Busted Halo
feature: entertainment & lifestyle
September 27th, 2011

Life at “The Jersey Shore”

Reconciling MTV, Pop Culture, and Catholic Values


I’ll admit it, I watch the “Jersey Shore.” I’m addicted to the antics of The Situation, the lovable Pauly D, and overly coiffed Snooki. I count down the hours every week to 11:35 Friday morning Central European time, right after the Shore airs in the United States, and I can finally finagle streaming the show overseas to my Berlin kitchen table. But while there is no disputing the bronzed bunch’s unexpected pop culture success, I often find myself wondering if their antics are something I should fill my head with.

How much do things I see on the show affect me? When Pauly D and The Situation bring home girls to the “Smush Room” every night, is there a point where this ceases to shock and instead becomes ok? When my friends tease me about my trash TV addiction, I argue that I don’t really take any of it in. Instead, I watch and turn my brain off when it’s crammed to overflowing with Stanford-approved literature. But at times I wonder if this is true. Even in watching shows like this purely for superficial entertainment purposes, are they a setback in seeking a spiritually rich life?

Being Catholic on “Jersey Shore”

“Jersey Shore” is interesting to me too because it’s an example of Catholics in the media. Pauly D and the Situation wear rosaries pretty regularly when they go out. I realize this is more of a fashion statement than anything to do with prayer, but rosaries are still very recognizably Catholic. All of the characters on the show are Italian American, tracing heritage to a country that has one of the most Catholic populations in the world. Pauly D even attested to being Catholic in season one, and the cameras showed Sammi and Ron going to church a few times back in season two. Is this a good example for us to be seeing of Catholicism in the media or not really a representation at all?

I personally have always seen being Catholic as a cultural heritage more than anything else. Harkening back generations and tied intrinsically with my Polish and Southern German roots, being Catholic is a part of my identity as much as anything else. And in that way, the way I see it, the “Jersey Shore” cast is a Catholic representation, too.

But in the spirit of “he without sin casts the first stone,” I think the best approach is to ignore the junk and focus on the good. Looking past superficial values, blow-ups, and blow-outs, the show has some redeeming qualities.

Vinny’s tight-knit Italian family for one. A swarm of uncles, siblings, and cousins always trek to the Shore at some point every season, taking over the house with their bear hugs, spiced sausage and peppers, and thick Staten Island accents. That kind of tight-knit, loving family is something to be admired and emulated. Post fistfights, tears, and even pulled out hair extensions, they always find a way to forgive and move on. They protect one other and will always stand up for their housemates when external forces threaten any member of their Shore family. Even if I wouldn’t necessarily choose their partying and lifestyle choices for myself, I find value in these aspects of their lives.

Like it or not, they are here to stay for a while. And although I feel slightly guilty about it, I for one am thrilled.

The Author : Courtney Crisp
Courtney Crisp is a recent graduate of Stanford University where she studied English and modern languages. She currently lives and works in Southern California but travels every chance she gets. Guilty pleasures include, but are not limited to, coffee, the beach, Los Angeles Mexican food, and watching hours of basketball. Follow me on my blog at: courtneycrisp.blogspot.com!
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • blinker

    It’s possible that the wearing of rosary and / or cross is a sign, and a silent call. Madonna started it as a fashion trend, correct?

    Courtney, I appreciate your view of Catholicism being a cultural heritage. For very many people, that is true.


    I am all about how we can find the Divine anywhere (either that it is there–in a form we are not able to recognize or on rare occasions–absent). The human condition alone—desire for relationship with others and something more—should be enough to point to Divine Mystery. One could even make that argument about the “Jersey Shore”…but how simplistic and argument to say that wearing a rosary and being Italian-American (which not all the cast is btw…) points to the Divine. At least dig a little deeper and use some examples of relationships and the struggles that ensue. Please don’t demean one of the strongest aspects of Catholicism–its intellectual tradition– with such simplistic examples–whether pointing to Catholic culture or faith!

  • Anne M.


    The articles on this site get worse every day. Catholicism is not a “cultural heritage”. It is more than that. It is the One True Faith. And it is certainly not represented by the fornicating idiots on “Jersey Shore”.

  • Jay B

    I read the article first on my blackberry on Facebook. Admittedly, my initial reaction to the article was disappointment. So I decided to read Courtney’s other posts. I’m glad I did, and I am very grateful that Courtney continues in her faith journey within the Catholic Church. As a father of one college student and 3 younger children, I hope they all have the courage to speak out as Courtney does.
    Having said that, I am concerned about the possible impact of the article. The picture alone clearly is designed (by the Jersey Shore folks) to cater to prurient interests and desires. And I understand that this very appeal to base instincts represents the theme of The Jersey Shore. The attitudes of the cast clearly contradict Catholic mores, notwithstanding the closeness of the family. The show reflects one of many thorns tearing into the fabric of society. It’s allure does not encourage fidelity to the Church but encourages promiscuous behavior.
    Thank you for sharing. But the next time I open my Facebook, I hope I am not assaulted by an image like the one above. I “liked” Bustedhalo to help me live a pure life. This does not.

  • Jennifer M

    A thought just occurred. One might say one of these guys could be the next St. Augustine, but even he was not dishonest enough, while living a non-Christian life, to claim that religious identity for himself. Nor would anyone have ascribed it to him just because his mother was. St. Monica spent her life praying for her son to become Christian, she didn’t call him one, in spite of his behavior, just because a Christian gave birth to him.

  • Jennifer M

    Dear God, what a stretch. Looks like Courtney took up yoga to churn this mess out. I guess when you see being Catholic as a cultural heritage and nothing more, like secular Jews, The Situation, Pauly D, and Snooki can look like valid Catholics to you. Jeez. Yeah, they put on rosaries while they go out and get sloppy drunk. Do they keep them on while they have sex with anyone they can lure to the hot tub? Give me a break. Sure none of us is without sin, but trying to paint The Jersey Shore as a show about Catholics is disgusting. Courtney, have you ever prayed a rosary? I mean for real, not by rote because the nuns at school told you to. Have you listened to the Mysteries and the prayers? The fact that the guys on this show wear them is a profanation of Mary and the life of Christ depicted in the rosary, and they should stop.

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