Before we get down to brass tacks, let me congratulate you on the term “anti-intellectual thuggery” with which you described this novelty blog. That term is awesome.
I have a few casual points to make in retort.
The truth is that Jersey Circus neither achieves nor aspires to add something to “the pantheon of literature”, a term I find to be a little silly . I was surprised, actually, that you made such a throwaway claim as the crux of your criticism, especially with your background in media studies. I’m not sure where you fall in terms of classifying your own blog on the spectrum of literary feats, but keep in mind that apart from this entry, our blogs are trying to do different things and for different audiences. We offer bite-sized zingers of delight, and you offer stacks of critique prose. We’re different fruits, Phlip, but we could make a delicious salad if you didn’t hate us so much.
I think it’s a little harsh to have called us perverse, but I can imagine that you are writing for an audience that appreciates a lifestyle different than our Jersey Shore brothers and sisters. I am less willing to allow that what we are doing is anti-intellectual. It’s illogical to presume that a produced unit of culture can be anti-intellectual. As people WITH INTELLECT, we should be engaging everything available to us with nuance and critique. You DID that in your essay on why we suck, and I applaud your method of developing rationale for criticism. But please don’t call us dumb.
I would suggest that Jersey Circus (along with other mash-ups like that of the Kanye West/ New Yorker variety which you ALSO hated) is interested in what disparate memes, when juxtaposed, can suggest about our culture at large. This can be understood on a number of levels, the simplest being that we love to laugh. Obviously, it's all in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings that you don’t like to behold us. There are plenty of things I hate. But I think an even deeper analysis can be made when we begin to parse apart our reactions to the text of Jersey Circus. As is espoused in the comment section of the Do You Know? entry, there can be several readings of the same text, and that should excite us. (Quite honestly, this is one of the main reasons that I TOO am an Episcopalian, Phlip. I find that the liturgy makes room for a wide berth of understanding. We can talk about the Nicene Creed later if you want to grab a beer.) A question I would love to have you answer is WHY you read a perverse meaning here. There is danger in upholding the American Fifties Lifestyle resonant in the fictional Family Circus and bashing the “American Low Brow” seen in the nonfictional, albeit outrageous, cast of Jersey Shore. Granted that both portray a different population within our cultural lexicon, the combination of the two allows what is current to butt up against what is past. The main thesis of the blog, then, is that All Of This Happened And Is Happening And Describes Us and America and Everyone, And Isn’t That Hilarious And Jarring?
It’s apparent that we are coming from different paradigms, this assertion based mostly on your Heavy Sigh Introductory Paragraph about mash-ups. You are quite clear about not understanding “the allure” of the genre, which is fine, but it absolutely makes you the right person to not be doing insistent scholarship on it. It would be like me doing insistent scholarship on pleats or extreme sports. I’m not keen on either, Phlip. Well, maybe that’s not fair. Let me say it this way: I studied poetry in college (you’ll note I’m not a famous poet). One thing I’ll say for sure is that my appreciation for that form increased exponentially with the time I spent studying and practicing it. Same goes for my appreciation of Radiohead and Thomas Merton and iPhones. I had to learn why the form existed, understand the niche it filled, and allow myself brain-room to like it. I’d say that a novice approach to any subject will never be sophisticated or nuanced enough to write it off.
I DO think I’m cheating a bit, in terms of keeping within Barthes’ rules, but I’m really only saying this because I’m smug. I hope you have read this pithy essay with a twinkle in your eye. Good luck with your radio program! We’re rooting for you.
Contributing Writer for Jersey Circus