While unions (gay and workers’) dominate the news and stuttering kings rule the Oscars, Figaro focuses on a more serious issue: MTV’s Jersey Shore. Why do people watch that show when they can see live theater at any Burger King on a Saturday night?
We’ll tell you why we watch: “Jersey Shore” is a tropical paradise. That’s “tropical” as in tropes. The show is packed with ’em. Let us count the ways:
1. The stars proudly call themselves Guidos and Guidettes. The terms come from an Italian first name, Guido, which represents a gold-chained, swaggering stereotype. What’s the rhetoric here? Calling a type of person by a representative proper noun is a periphrasis, Greek for “speak around.” This form of periphrasis is non-literal—few Guidos actually bear the first name “Guido”—which makes the figure a kind of trope.
2. The show’s name qualifies as a metonymy, a trope that makes a characteristic of something stand for the whole thing, or vice versa. “Jersey Shore” was originally filmed on Miami Beach. So why not call it “Miami Shore”? Because the characters were denizens of coastal New Jersey, or claimed to be. Because they were Jerseyans, they represented its shore in Miami—which, for show business purposes, made Miami New Jersey. If this doesn’t make sense, well, neither does the show.
3. One of the leading men is both a metonymy and a synecdoche—a related trope that makes a part stand for the whole or vice versa. Mike Sorrentino goes by the nickname “The Situation.” Originally, that was the monicker he gave his over-developed abdominal muscles after they caused a situation with a young lady and her jealous boyfriend. So the situation came to represent the abs, and the abs came to represent the Guido, and New Jersey suddenly became unbearably tropical.
Or maybe just unbearable.