Lessons from the Jersey Shore from the NY Times

I’ve been dying for a reason to write about the Jersey Shore in a post in a non-cliche way and the New York Times gave me a great opportunity today. They published an article about MTV and what they’ve learned about Generation Y through their experience with this show.

Why am I dying to write about the Jersey Shore? One of the struggles I am facing in writing my career coaching blog is incorporating more of the irreverent side of my personality. Coming from a huge bureaucracy where you’re encouraged to hide every personable part of you, it’s a new experience to have creative freedom and I am still tentative with it. My personal brand “General Do-Gooder,” the big-sister type expert, is authentic, but it doesn’t capture everything about me and I’ve been looking for a great opportunity to show more of the carefree pop-culture addict in me and come off a little less earnest.

So again, why the Jersey Shore?  Last night, after working on my website for seven hours, I watched a very disappointing finale on my DVR (Pauly D- why did you decide to scream constantly this season? You were charming because you didn’t notice the cameras- go back to that!), but that episode was an anomaly. I just love this show and for many reasons. First, I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but (most of) these people are just purely entertaining. Second, I am a veteran of share houses on Fire Island, and every now and then there will be a tender moment among the cast that reminds me of the best of those times, something I treasure, but is in my past. My friends and I were older and more educated than the Jersey Shore crowd, but get close to an ocean, see stars in the sky, be 50+ miles from your “real life,” and have too easy access to alcohol and hormones, and let’s just say, things sometimes take own course. Plus, I had an amazing friend from those days that reminds me of JWoww. She was like a sister, but I eventually had to say goodbye because she was… like JWoww. Sometimes I wonder if that then made me Snooki… and then I just don’t go there.

Third, I find the little things in this show fascinating. Gawker calls Jersey Shore the most important sociological experiment of our time, and I agree. The gender issues alone would make a great dissertation- it goes beyond the quotes they make about women and the kitchen and the girl fights. It’s how the girls/women talk about each other and accept certain behavior from the men in the house. They always refer to each other in their camera interviews as “that girl” or “this girl” instead of by name, but never talk about the men that way. I find it so strange. I know. In an episode where someone made out with two girls at once, this is what stood out to me.

In the NY Times article, MTV staff talk about lessons they learned about millenials from their Jersey Shore success. One, is that there was a shift where people went from loving the fools on The Hills to the “authentic” Jersey Shore. I don’t think it’s that simple. The Hills was authentic in its own way- you knew exactly what you were getting. The world changed in the years since The Hills debuted and everything reflects that. I see that all the time in my career coaching- people operating from a place of fear about their immediate finances and not a place of faith because of the constant anxiety the world is pushing on to them. Second, MTV really discounts the importance of likeability. On The Hills, you started with a number of likeable, if unstable, girls and then had the show circle around villains. Who wants to watch that? Also another great career lesson- when the opportunity arises for you to remain likeable, even in difficult situations, take it.

Finally, the second other important lesson MTV found was that Generation Y is family oriented and their parents are a critical part of their lives. The family aspect of the Jersey Shore was very appealing to viewers in that demo. As I work with more clients, I see that this is definitely true. More than my friends, recent graduates and students rely on their parents’ advice in their career and personal decisions. While I think that’s great, and I envy it, I struggle as a coach because there’s a fine line where your advice starts delaying your twentysomething’s adulthood. As great as it is that Vinny’s mom comes over makes them pasta, if he didn’t land this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on this show, how old do you think he would have been before he was financially supporting himself? And he is probably the cast member with the most education and skills. One of my number one questions right now is relevant to this- what is the best way for me to work with college students’ parents while getting the best coaching results with the actual client? Suggestions welcome.

I do realize I wrote three substantial paragraphs about the Jersey Shore and only two short paragraphs about lessons that I probably stretched a little. But it just felt so good! Here’s to Season Three!

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