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What Hath We Wrought? “The Situation” to Emulate DiCaprio, De Niro and, er, The Rock

August 9, 2011

That's quite enough, Mr. Situation.

We brought this upon ourselves, people: In a recent interview with In Touch Weekly, Jersey Shore’s Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino announced that he has no plans to go away anytime soon. The ab-flaunting reality star, who already has his own fitness video, rap single and book deal (like I need to tell you this, since you likely have all three of these things in your home as we speak), is ready to conquer Hollywood. And he’s setting his sights high. Well, high-ish.

“Obviously, I look up to De Niro and Pacino, and for someone who’s closer in age to Leo (DiCaprio) — I’d eventually like to make great movies someday,” he told In Touch. “But I’m trying to go in a trajectory similar to The Rock.”

Now, we here at TBTS aren’t ones to simply regurgitate items from a gossip magazine, but this “situation” probably needs to be addressed. Because it’s us (well, many of us — and admittedly and sadly me, who watches Jersey Shore unabashedly) who’ve created this creature who thinks that a pop culture fad qualifies him to join the ranks of esteemed Coppola and Scorsese regulars. But the true question to which we should be waiting with baited breath for the answer — and brace yourself, because it’s a much, much more frightening question than it might simply appear to be — is “will this work for Sorrentino?” It would be nice to think that we as a people still retain the collective wherewithal to realize that there’s no way The Situation should have any kind of movie career; but a scarier response would be that the very people who’ve elevated Sorrentino to this status (but I’m not taking any blame for that one, thanks) might fuel such a career.

Truth is, if this guy becomes a movie star, we are officially a nation of idiots. We’re already half-a-nation of idiots for making this guy a television star, after all. We should be hoping that Sorrentino, who may be savvy enough to parlay his reality fame into a tuxedo development deal, has to be on the clock. If this guy leaves Jersey Shore (as he’s said he’s going to) and continues to have any real estate in the cultural landscape, we’ve failed as a nation of discerning consumers. It’s one thing to find a guilty pleasure in watching a bunch of ill-behaved guidos fist-pumping and fist-punching at ten o’clock on a Thursday night, it’s quite another to let this guy grow any larger beyond that (but then again, his castmate Snooki is a best-selling author, so we’re already living in some sort of bizarro world).

Pop culture is pop culture because of precisely what it means; it’s popular culture at any given time. There’s no denying Jersey Shore has been a hit, and it’s been very popular. But we’re at a dangerous crossroads right now where we risk leaving The Situation as a footnote from the 2000’s or creating a character who’s never going to go away. And it’s here where we need to step back and look at how strong pop culture can be for a younger audience. The truth is that there are youth in this country who really do find this guy cool and admirable. and who’ll watch him on Dancing with the Stars or purchase his book. But an increasing problem in our media-crazed culture — especially pertaining to the reality-show world — seems to be our inability to discern popularity from actual talent. 

You could argue that The Situation must have some talent, or a site like this wouldn’t bother talking about him. But that talent lies in PR and promotion, not in actual acting. If you’re watching Jersey Shore, you’ll agree that this guy can only be 25% acting, because the other 75% is increasingly coming off as a clinical sociopath. If we fuel these delusions, we run the risk of not only elevating someone even further up than they ever had any business being elevated to in the first place, but we run the risk of creating a future of awful, terrible movies and television shows in which this guy (and others like him) will star, simply successful because they were once a fad. 

All we can do is wait this out and hope that the clock runs out on Sitch’s fifteen minutes before he actually has the clout to develop these movie deals. Or, since he’s already landed a cameo in the upcoming Three Stooges movie, hope that someone hits him in the face with an actual frying pan. Because if this star continues to shine, it’s just really going to make us all look bad. And we are, I continue to hope, smarter than to let that happen. There are real, talented individuals in the world who are going unnoticed by younger audiences, and the fact that we continue to have to deal with these yahoos means those real and talented individuals will continue to go unnoticed. Pop culture is what it is, but at the end of the day pop culture has to at least involve some amount, however minimal, of genuine culture.

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