Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Jersey Shore" and the elevation of immorality

As someone who lives about an hour from the Jersey Shore I cringed when I saw that MTV was airing a new reality show entitled "Jersey Shore." If you take every stereo type of young New Jersy-ites whose names end with a vowel and magnify it about gazillion times then you get the idea. I must admit that I watched the first 15 minutes of Jersey Shore and that was like having a root canal. It would be easy to laugh at or dismiss such utter banality and crudeness. But Jersey Shore and other similar cultural malignancies have a devastating effect on those classes of Americans who cannot afford to live as irresponsibly as Paris and Tiger.

Jonah Goldberg comments:

The elite minority’s general acceptance of racial and sexual equality as important values has been a moral triumph. But not without costs. As part of this transformation, society has embraced what social scientist Charles Murray calls “ecumenical niceness.” A core tenet of ecumenical niceness is that harsh judgments of the underclass — or people with underclass values — are forbidden. A corollary: People with old-fashioned notions of decency are fair game.

Long before the rise of reality shows, ecumenical niceness created a moral vacuum. Out-of-wedlock birth was once a great shame; now it’s something of a happy lifestyle choice. The cavalier use of profanity was once crude; now it’s increasingly conversational. Self-discipline was once a virtue; now self-expression is king.

Reality-show culture has thrived in that moral vacuum, accelerating the decay and helping to create a society in which celebrity is the new nobility. One senses that Richard Heene thought — maybe still thinks — that the way to make his kids proud of him was to land a reality show. Paris Hilton, famous for being famous thanks in part to a “reality” sex tape released days before her 2003 reality show The Simple Life, is now a cultural icon of no redeeming value whatsoever.

Whatever you think of what Toynbee and Murray would call the “proletarianization of the elites,” one point is beyond dispute: The rich can afford moral lassitude more than the poor can. Hilton, heir to a hotel fortune, has life as simple as she wants it to be. Tiger Woods is surely a cad, but as a pure matter of economics, he can afford to be one.

The question is: Can the rest of us afford to live in a society constantly auditioning to make an ass of itself on TV?

Read the entire article HERE.

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