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Feb. 28 2010 - 3:53 pm | 176 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

‘Jersey Shore’: Classic millennial family and civic mindedness?

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 23: Mike 'The Situation' S...

Ladies, I've got your civic engagement right here. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As far as MTV is concerned, Generation X can suck it.

MTV Networks president Van Toffler reportedly said as much, though more poetically,  at a Hollywood Radio & Television Society luncheon earlier this week. The future — and evidently the future of advertising is with millennials.

Not that that’s a surprise to anyone. It’s always out with the aging, in with the new, and it’s up to last year’s (or generation’s) model to reinvent itself. As a proud Gen Xer I’m struggling with the idea that my 20th high school reunion is rapidly approaching. But while we post-Boomers are making our peace with gray hair, anti-aging/acne prevention, and being old enough (biologically, anyway) to have kids who could shop at Urban Outfitters, we’re not exactly down for the count yet.

But we are cynical, notes Toffler, who mentioned in the next breath that the network is a slave to its millennial audience — an utterly pragmatic strategy that reflects smart business priorities and, it has to be said, a completely cynical view. The best part, though, is Toffler’s description of how MTV has “played up the camaraderie and family elements [on 'Jersey Shore']” to appeal to the millennials’ sense of authentic reality and family. Oh, and their civic mindedness. (Hat tip: James Hibberd)

We’ve all seen plenty of dysfunctional families and relationships. Hell, the best political families combine authentic reality with civic mindedness, camaraderie and downright scandal. And I suppose there’s an argument to be made for a family scenario:

  • Snooki as the little sister (Cindy Brady with a pouf?)
  • Sammi and Ronnie as the middle children who have their own drama that the others don’t follow that much or care about
  • J-Wow as the oldest daughter who actually cleans up OK
  • DJ Pauly D as the oldest kid, whose hair appalls you but you leave alone because he seems to have an OK work ethic and probably won’t be living with you forever
  • Vinny as the clowny youngest brother who’s largely ignored
  • And The Situation as Dirty Uncle Sal — who, in the words of Meredith Grey, “embarrasses everyone at family reunions, and who can’t be left alone with the teenage girls, but you invite him to the picnic anyway.”

That’s quite a cabal. And, as the Los Angeles Times‘ Harriet Ryan and Adam Tschorn noted in a front-page story on Feb. 19, by comparison the Kardashians look almost Brady Bunch-ian. (Do not miss the priceless photo caption.)

I’m only slightly embarrassed that I watch “Jersey Shore.” It’s not appointment viewing, but it is the first thing that’s gotten me watching the network regularly since they stopped playing mostly videos — and since the Seattle “Real World.” And I’ve only been paying scant attention to their whirlwind media tour — mostly to try to plan to avoid them in L.A. — I was almost impressed by the way they handled themselves last week on “The View.”

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I’m not sure I could’ve borne it if I were Whoopi Goldberg either, but overall they were polite, respectful, patient, had each other’s backs and answered the questions posed to them. They also seem to get that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, and they appeared to be OK with enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. If anyone should be embarrassed in that scenario, it should be Joy Behar. And I’m sure that’s not the last time I’ll write that sentence.

But appealing to family and civic mindedness? I’m not sure that the girl punching, drunken hookups, search for tanned “juiceheads” and working in T-shirt shop (at least some of the “Real World”ers have volunteered or done something that exercised a few brain cells rather than just killing them) constitutes promoting all the virtues of millennials. Toffler sounds as though he’s read “Millennials Rising” or the same Pew Research Center study that I have, enumerating the incredible qualities that millennials embody. It’s a generation with extraordinary potential — just like those that came before. But likeable and guilty pleasure or no, MTV’s got a long way to go before they can make this claim with a straight face.


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    About Me

    I've always been obsessed with pop culture and celebrity, even as a political reporter by day at washingtonpost.com and ABC News. Even after leaving journalism for media relations and consulting (Need help with press releases, brochures, annual reports, or media strategy? E-mail me -- lisa.celebjungleATgmail.com.), I pretended to be mildly appalled by the antics of the beautiful and famous -- then gobbled up tabloids and all the gossip I could find. To date, I've preserved my amateur status as a celebrity news analyst so I could compete in the gossip Olympics, but now I've decided to go pro. As a recent transplant to Los Angeles, or Celebrity Ground Zero, I'm learning to live among them as they roam unfettered over the landscape -- while praying that a behind-the-wheel Lindsay Lohan stays out of my neighborhood.

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