A Marxist analysis was in play at one of the conference’s talks, where a joint panel of students from the U of C and the University of Western Ontario offered a backdoor look at labor relations on set and the show’s topsy-turvey balance of labor-power.
“Jersey Shore” has gone through multiple contract disputes and cast strikes to demand higher wages and better working conditions, according to Western Ontario student Vincent Manzerolle. Many of the contract terms with such characters as Pauly D and The Situation benefit only the producers, he said, explaining that the studio is allowed legally to misrepresent the cast members’ lives and foists responsibility on them for any deaths or injuries during filming.
The cast also had a labor-intensive, 24-hour, seven-days-a-week work schedule for 30 to 60 days, according to Western Ontario student Atle Mikkola Kjosen. Kjosen said that bathroom breaks were the only time away from the cameras.
Kjosen used the term “farcical reproduction” to describe the labor-power in reality shows like “Jersey Shore.”
“According to Karl Marx, there is a physiological limit to how long a worker can work. The worker needs rest to reproduce her labor-power in order to work properly the next day,” he said. “However, it is not a problem for [the show’s] producers. If the cast is sleep-deprived, homesick, and on edge, they are more likely to engage in the ‘outrageous’ behavior that has, in part, made ‘Jersey Shore’ so popular.”
U of C students Eva DeLaurentiis and Rachel Landau discussed their paper, “Shoebies on the Shore,” in which they argued that the show has actually increased tourism, bringing money to the state, in spite of its overtly negative stereotypes of Italian Americans.
One of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind polls conducted in February 2010 also showed that 59 percent of Americans who had seen the show had a favorable view of New Jersey, compared to only 44 percent of those who had not seen the show.
This article is part of our full coverage on the UChicago Conference on “Jersey Shore” Studies.