore: Its Ratings, Criticisms and Themes
As glimpsed above, the Jersey Shore stands as the most watched Reality TV of its kind. Recent reports indicate that the Jersey Shore hit an all time high of 8.45 million viewers as of 2011in audiences aged between 18 and 49 (Gorman). So to what pleasure does this reality show owe this outstanding number of viewers?
According to Campbell et al. (155-165), storytelling plays an important role within reality shows. Since in reality show teenagers, through their various interactions, get to tell stories about themselves in a realistic way; most audiences love them as it makes it easy for viewers to identify with the reality TV participants.
This is in opposition to other forms of TV shows where people act based on scripts and pre-planned actions. In the Jersey Shore, storytelling is typified by the show participants through the use of common communication language and engaging in habitual things that are common and relevant to the world today like going to the gym, a club or even a date. Resultantly, identifying with these scenarios makes the show a favorite to its audiences.
On another point, Campbell et al. (163) asserts that reality TVs help the networks and cable providers to easily deal with the high cost of programming. This is typified by featuring non-actors, cheap sets, and no extensive scripts. In effect, producing them becomes cheaper and thus easily available to local and international audiences when compared to other TV shows. This price factor, obviously, plays a crucial role in the accessibility and acceptance of the show by its audience.
Closely related to the above point is the distribution channels used by the marketers of this Reality TV series. A research on the internet shows how the Jersey Shore is available in a myriad of accessible ways including (but not limited to): movie stores in the popular DVD format, over the internet in peer-to-peer sharing forums, in and in theatres.
Also, there has been the increased marketing of the show in social forums like Facebook and Twitter. Based on the ever increasing relevance, popularity need and use of social media in the marketing world today; it is self explanatory why the popularity of the Jersey Shore keeps on escalating.
On another note, the themes depicted in the Jersey Shore are, according to critics, hugely relevant to the youths and adults today (Friedman). In communication, it is not only vital that information reaches the targeted public but it is more important that the disseminated information is relevant.
In today’s world, the themes of love, sex, relationships and work are among the most crucial issues that youths and adults get to deal with. Portraying these issues in a captivating way goes a long way in entertaining while also educating the public on how to deal with dilemmatic situations.
To a large extent, there are a number of moral lessons that can be found in the show. However, to some critics, the Jersey Shore does more in glorifying risky behaviors such as premarital sex, use of foul language and alcoholism rather than providing a way forward out of these issues. A pin-pointed stance as to whether the show is hugely negative or positive—in terms of its educative content—is yet to be decided by these critics.
Relevance/ Effects of the Jersey Shore’s Content on its Audience
Just like most reality TVs, the Jersey Shore has had its fair share of impact on its audience. According to Friedman, the show’s relevance to its targeted public is exhibited by the various lexicons and unique phrases that it has apparently introduced in the popular American culture.
A good example here is the use of the term “Guido” as an ethnic slur referencing to cool cast members of the show. Also, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Chicago are reported, by Friedman, to having had classes and conferences discussing the relevance and influence of the Jersey Shore on its audiences (Brown).
Comparison with Other Reality TVs (Friends)
Friends is an American sitcom premiered in 1994 on NBC and the last episode was broadcasted in 2004. In its 10-year tenure, Friends managed to scoop several coveted awards, receive a lot of praise and modicum criticisms. Essentially, Friends, just like the Jersey Shore, revolves around the themes of love, friendship, and relationships amongst various teenagers and adults (Jicha).
However, unlike the Jersey Show which received a good reception right from the onset; Friends got off to a slow start with very few people warmly welcoming it. However, as time went on, it received more and more acceptance and, by the time it was airing its last episode; it had a huge multicultural audience from across the world.
It is also worth noting that, in Friends, the themes are addressed with more humor and discretion (in terms of language and nudity) when compared to the Jersey Shore. This, according to some movie reviewers is based on the fact that Friends was premiered when permissiveness and freedom of airing indiscrete content was hugely opposed. However, as of today, the freedom of the Media in airing such content has been improved.
The scripted and pre-planned nature of events in Friends also reduces the edginess and high suspense that comes with Reality TVs like the Jersey Shore which occur more arbitrarily. This, probably, is the reason why despite the thrilling and captivating nature of Friends; its ratings cannot match those of the Jersey Shore.
Finally, the better technology used in producing and marketing the Jersey Shore is a key reason why it is more accepted than friends. This aspect, hugely, underlines the importance of the progress made by media today.
From the above discussions, it is eminently noteworthy that the skills used to pass information have, over time, continued to improve greatly. With these improvements come a myriad of advantages (such as better viewership and clarity of visual contents) and challenges as well (such as the less regulated freedoms of the media that has arguably encouraged vices such as sex before marriage and drug abuse).
However, in as much as the media has a role to play in the dissemination of both negative and positive information to the public; it is inherent to state that most blame is on the public. Based on the changes in behaviors, freedoms and culture by the general public, it is only expected that media coverage happens in the same line since the media’s chief responsibility is to give an exact picture of the current happenings—whether it is good or bad.
Nonetheless, the ethics of media dictate that professional discretion should be used when covering, processing and disseminating information to the public. For this reason, media experts should strive to eliminate media messages and contents containing abhorred issues in the society such as excessive nudity.
Commendably, a good number of media organizations and individuals have reportedly working round the clock in order to formulate ways in which the communication challenges faced today are solved while media messages are disseminated objectively. If such steps in the right direction are encouraged; the complaints that have been witnessed in shows like the Jersey shore will be hugely avoided while positive and helpful information reaches the general public as required.
Brown, Rebecca. More Smart People Acknowledge the Cultural Relevance of “Jersey Shore. 5 Oct. 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
Campbell, Richard, Christopher Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media and Culture; An introduction to Mass communication. 8thed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print
Friedman, Emily. MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ Garners Critics Over Use of Term ‘Guido’. 11 Dec. 2009. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
Gorman, Bill. ‘Jersey Shore’ Season Premiere Draws Record 8.45 Million Viewers; 4.2 Adults 18-49 Rating. 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
Jicha, Tom. They Leave as They Began: With a Buzz. 2 May. 2004. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.