Thursday, 19 January 2017

Jersey Shore Eruditorum

It's February 9th, 2012 - Syrian Army troops continue to pour into Homs as part of the latest offensive, with scores of civilians and anti-government protesters reported as having been killed in the past day; Jessie J is feeling sexy and free at the top of the hit parade with Domino; and we have just forty-eight hours to go before my beloved Manchester United soccer group goal the Liverpools two to one at their iconic Old Trafford soccer stadium.

Meanwhile we've reached the sixth episode of the fifth season of MTV's iconic Jersey Shore, although before getting started on that, maybe we should brush up on a little game theory. Modern game theory began with the idea regarding the existence of mixed-strategy equilibria in two-person zero-sum games and its proof by John von Neumann. Von Neumann's original proof used Brouwer fixed-point theorem on continuous mappings into compact convex sets, which became a standard method in game theory and mathematical economics. His paper was followed by the 1944 book Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, co-written with Oskar Morgenstern, which considered cooperative games of several players. The second edition of this book provided an axiomatic theory of expected utility, which allowed mathematical statisticians and economists to treat decision-making under uncertainty.

How does this figure in our review of Jersey Shore, I hear you ask. Of course, I should probably point out that this isn't so much a review as a little something of my own humble concoction which I like to call psychochronography, which is much like the psychogeography of the Situationists but instead examines a television show in context of its time by mentioning a few unrelated things which happened on the same date in the first paragraph, so let's leave the reviews to those who just want to talk about what happened and whether or not they liked it.

Anyway, game theory figures because today I'm discussing an iconic episode entitled The Follow Game, and I'll come to why it should be thus entitled in a moment.

As we renew our acquaintance with the residents of Ocean Terrace, we find that the Situation is on our familiar iconic duck-shaped novelty telephone to the Unit. As my many regular readers will already know, the Situation is the name by which housemate Mike Sorrentino designates himself as a sort of event in space-time, which seems a fair assessment given his serving as a kind of living axis around which drama occurs; and the Unit is simply the Unit - a man known to Mike, and I imagine that the name serves to imply that he has a large, possibly iconic penis. Anyway, Mike is naturally discussing a presumably drunken sexual liaison with Snooki, one which Snooki has repeatedly denied ever having occurred, and he's discussing it with the Unit because the Unit is supposedly a witness to the alleged penetrative event. It's clear that Mike intends to use this information to cause trouble, but as to when he's going to play his hand, we just don't know. He also tells Unit that he spoke to Deena's sister and asked what she would like for breakfast, therefore implying that he intended to have sexual intercourse with her at some point immediately prior to the preparation of said breakfast. This brings a wry smile to his face.

It probably wouldn't have brought a wry smile to Deena's face had she heard, but thankfully she is otherwise preoccupied with the fact that Vinny is using the shower. She wants to produce a stool so Vinny's hygienic considerations are quite an inconvenience, seemingly more so than would be the thought of Mike engaging in sexual congress with her sister, hypothetically speaking.

Next we learn that Jwoww is concerned with just how little she has seen of Roger lately. She feels that she is being sidelined.

'At least she got her hair done,' observes Deena, 'so that's good,' but this fact alone seems to bring little comfort. Later, regarding Mike, she sagely notes that a leopard never sheds its stripes. Were truer words ever uttered on this programme?

Jenni is still disgruntled when later they all go to the iconic Aztec bar in search of what Deena defines as a good time. As I've discussed in previous columns, the traditional duality of Jersey Shore divides equally into categories I have identified as real and fake, with the housemates gravitating towards the former but so often finding themselves having fallen into the trappings of becoming the latter. Mike represents the most extreme example of this duality in behaving patently fake specifically whilst aspirationally being real, yo. The model has further destabilised since Deena came in to replace the hapless Angelina at the beginning of series three, bringing with her an alternate duality founded in her conception of a good time contrasted with its unidentified thematic opposite. Snooki has a good time at Aztec in Deena's terms by engaging in robotic dancing. This Platonic good time ideal is essentially a monopole in relation to the already established real/fake duality, which is perhaps why these parallel thematic strands are able to co-exist.

Vinny meanwhile attempts to convert Nicky, who introduces herself as a lesbian, to heterosexuality - an endeavour he likens to the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Colombus, or for the sake of argument, the discovery of the same land mass.

Snooki burps repeatedly as they all walk back to the house, whilst Deena talks to another girl towards whom Vinny has expressed a pronounced sexual interest. Failing to convert Nicky to heterosexuality, he bids her an amicable good night and avails himself of his second choice with a thankful nod to Deena; although he later reports that the sexual intercourse was of only average standard.

Next morning we discover that the reason for Snooki's burping marathon was most likely due to how much she drank, and she now feels consequently unwell. We see this illustrated as she falls over and rhetorically asks, 'why am I alive?' A stint of sunbathing brings little comfort, and eventually she and Deena stagger to work at the iconic Shore Store in the company of Pauly.

The deal is that, as we all understand by now, the housemates work in the Shore Store, as run by Danny, in return for their being allowed to live in the iconic house on Ocean Terrace. The Shore Store specialises in novelty t-shirts and related apparel, so the work is essentially retail. We the viewers might assume the work to be fairly undemanding, but clearly it's more complicated than that and Snooki decides that it is unfair that she should be expected to work when she could be having a good time, as Deena might put it. Additionally she continues to feel unwell, and so devises what we now know as the Follow Game. The rules of the Follow Game are simple but effective, and Snooki illustrates by walking around the store between the racks of novelty t-shirts, followed closely by Deena, and then right out of the store and off for a drink. Danny is of course unable to appreciate the logic behind the Follow Game, instead focussing on Snooki and Deena's continued absenteeism despite repeat warnings.

Up to this point, Snooki and Deena have referred to themselves as the Meatballs, perhaps in reference to shared diminutive stature and Italian-American heritage; but now, as they run into Mike, they take on the new self-actualised mantel of Team Fun - a surprising development considering Mike's earlier discussion with the Unit regarding his having had alleged carnal knowledge of Snooki.

Snooki, much like Orpheus, therefore emerges from the underworld of her own personal journey through alcohol and robotic dancing to rebirth into the alchemical marriage of Team Fun. As we shall see in the next episode, the marriage is fruitful and the birth serves to unite disparate thematic currents - namely Snooki's reluctance to work within Danny's iconic terms of employment - in the form of the amateurish but nevertheless enthusiastically decorated cake which she and Deena prepare as an apology for taking the Follow Game through their own labyrinth of personal discovery, not to mention liberty.

Deena looks a bit like Grandpa Munster when you think about it, doesn't she?

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