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Spoiler alert: Bowdoin is nothing like the Jersey Shore

April 26, 2024

Si Ting Chen

It had been three months since the lockdown was announced in Metro Manila, and suffice it to say we were all going stir-crazy. Our hands were exhausted from the trend of whipping coffee, our eyes were red from Zoom school and our muscles were sore from the scores of TikTok dances that felt absolutely mandatory to learn.

I desperately needed something new. Other than just filling time, I wanted to experience the world beyond the four walls of my bedroom. And so, just like any teenager my age would do, I sought refuge in the timeless tradition of so-called “brain-rot” reality TV.

Naturally, I turned to “Jersey Shore”—the apex of mindless television and, arguably, a cultural phenomenon. For the next few months, I was tuned into a world that was utterly alien to my Manila bedroom. With my journey to Bowdoin College looming on the horizon, I clung to Snooki and Pauly D like a lifeline, hoping to glean some insight into my future American collegiate experience. By the end of the summer, I had watched so much “Jersey Shore” that I ended up developing a slight Jersey lilt and a propensity to fist bump at every social gathering I would attend.

Spoiler alert, as many of you may have hopefully realized, Bowdoin is about as similar to the Jersey Shore as a meatball sandwich is to a lobster roll. Our late and crazy nights end at 12:30 a.m. over grilled cheese in the dining hall, and let’s be real, the only egregious tan lines we’re rocking are from the total of three sunny days we spend outside studying on the Quad.

But despite these obvious disparities, my love of “Jersey Shore” began my love affair with reality TV. Sure, it may not have exactly prepared me for life in the Maine tundra, but it did provide me with insight into complicated roommate drama and the holy trifecta that is GTL (gym, tan, laundry).

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite TV shows are, I struggle to give them my honest answers. It seems that, perhaps understandably to some degree, there is a heavy stigma associated with reality TV. Some view it as irredeemable and corny, and there are definitely times when I would agree with them. But, reality TV also offers us the unique opportunity to grab ahold of and insert ourselves into the day-to-day lives of worlds unbeknownst to us. Reality TV makes us keen observers of the fabrics of our society.

Reality TV is a looking glass that magnifies society’s many low points. The genre shines a light on the toxicities of hook-up culture, materialism and more. But why has it been able to alter our political and social landscape? Why has it asserted so much influence over mainstream culture?

Despite its scripts and faux-authenticity, there are moments when we see ourselves in the mess and imperfections of the characters on screen. There are times when we feel represented and at peace in the escapism reality TV provides. Sure, it may be scripted—or staged at times—but there are moments when the authenticity of the “characters” shines through the façade. At its essence, “Jersey Shore” transcends dramatized conflicts in its fearless celebration of friendship and loyalty. What distinguishes it from other shows is that it focuses on the lives of everyday people without the glitz and glam of shows like “The Kardashians.” The cast may have its fights and drama, but they are united by a common thread of their time at “the Shore” and the hungover Sunday dinners they share together.

There is no turning away from reality TV—we are forced to confront the truth of many, albeit hidden, facets of the society we live in.

Megh Bindra is a member of the Class of 2025.


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