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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Post-Racial America & The Jersey Shore

Obama and Jersey Shore

President Barack Obama is a liar.

The man entrusted with the ultimate privilege looked the nation in the eye and betrayed each and everyone one of us. In a White House Correspondents’ dinner speech this May, Obama quipped: "[The Jersey Shore-Up provision] reads, 'The following individuals shall be excluded from the indoor tanning tax within this bill: Snooki, JWOWW, The Situation and House minority leader John Boehner.'"

But fast-forward to this July and the set of “The View”. The hard-hitting tribunal of Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck & Co. grilled the President on his pop-culture wisdom:

At first, Snooki took the presidential diss in stride, asking “Obama? Is he an athlete?” But Snooki sprung into action after President Obama instituted a 10% tax on tanning beds. “I know he knows who I am,” Snooki told E! News on August 11. “Why did he have to lie and say he didn't know me? He did say Snooki and JWoww about the tanning stuff and now he doesn't know who I am? He has to stop lying.”
So there you have it. The President of the United States of America exposed by the … over-exposed DeepTan agent Snooki.


Once upon a time in a land far, far away (January 2009, Washington D.C.), back when the Jersey Shore was just a rickety Boardwalk New Yorkers scoffed at, back when President Obama vowed to close GITMO in a year, Obama was heralded as our nation’s first post-racial president.

Someone asked Obama a month into his presidency if he thought a lot about the history involved in being the first African-American president. Obama responded, he did… For about a day. Ever since, pundits have criticized Professor-In-Chief Obama for not doing more to advance racial quality. For not having his “teachable moment” on race yet. They are wrong.

Obama Already Had It

Obama’s underdog presidential campaign was a veritable Rorschach test on race in early 21st Century American. The son of a Kenyan father he never knew, the grandson of a white grandmother with stereotypes of her own, Obama campaigned, “in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. But in no other country would Obama have to walk such a racial tight-rope.

Obama Asks For Change

Some on the left openly questioned whether he was “black enough”. Some even claimed Hillary Clinton was “blacker” than he was. Meanwhile, others on the right alleged Obama even mentioning his black heritage was reverse racism. NYTimes’ columnist Charles M. Blow opined, to the right the very word “’racism’ has become a weapon … a shotgun blast sprayed wide and loose at all things anti-Obama.”

It was March 2008, and the Chosen One was losing some luster. Hillary Clinton was getting into a rhythm. Youtube clips of the Reverend Jeremiah “GOD DAMN AMERICA!” Wright were going viral. The Reverend, who presided over the Obamas’ wedding and baptized their daughters, now threatened to derail Barack’s entire presidential campaign.

With his back against the wall, the oratory master stepped up to the podium in Philadelphia and delivered the talk of his life. In a speech entitled A More Perfect Union, Obama finally spoke openly about race and what it meant to him. Rev. Wright wasn’t wrong for blasting race in America, Obama mused. Rev. Wright was wrong because he assumed race was static in America. To dismiss Rev. Wright, Obama argued, would convict us of the same crime, “to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.”

Instead, Obama offered a choice. We could continue to treat race “only as spectacle — as we did in the OJ trial — … or as fodder for the nightly news.” Or we could embrace our differences, like adults, end our “racial stalemate” and come together to solve health care, education, and the Iraq War.

Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech was hailed the world over as one of the most frank talks on race Americans had heard in decades. The 38 minute speech was watched 1.2 million times on Youtube within 24 hours, and the New Yorker maintains it ultimately catapulted him into the White House. Alas, another Reverend was not as appreciative.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson

What happened to you, Reverend?

You were one floor down when Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically assassinated in 1968. (Although a) you did later try and claim you were right there at the time of the shooting—contrary to eye-witnesses and photographs; and b) you wore the same blood-splattered turtleneck onto the Today show the following morning in a thinly-veiled publicity stunt.)

You were a legitimate candidate for the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1984 and 1988. The NYTimes even dubbed 1988 the “Year of Jackson”. But then skip to days after Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech two decades later:

The Reverend quickly apologized to Obama, who in the heat of the campaign trail didn’t have time but to graciously accept it. But surely the gaffe still registers with the cerebral Obama. The most troubling part isn’t what Rev. Jesse Jackson said. The most troubling part is if the ordained Baptist minister openly discusses castrating Obama deep in the lion’s den—a FOX News studio—what do you think he talks about back home on his couch?

Jesse Jackson’s heart is unconscionably in the right place, and his role as a Civil Rights pioneer shouldn’t be overlooked. The problem is he often seems to put his personal cause above the greater one. The problem is Jesse Jackson interjects himself into issues in a quest to stay more relevant than right. Like when he assailed Fox’s “Power Rangers” for featuring a White Ranger.

The White Ranger PowerRangers

Or more recently, during the LeBron James Sweepstakes. When the Cleveland Cavaliers GM Dan Gilbert railed against LeBron James “taking [his] talents to South Beach”, the Reverend Jesse Jackson responded, “[Gilbert’s] feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.” No, your Reverend. LeBron James is not a runaway slave. Not when he’s leaving Cleveland for a $110.1 million/6 year contract. (He’s just another spoiled superstar who confessed he couldn’t a title with the hand he was dealt.)

Reverend, like it or not, you are the face of the modern day American black rights moment. How can President Obama take your counsel seriously when you rant like that? It’s not possible to lead a meaningful national dialogue on race relations when you just sound so crazy and out-of-touch.

Obama’s Been Kind Of Busy

Full Disclosure: It’s early, but I feel like I’ll be an Obama apologist for the rest of my life. I already think about Obama’s legacy. A lot. He is the first President us Millennials can call our own. Sure he doesn’t know who Snooki is and he just turned 49, but Obama will always be the cool professor who was in on the joke more than he wasn’t. My only hope is history properly appreciates President Obama for who he really is: Black Cinderella.

Obamarella Comic from ProseBeforeHos

So it bothers me when critics write off Obama as another Jimmy Carter. President Obama’s achievements to date are the most sweeping since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society: $787 billion Stimulus package, tobacco regulation, improving America’s image abroad, credit card consumer rights, healthcare reform, tax cuts for the middle class, Wall Street regulation, etc. Not to mention Obama has “kept us safe”—the lone barometer of the George W. Bush Presidency and legacy. The problem, as Senator Christopher Dodd tells it, is “Democrats don’t know how to celebrate.”

That Obama has accomplished all this in spite of a Say No Republican Congress deserves FDR-ian praise. Since Republicans lost Congress during their 2006 midterm “thumpin’”, the party either threatened to use the filibuster or used it 70% of the time. (It was 8% in the LBJ’s day.) Their playbook has one play. Obama is too big to succeed. From the petty (cheering when Chicago didn’t get the Olympics) to the grand (blocking jobless benefits), many Republicans seem to root for President Obama to fail so they look better in November—country be damned in the mean time.

Racial equality isn’t the top priority on Americans’ minds in the wake of the Great Recession and two of the longest wars in our nation’s history. Yet give Obama credit. He selected Eric Holder as the first black Attorney General. He tapped Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

Obama Beer Summit at the White House

Major appointments aside, however, Obama rarely touches the race button. Sure, he toured a Ghana slave fortress with his daughter Sasha, but, by and large, the President just doesn’t do sweeping racial symbols. Instead, President Obama’s modus operandi on race is to just normalize it. Treat it as ho-hum business as usual. When a Harvard professor was arrested by a white cop for trying to break into his own home, Obama handled it like a neighborhood dust-up. He invited them over to the White House for a “Beer Summit”.

Obama knows his work isn’t finished. It’s barely even started. It’s not a post-racial America when the pay gap between white and black men has increased over the last three decades. It’s not an equal America when women are still paid 73 cents on the dollar. It’s not the United States of America when we have Arizona. And it’s not a free America when couples who deeply love each other—no matter their sexual orientation—can’t get married (for the most dubious of reasons).


Which brings us back to Snooki. You see, like President Obama, the cast of the “Jersey Shore” has been discriminated against. Like Obama, they have been teased because of the color of their skin (day-glow orange). Like Obama, they have been regularly asked to provide identification. But like Obama, they are self-made celebrities who rose from humble means to national prominence through their unique oratorical gifts.

So, in the interest of race relations, President Obama should invite the cast of “Jersey Shore” to the White House for a Ron Ron Juice Summit (a concoction of watermelon, cherries, cranberry juice and vodka always served bare-chested). Both sides have had an ample experience over the past two years dealing with obstructionist haters. With their powers combined, who knows what they can accomplish? You know, besides gym, tan, and laundry…


This is the second part of a two part series on the Jersey Shore. See the first article, Is The Jersey Shore The Smartest Show On TV.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Is Jersey Shore The Smartest Show On TV?

We always forget something about the “Jersey Shore”.

Ronnie, J-Wow, Pauly-D — they had to apply for the show. This means MTV had to turn down legions of over-tanned, under-read guidos and guidettes. Surely, there was some girl too Snooki for even Snooki. A bro more vain than even The Situation. The real question, then, is: what are they doing right now? Do they watch Snooki’s censored flips in the club, or Ronnie obliterating another loudmouth on the Boardwalk and shrug: that’s it? What are they planning for this upcoming Friday night?

The “Jersey Shore” returned this July with the tagline “Different shore. Same crazy”. There are a few differences in Season 2. The crew has a slightly nicer beach-house, in Miami this time. And they’re richer now. The Situation and Snooki drive sparkling new Escalades—although Snooki can barely look over the steering wheel in hers. In the Season 2 premiere, MTV sat the cast of down for a painfully-staged mock-ad pitching “The Other Guys” movie starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

They’re even political. Tan Party activist Snooki lamented she has to use spray-on tans now because, “Obama put a 10 percent tax on tanning [beds]. McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning, because he's pale and he would probably want to be tan.” Senator John McCain (or let’s be honest, one of his interns) tweeted Snooki back: “I would never tax ur tanning bed! Obama’s tax policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!”

When Snooki was arrested for disorderly conduct at the Jersey Shore this July, McCain told a Phoenix radio station, “I kind of think she might be too good-looking to go to jail.” Be careful of McCain’s advances, Snooki. As NYTimes’ op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow quipped, “One bit of advice to Snooki: Don’t go to McCain’s home base in Arizona. The state is hostile to people of your current complexion.”

Despite the changes, ratings are higher than Pauly D’s hair-gel count. Last Thursday’s episode eloquently titled “Creepin’” racked up a record 5.5 million viewers. By comparison, the first three episodes of “Jersey Shore: Season 1” netted 4.7 million viewers combined. The first three episodes of Season 2 are the top three cable telecasts of 2010 among viewers ages 12-34.


A statistical linguistic analysis of Episode 3 is especially telling. By the numbers, “MVP”, as in the powerful triumvirate of Mike the Situation, Vinny, and Pauly, proved the big winner with 15 mentions, narrowly beating out “Laundry” (13 references). Meanwhile, the ever-popular "One of the hyenas hypnotized him" managed a lackluster performance with a mere 1 tally.

Jersey Shore Word Usage Stats

To our parents, the transcendent success of “Jersey Shore” foretells the apocalyptic end of Western Civilization. To outraged Italian-American groups, the show is the worst thing to happen to their cultural pride since someone told Jay Leno he was funny. National Italian American Federation President Joseph V. Del Raso sneered the cast has “more in common with the adolescent residents of Animal House than with Italian Americans.” Joy Behar lamented, “It makes it hard for young Italian Americans to be taken seriously in the work force.”

The Situation heartily disagreed on the Today show, “We represent ourselves. We’re not saying we’re a definition of Jersey, or a definition of New York, or a definition of Italians. I just happen to be Italian. I happen to have some spiky hair and a six-pack, and I am proud to have that. And if you don't like me, I don't care. I still got 5 million viewers Thursday nights at 10 p.m."


Mike Situation and Snooki Kissing

Shameless plug at the end aside, The Situation is completely right. To paraphrase Ronnie, critics need to stop drinking the Haterade. The “Jersey Shore” doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes about Italian-Americans. It explodes them. You have never met a girl like Snooki. None of your friends is like The Situation. As exacerbating as your co-worker or classmate may be, she is not Angelina.

Racism and stereotyping are bad. Discriminating against someone for skin color or nationality—factors they can’t even choose—is vile. Yet to keep the issue in the dark is also wrong. The politically correct tactic to muffle the race conversation does more harm than good, allowing false perceptions to take root in the name of censorship and bowdlerization. The real strength of a nation’s culture is measured not by how restrictive it is, but by how free. It is right that makes might, not the other way ‘round.

I am white. I do like mayonnaise. And I do own a shirt from Abercrombie & Fitch. But that’s OK. Because the accidental genius of the “Jersey Shore” is it loosens us up to have the race dialogue. It’s just ironic that it took a motley crew of rabble-rousing, tanned guidos and guidettes pillaging and plundering Boardwalks up and down the East Coast for us to have it.

But this isn’t new. America’s persistent race problem has best been seen through the prism of TV comedy for decades. Going back to the 1970s, it has taken a laugh track and predictable plot twists streamed into TV rooms across the country for Americans to have frank conversations about race.

“The Jeffersons” (1975-1985) remains the longest-running show with a predominantly African American cast in the history of American TV. “The Jeffersons” was not an overtly political show, but it was right there in opening theme song, "Movin' On Up", following the adventures of a middle class black family climbing the rungs of the 1970s America socio-economic ladder. But “The Jeffersons” was too early for us Millenials. (Ditto the tragic Rodney King beating in 1991.)

We reminisce “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” about a trouble-making teenager (Will Smith) “from West Philadelphia born and raised” who is sent to live with his affluent African American relatives in a Bel Air mansion. (Interestingly, Will Smith agreed to the show because he owed the IRS $2.8 million in unpaid taxes.) While the Fresh Prince resides in a mostly white Bel-Air kingdom, we remember the show less for racial anecdotes and more for Will Smith pre-Summer Blockbuster Will Smith and Carlton’s goofy dance.

Youngsters and tweens today gobble up “Dora the Explorer” episodes—the first cartoon starring a Hispanic character in American TV history. For those of us born in the 1980s, however, the most candid conversation millions of us (especially white) Millennials heard in our formative years came—not from our parents or teachers—but HBO comedy specials. Freed from the shackles of the FCC and political correctness, minority entertainers have levered the most legitimate critiques of America’s (not-so-latent) racial tensions. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle pummeled America’s racial double-standard by punchline; Jay-Z by rhyme.

Yes, Chris Rock repeats himself (and repeats himself). Comedians joke Chris Rock only needs to bring 20 minutes of material for an hour set. But before Chris Rock sold out (See: “Grown Ups”), he consistently made the most spot-on political and race observations of any comedian today:

On American Segregation: “Every town has the same two malls: the one white people go to and the one white people used to go to.”

On Early 2000s Current Events: “You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named 'Bush', 'Dick', and 'Colon.' Need I say more?”

On Gay Marriage: “Gay people got a right to be as miserable as everybody else.”

On Black Vs. White Job Opportunities: “A black boy that makes C’s in college can’t even run a Burger King. A white boy that makes C's in college can make it to the White House”

And then there’s Dave Chappelle. Chappelle was our generation’s Richard Pryor. His “Chappelle Show” was one of the highest rated comedies of all time. Yet the pressure, $50 million/year Comedy Central contract, and the expectations got to Chappelle. He was performing a Season 3 skit, heard a chubby white guy in the audience laugh a little harder than he should have, and Dave snapped. Chappelle left the studio, fled to Africa, and has lived on a 65-acre farm in Ohio ever since.

As filmmaker Sydney Pollack observed, “Talent is liquefied trouble.” And it’s unfortunate. Dave Chappelle brilliance lay in his racial powers of perception. He knew exactly what whites thought of blacks, and vice versa. He caricatured white news anchors to white agents to perfection. Chappelle’s famed “Racial Draft” was arguably one of his most prescient and funniest skits of all:


Check back this Thursday for Why The Jersey Shore Is The Smartest Show On TV: Volume 2.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Additions to the PBH Network!

Sorry for the lack of updates, we've been busy updating the sites of the PBH network:

* PBH3 is now Alligator Sunglasses.

* We've added Runt of the Web -- a similar site to Alligator Sunglasses with more Tumblr features and comment systems -- to the PBH network.

* All That Is Interesting and PBH2 now have their own domains.

Please check out our new sites and tell us how you like them! Otherwise, sign up for Die Guido Die's feed and support us by shopping at Amazon.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

An Emo.... Guido?!?!

Emo Guido WTF

I have now seen everything that I do not want to see.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Guido Gangster Fail

Guido Gangster Picture

Bitches love my floppy disks and pouty lips.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Jersey Shore Season 2 Preview Trailer

And Lord MTV said... let there be Guidos.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Body Building Guido

Body Building Guido

Call me crazy, but I don't think this is healthy.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A Summer Tradition: Guido Prom

It's summertime! Plants are blooming, birds are birding, and Guidos are going to prom. So put on your fake tan and hair gel, and get ready for a wild, Jagerbomb filled ride:

First they load the Guidos onto a truck

The Secret Oompa Loompa Handshake

Guido Prom Revelry

Look at those Guido hot dates

Sadly, all members of the above party have recently been placed into rehab for tanning.