In Defense of Snooki, Justin, and Historical Trashiness

By Jason Menard

If one person’s trash truly is another’s treasure, then I can only imagine how valuable people like Snooki and Justin Bieber might be in the future.

In Beebs’ case, we’ve just concluded the traditional end-of-year reviews by people who delight in nothing more than proving how cool they are by trashing anything that’s popular. With Snooki, star of MTV’s Jersey Shore, she’s been on the receiving end of countless slings and arrows due to the publication of her novel, A Shore Thing.

At best it’s pretentious and supercilious. At worst? Well, it’s pretentious and supercilious. And, as history shows, we should tread carefully when it comes to matters of taste.

Keep in mind that back in the 1600s, there was this guy writing plays in the English countryside. He was liked well enough, but more for his poetry than his plays. In fact, he was subjected to criticisms that his works were nothing more than crass commercialism.

Of course, what would you expect from a playwright? After all, theatres at the time were no better than bawdy houses, displaying cheap entertainment for the unwashed masses. Surely anyone with any intellectual inclinations wouldn’t even entertain the idea of a trip to the theatre – especially as they’d likely be mugged on the way there.

That guy? William Shakespeare, whose fame and stature grew only in the centuries following his death. At the time the prevailing attitude was that Bill could put together a nice little play, something entertaining for sure, but certainly his work didn’t have the gravitas as other’s respected academic contemporary works.

In fact, at the time, watching a Shakespeare play would be akin to watching cheap, mindless, entertainment performed by actors with little to no training, generally of dubious nature.

Sounds kind of like Jersey Shore, doesn’t it?

Now, I don’t want to go all Chris-Crocker-Leave-Britney-Alone here. Nor am I’m not saying that Snooki’s going to be revered by academics in the future as the greatest thespian of all time. Nor will I be rushing out to the bookstore to pick up a copy of her latest autobiography, but it really doesn’t bother me that other people will.

Like a middle-aged, widening-waistline, man who purchases a sports car or gets hair plugs to compensate for a perceived loss of virility, so too do many pseudo-intellectuals and/or hipsters feel the need to put down popular culture icons whom they deem beneath their level of class and appreciation. Apparently, these people believe themselves above the masses culturally and intellectually, thereby allowing them to look down with distain on the unwashed masses who are content to amuse themselves by revelling in their own cultural filth.

Honestly, it’s annoying and it’s just shows how precarious your sense of self worth is.

Am I a Bieber fan? No. It’s not like I haven’t had the chance – I have a nine-year-old daughter, so I’ve been exposed to Bieber Fever, even if she doesn’t have it herself. Some of his songs are catchy, others are not. But I’ve heard nothing in his oeuvre that offends me. I’ve also seen two episodes of Jersey Shore in my life. I didn’t enjoy the show; other people do.

Guess what? I have a remote. I can change the channel. I can also switch the radio station if I so choose. There’s no grand force compelling me to go into my local bookstore to purchase Snooki’s book; I’m not legally compelled to listen to three Bieber songs per day as per new CANCON regulations.

And neither are you.

Really, we generally don’t have enough things in our lives that bring us pleasure, so if someone’s found something that they like – no matter how highbrow or lowbrow it is – then more power to them!

There was a time when it was damn near impossible to find someone who would admit they ever owned Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Of course, this was when it was no longer cool to like him. I have a copy of that album (vinyl and CD, thank you), but I’m thinking that someone else had to have bought the other 110 million to 140 million copies that are out there.

It’s truly sad when one feels that the price for being cool, hip, or intellectual must come at the expense of putting down others. It’s one thing to say you don’t like something. But to express righteous indignation, liken it to the advent of the Apocalypse, or criticize others for liking something? Well, that says more about you and your level of class.

As a budding poet by the name of Billy showed us, it’s a fool’s game to hang one’s hat on the cultural, intellectual, or social status that you’ve attributed to contemporary icons. If someone can find enjoyment in something, then who are we to take it away? But in their zeal to prove their place in the cultural and intellectual elite, these self-appointed arbiters of all things Culture completely miss the point.

To quote Shakespeare out of context, “The play’s the thing!” Or, more appropriately, to quote Sloan, “If it feels good do it, even if you shouldn’t, don’t let people mess you around.” I have a teenaged son who claimed to love bands that he never listened to, just because it was the cool thing to do. He would then bash other acts in public (Facebook and the like) – despite being perfectly content to enjoy their work in the comfort (and security from judging eyes) of his own home.

Entertainment is just that – entertainment. If it makes you happy, great! If it makes you think, even better – but it’s not a prerequisite. The truth is as long as you get some value out of it, then that’s enough. And it’s sad that certain people refuse to open themselves up to that idea, in the name of proving their intellect or cool factor.

Of course, when you spend your entire life looking down your nose at people, it’s pretty hard to see what’s right in front of your face.

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