I have always been a bit of a pop culture junkie — despite the fact that I know I’m never going to get the hours back that I have spent watching The Real Housewives of Wherever and all umpteen “cycles” of America’s Next Top Model. Pop culcha has ballooned over the last ten years, primarily due the Reality TV medium. Long gone are the quaint days of Survivor’s editors pixilating Rich Hatch’s behind or the plucky cast of The Real World London looking in vain for a bottle of ranch salad dressing in Islington.
We now live in a world of Reality TV overload and we must pick and choose what (and who) we want to spend time with. Are you going to go Dancing With The Stars? Or hang around for The Bachelor’s Rose Ceremony? Big Brother? No thanks. I can’t deal with the lighting. I do love the Emmy-winning The Amazing Race, which I liken to the Masterpiece Theater of Reality TV. As many choices as we have, we can’t do it all, nor should we. There has been so much buzz in the media about the kids from the new MTV hit, Jersey Shore, that I felt I had better school myself just to be in the loop.
CUT TO: “Record Jersey Shore Entire Series First Run and Repeats MTV only” on my DVR.
With their Rizzo-esque nicknames and bulletproof hair, the self-described “guidos” and “guidettes” (derogatory words I thought — seriously — had all but vanished from our vernacular), seem like relatively nice kids. Sure, they may be a little rough around the edges, but that has its charm.
When Mike, The Situation & Co. head out into the night to “party” (a noun that never really should have become a verb) to roam the clubs and bars as the Seaside Heights Rat-So-So Pack — lookout! There is drinking and fighting and tanning and hot tubbing and creeping and cheating and drama — oh the list goes on and on, with often unintentionally hilarious results. With their ever mounting NJ-‘N-Gomorrah-style antics, the mother in me was starting to get concerned for these kids. Part of me wanted to put Snookie in my pocket and save her from herself after her first obliterated night in the house. Then later, when she was punched in the face — the face! — by an dangerously inebriated Frankenstien’s monster in bad kaki shorts, I wanted to rush to her side. Poor “Snickerz!”
You may be wondering, what could this possibly have to do with Hope? Well, it’s simple. A pop culture phenomenon like this tends to divide viewers into into two groups: True Fans (those who want to be like the cast, are like the cast, or admire the cast even if they aren’t like the cast) and The Passersby Set. This group may think the cast is all kinds of things: funny, ridiculous, didn’t think they made them like this anymore, uneducated, tough, amusing, dumb, and so on. It is the second group who will be likely to dismiss the cast for anyone of these reasons.
Here’s the thing — dismission is an inverse form of judgment. Judgment and Hope (in it’s purest form) can not coexist, because when we dismiss anyone or anything, we are essentially giving up Hope on them. When we give up Hope, even in a seemingly trivial way, then we may be too quick to give up Hope on things that really matter in our lives in the long run. This may sound like a stretch, but as I see it, it’s the day-to-day practice of Hope that builds our foundation for when we really need it. Therefore, it’s important to look for the glimmers of Hope in even the most unexpected of places. It has been my experience that there is wisdom, even little bits of it, to be gleaned everywhere, even on Reality TV. When Ronnie comforts Snookie after her assault, he says sweetly with his Bronx accent, putting it only as he could, “I love you. Do you hear me? I love you. We are like a f***ing family now.”
This is a Hopeful moment, albeit in the midst of unconscious youthful debauchery, but it’s still meaningful. It shows us that how much you may think you have things or people sized up, Hope peeks in to show you otherwise. And where there is Hope, there is a light… even if it is dimmed by the glare of The Situation’s well-oiled twelve-pack.