Since its premiere in 2009, “Jersey Shore” has become an American pop culture sensation. But while GTL — the iconic motto of Gym, Tan and Laundry from the show — has entered the vernacular of the American public, few people have adopted it as a lifestyle like Screen Arts and Cultures Prof. Candace Moore.
Moore, who gave the keynote address at a conference on “Jersey Shore” at the University of Chicago last month, has analyzed the impact of the show and even spent two weeks emulating “Guido” culture by working out, tanning and doing laundry extensively.
According to Moore, reality television shows like “Jersey Shore” offer insight into American culture and showcase current trends and methods of thinking — particularly in a society concerned with consumer ideals.
“I believe in really understanding our particular capitalistic culture through these productions, and I’m looking at the mode of production behind these TV shows, as well as the different ways in which they speak (to) culture, maybe even beyond the ways that they intend to,” Moore said.
Moore said the show makes statements about sexuality within a particular subset of American culture, as it focuses on a stereotyped, cultural group.
“I think reality shows have become increasingly concentrated on particular cultural groups, ethnic groups and regional groups, as well as groups organized around class,” she said. “With ‘Jersey Shore,’ when the show first started, the characters were presented as mostly from working class backgrounds and particularly Italian-Americans and living within New Jersey.”
Moore was particularly interested in Guido sexuality, in the way relationships are portrayed and the male characters’ sexual aggressiveness and dominance. She added that it appears to be more important for the males on the show to outperform others rather than to have “intimate or interesting sex.”
“What I talk about with Guido sexuality, it’s not just about how the Guidos on ‘Jersey Shore’ have sex, but particularly the idea that the male characters present such an excessive sexuality,” Moore said.
In order to better understand the perspectives of the male characters, Moore said last month she began following their regimen of working out, tanning and doing laundry every day for two straight weeks.
“I tried to take this onto my own body and showcase through this process how I will always fail or even be exiled from this particular masculinity,” Moore said.
Moore said she was interested in showing the difficulty of abiding by and adhering to the Guido culture in everyday life. She added that finding time in her busy schedule to follow the lifestyle was challenging.
“I’m interested in not just making fun of Guido sexuality, but also seeing what sort of labor GTL entails. I wanted to see how difficult this would be to take on,” Moore said.
Moore said she struggled the most with the tanning part of the regimen because she has fair skin and was concerned about getting skin cancer. She also found it challenging to do laundry so frequently, especially because clothes must be dry-cleaned every day, according to the GTL lifestyle.
“You’re supposed to dry-clean everything, but I didn’t have the money to because I’m still paying off student loans,” Moore said.
The gym also posed challenges, as she found that she was one of the few females in the weight room.
“It was a little uncomfortable because all of the people in the weight room are men … there’s kind of a gym culture that is sort of segregated by gender, unfortunately, and I got to experiment with it,” Moore said.
Moore explained that she chose to pursue a lifestyle of a Guido rather than a Guidette because she could more easily highlight the challenges someone faces when aspiring to be the ideal Guido.
“If I took on the femininity of the Guidettes, it might be just as ridiculous, but because of the fact that the men have a very specific self-discipline I could enact, I thought it would be easier to showcase,” she explained.
LSA senior Stephen Wettstein has taken three classes with Moore and was her student while she was emulating the Guido lifestyle. He wrote papers about “Jersey Shore” for her classes and has discussed Moore’s project with her.
Wettstein explained the reasoning behind the gym, tanning, laundry regimen as a means for the characters to present themselves a certain way.
“The whole point of this routine is this look that they’re trying to get and this look is … called ‘fresh to death,’ the idea that whenever they go out they want to look brand new, like squeaky clean,” Wettstein explained.
He said that the only noticeable different about Moore while she was doing her project was that she seemed happier as a result of the tanning. Wettstein said that he has read studies that say tanning during the winter months, or times of cold weather, can improve moods.
“Candace did seem a little bit more upbeat, a little more excited doing what she was doing and I’m sure going to the gym as well releases endorphins,” he said.
Moore even went as far as to mimic the hairstyle of “The Situation”— the nickname of Michael Sorrentino, a person on the Jersey Shore — shaving the sides of her blonde hair so she could slick the rest of her hair back.
Moore is currently taking a break from the guido lifestyle to write a paper on the experience. She will begin the project again, this time for 28 days or a month, to finalize the paper, and she said she may continue to emulate some aspects of the lifestyle in the future.
“I might keep the gym and the tanning part,” Moore said. “I’m obviously going to continue to do laundry, but trying to do laundry every day really was, with my schedule, a real struggle.”