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MTV reality sensation Jersey Shore (the Real Word, but with guidos), is only two episodes in, but it’s already infamous for a moment that hasn’t yet aired. Next week, Snookie, one of the show’s self-described “guidettes,” will get punched in the face by a man in a bar. Judging by the show’s trailer, Jersey Shore is positively built upon its cast members getting into drunken bar fights. So why do we only care about one woman’s hit to the face?
The punch, which MTV previewed in a trailer for the upcoming season, has inspired both excitement and disdain from commentators. One Web site delighted over an image of Snookie getting punched over and over again, calling it “the most gratifying animated gif you will ever see”; Jezebel, which framed Snookie’s punch as an incident of violence against women, called the “the clip and commentary chilling.”
This week, MTV responded to the concern. According to NY Daily News, next week’s Snookie-punching episode will be a Very Special Episode of Jersey Shore:
MTV will air a public service announcement after next week’s episode of the controversial series “Jersey Shore” because it includes an incident of violence against a woman.
. . . The PSA, set to air following the Dec. 17 episode, reads: “Violence against women in any form is a crime. If you or someone you know is being abused by a boyfriend, family member or total stranger, please call 911 or log on to www.loveisrespect.org for information and help. You can also call The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 for immediate support.”
Violence against women is a crime. Then again, violence against anyone is a crime. And in the two-minute preview for Jersey Shore, we see a lot of violence against everybody:
Ronnie forcefully pushing Sammy on the boardwalk:
A woman grabbing a man’s neck to force his face into her breasts:
JWow throwing punches at Mike:
And of course, Snookie getting punched:
The violence on Jersey Shore started early. In the first episode, Pauly punches a stranger in the face in a bar, citing the fact that the stranger had been “looking at him.” Later, Pauly gleefully tells the camera that he knows the exact amount of pressure it takes to break a nose. So why do we only care about Snookie getting punched? I have a few theories:
a) Snookie is one of the most obnoxious television characters ever. No character is particularly charming on this show, but Snookie is the worst. In the two hours I have observed Snookie, she has a) passed out within hours of arriving at the Real World house; b) complained about not being the center of attention while MTV cameras were filming her for a reality show about her life; c) vomited in the sink instead of showing up to her first day of work; and d) threatened to go home after two days because she thought everyone was talking about her behind her back.
Viewers hate Snookie enough to get excited about seeing her hit in the face. They only dislike the other characters enough to not give a shit one way or another when they get pounded.
b) Snookie is more annoying because she is a woman. Let’s face it: There are plenty of gender-neutral things to hate about Snookie. Still, some viewers hate Snookie more because she’s a guidette. Check out this helpful comment:
Well chicks want equal everything, so here ya go Snookie. Equal being what it is when guys talk a bunch of shit they have to back it up or get knocked the fuck out.
Welcome to being equal Snookie. I’m guessing I won’t see you lined up to collect any combat pay anytime soon.
Snookie does a lot of things in the first two episodes—-she twirls her hair despondently, gets naked in the hot tub, becomes confused at a telephone in the shape of a duck, calls her dad, and misses her first day of work. What she doesn’t do is go off on some sort of feminist tirade about women being equal to men. Positioning Snookie as a women’s libber who got what she deserved is completely off-point. It’s also pretty sexist.
c) Punching a woman in the face is more taboo than punching a man. Did you see how many people got victimized by violence in that trailer? Like every character, practically! So why does only Snookie get the PSA treatment? A couple of the incidents showcased in the trailer could be seen as legitimate examples of domestic abuse (Ronnie pushing Sammy; JWow going after Mike). After all, these people do live together and have relationships with one another.
Snookie getting punched, on the other hand, is not a particularly gendered form of violence. The guy in the bar wasn’t her boyfriend or family member who trades off between affection and abuse. Furthermore, Snookie’s punch in the face was an entirely public act—-domestic violence against women is so problematic because it is hushed up, excused, covered with a coat of foundation and a tale of “falling down the stairs.” Snookie was punched in the face by a drunk guy in a bar, a type of violence which is far more likely to target a guido than a guidette.
Was it right to punch Snookie in the face? Of course not. Was it a necessary side-effect of women’s liberation? Hell no. But as long as we’re talking equality, how about we start giving a shit about women punching women, men punching men, and women punching men, too?