‘Jersey Shore’ topic of U. of C. conference
Jersey Shore, under the academic microscope. University of Chicago students are holding a conference Friday on the MTV show. "We're not going to suck the life out of the show," organizer David Showalter insists. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Updated: October 26, 2011 9:47AM
David Showalter works out at the gym. He does his own laundry.
But he doesn’t tan, which left him time to plan Friday’s UChicago Conference on Jersey Shore Studies.
A U. of C. senior and “Jersey Shore” fan, he and a group of friends gather weekly to watch the show and discuss the broader cultural issues of gender, sexuality, ethnic identity and “the game of reality television.” Out of this was born a daylong academic look at the MTV show that gave the world the drunken, smutty antics of Snooki, the Situation and their crew.
“I don’t know if it’s just my nature or that the University of Chicago has done this to me, but I couldn’t help trying to, I don’t know if I would say intellectualize [“Jersey Shore”], but think more thoughtfully about it,” he said.
Showalter, 21, originally from Stillwater, Okla., received money for the conference from the university’s student-run Uncommon Fund. He expects between 200 and 500 attendees, most from the U. of C., on Friday.
This is not a joke, he said.
“It’s a serious academic event,” he said. “It’s not a satire or a mockery of academia. It’s going to be a bunch of students and scholars wearing suits and talking about ‘Jersey Shore.’ ”
It should also be fun, he added. “We’re not going to suck the life out of the show,” he said. “I was a fan before I was a scholar. You don’t have to choose between laughing at the show and thinking about the show.”
About 50 people, including academics, graduate students and undergraduates from schools in the United States and Canada, submitted papers for possible inclusion in the conference. Some of the topics to be presented include “Foucault’s Going to the Jersey Shore, Bitch!”, “‘You Dirty Little Hamster!’: The Abject and the Monstrous Feminine in Jersey Shore,” “GTL, Drunkenness, and Oompa-Loompa Party Girls: The Impact of Jersey Shore on the Jersey Shore” and “The Jersey Saga: Honor Culture in Medieval Iceland and Modern Seaside.”
Showalter, who hopes to eventually pursue a doctorate in sociology, believes this conference might be the start of a valuable, critical look at other lowbrow but popular reality TV shows.
“We should spend more time thinking seriously and thoughtfully and rigorously about what we are watching,” he said. “I hope this conference serves as a model, something to legitimize the idea that you could devote a day or longer to studying what most people consider trash TV.”