I hate Jersey Shore. I saw it just one time, when my daughter was watching the first episode and I happened to be in the room. I found the people horrifying, and the very idea that I was watching them filled me with despair. The only reason I would ever read Snooki’s book is if I was locked in a padded cell, and it was the only available reading material (in which case I’d read anything, up to and including all sixty zillion volumes of the annoying Magic Treehouse series, Cassie Edwards’ exclamation point filled backlist, and my husband’s tax accounting books). Clearly, Snooki and friends are not for me. Two of my colleagues, on the other hand, just can’t get enough of the Guidos and Guidettes. They eagerly await each new season and frequently discuss what’s happening. To them, it’s a guilty pleasure. Are they just idiots? Is MTV irresponsible for producing Jersey Shore? It’s not exactly high brow, after all. What if people start thinking they should be drunk all the time and show up late for work (because Snooki does that – or at least she did in the episode I saw)?
Those seem like silly questions, but last week’s heated discussion about rape and forced seduction made me think about how we get caught up in similar debates about romance novels all the time. Over the years I’ve seen it take many incarnations. Sometimes it’s that an author is stupid, or her writing is terrible, and anyone who reads and enjoys her books must be a moron. Sometimes something about the book is irresponsible – the way they handle a social issue or illness. The sexual behavior of the hero and heroine. Irresponsible and stupid lead to “bad,” and sometimes, to “dangerous.”