Reality TV does not represent real life
A University professor approached "Jersey Shore" from a scholarly angle — something we thought was impossible to do. Angus Kress Gillespie, a professor of American studies at the University, argues, "It's intrinsically fascinating for people to see how some speak and behave in unusual situations. … They are gripped by these glimpses of human nature, and find in some ways it broadens their perspective on it." Is that really what is going on when people watch Snooki and The Situation's drunken antics? Well, it can be — as long as the people watching are smart enough to hold these characters at arm's length and recognize the inherent differences between reality television and real life.
It must first be noted that, despite the tag "reality television," shows like "Jersey Shore" do not actually convey reality and, in many ways, they aren't aiming to. These shows are cast. The people who make them actively seek out the most incredible, over-the-top personalities and place them into situations designed to heighten tensions — and America tunes in to see what sort of explosions will follow suit. There's nothing wrong with the thrills of voyeurism and vicarious living — human beings, at least in today's day and age, seem to be innately attracted to these things.
The danger comes when viewers do not approach these shows from a distance or recognize that, for the most part, the best these programs offer is a plan for how not to live. While not everyone who watches reality television is easily influenced by the often decadent and debauched escapades of the stars of these shows, there do exist people who are. Certainly, many University students can say they know someone who has adopted "GTL" as a legitimate mantra, and not in an ironic sort of way. At the very least, the average student has probably happily attended at least one "Jersey Shore" themed house party. For the most part, these are admittedly harmless influences, but some people go overboard and decide to start emulating the borderline barbaric attitudes of the "Jersey Shore" stars. When someone like Ronnie becomes a personal hero, you need to reconsider your life decisions.
At this point, reality television is deeply ingrained in U.S. culture. It seems to be our nation's favorite pastime, and the term "reality show" carries near-universal connotations of absurdity and ridiculousness. But these shows are anything but real, and treating them as such can lead people to glean some dramatically inaccurate insights about how Americans live and act. Yes, the people in these shows are plucked from the streets, so to speak, but they are far from accurate representations of the general population — at least, they should be. As more people start looking up to reality stars as heroic figures, the lines between reality shows and real life become blurred, and the last thing anyone needs is more than one Snooki.