Perhaps no reality TV program has been as roundly criticized for bad behavior as Jersey Shore (MTV, 2009–12). The libidinal license exhibited by the cast, as well as the early controversy regarding the show's use of the terms guido and guidette to describe the Italian American cast, have been taken by critics as proof that Jersey Shore is a highly unethical program both in content and in message. This article seeks to revisit the question of ethics in Jersey Shore through an interrogation of the notion of care, a term used by Jersey Shore cast member Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi in defending the show's use of “guido.” This notion of care needs to be understood in a double sense: care as a regimen of behaviors, or an ethos, and care as a set of affections, or feeling. On Jersey Shore “taking care of oneself” does not just involve certain affect-techniques but is itself a technology, in the sense of a regimen for cultivating the self, as Michel Foucault argues in volume 3 of The History of Sexuality. As Foucault makes clear, any care regimen is also an ethos in the classical sense, pertaining to debates about contested meanings and values particular to a community that in turn produce principles that “organize the ethical experience of the aphrodisia.” This article thus interrogates the technology of care on Jersey Shore as a node where affects, ethics, and sexual practices intersect in order to argue that by writing off Jersey Shore as unethical, we ignore the ethics building that establishes a gendered care community.
1 May 2015