Exclusive Book Excerpt: Mark Lisanti on Jersey Shore's 'New Guido Credo'
[In this exclusive excerpt from the new book Reality Matters: 19 Writers Come Clean About the Shows We Can't Stop Watching (HarperCollins, Apr. 13), Movieline editor at large Mark Lisanti measures himself against Jersey Shore's three-word Guido gold standard -- with less-than-optimal results. -- STV]
About five minutes into Jersey Shore's (two-hour!) premiere, Italian-American groups began to express their displeasure about the cast's embrace -- nay exultation -- of the term "Guido," considered by many to be a slur, as well as MTV's alleged exploitation of the group by reducing all Italians to an easily mockable Goombah stereotype. It's a complaint Italians have heard before, most recently after some people wrongheadedly decried The Sopranos, perhaps the greatest and most nuanced television show of all time, for depicting the culture as nothing but a bunch of tracksuited, pork-store-haunting, stoolie-whacking goons. As an Italian American who grew up in a New York suburb just north of the Bronx, among friends (if not family) who were recognizable, if distant, forebears of The Shore gang (in those days, it was B.U.M. Equipment instead of Ed Hardy), Pauly D's celebratory explanation of Guidoness as "a lifestyle... being Italian... tanning, gel, everything," was not just the last word on a minor controversy. it was an invitation to take an inventory of my inner Guido every Thursday night.
This, more than the drunken antics of some knuckleheaded kids let loose in a beach house festooned with several horrific combinations of the Italian flag and the silhouette of New Jersey, is what drew me in for the entire eight-week, nine-episode run. and when Vinny articulated the dead-simple "Gym, Tan, Laundry" formula in episode six ("That's how they make the Guidos"), I now had a framework through which to see exactly how my own lifestyle stacked up. Let's take each part of the New Guido Credo in turn:
The most instantly recognizable aspect of The Shore's cast is the male roommates' maniacal dedication to their physiques.Only Vinny, a token softy but certainly a big guy by any reasonable standard, would not be able to credibly pass as a body double for Conan-the-Destroyer-era Arnold Schwarzenegger. The show's biggest star's nickname, as we've previously discussed, was born of an almost hermetic dedication to the whaling-upon of abs. Accordingly, the show's female cast members have repeatedly expressed visceral attraction to "juiceheads" (and their even more extreme cousins, "gorilla juiceheads"), a none-too-veiled reference to the chemical assistance one needs to realize one's full muscular potential.
In this primary aspect of Guidodom, I am a spectacular failure; the closest I've come to a gym in about eight years is considering a discount Gold's membership in the 15 seconds immediately following my discovery of yet another ad dangling from the handle on my front door, a decision-making process that ended with the 20-percent-off pitch in a nearby waste basket. When I lift my T-shirt -- much more likely to bear the name of some indie band than a creation from the fevered imagination of Christian Audigier -- there is definitely a situation happening: one of shapelessness, hopelessness and despair. In the mirror, my navel seems to be smirking at me with disappointment, whispering, "Not so good, bro," before I yank down the shirt to silence its condemnation.
We are not off to a great start.
[Read the rest in Reality Matters: 19 Writers Come Clean About the Shows We Can't Stop Watching, arriving in bookstores Tuesday.]