Jersey Shore recap: The Gears of the God of War; or, why Vinny loves Pauly

A housemate leaves. Maybe forever. Probably not, though.
Ep. 02 | Aired Jan 12, 2012

I'D LIKE TO TAKE HIS FACE...OFF Pauly D tries to cool himself down with some Otter Pops. If the Jersey Shore gang were Otter Pops, then Pauly D would be Louie-Bloo Raspberry, The Situation would be Poncho Punch, Vinny would be Alexander the Grape, Deena would be Little Orphan Orange, and Sammi Sweetheart would be terrible.

If you want to really understand this season of Jersey Shore, you have to understand the crucial thematic difference between God of War and Gears of War. God of War is a videogame series about an utterly heartless, brutally amoral, magnificently powerful ancient warrior who cares about nothing but his own desires. Over the course of the God of War trilogy, the warrior destroys everything. He kills people. He kills gods. He destroys the entire world. He even kills himself, once or twice. The warrior feels nothing but hatred, and his hatred is all-encompassing. It gives him energy. And you're playing as him, and somehow the hatred is really, really fun. God of War puts you in the mindset of a sociopathic nihilist; it's the-videogame-as-cocaine.

Now, in the Gears of War trilogy, the world has already been destroyed. Cities lie in ruin. The pleasures of modernity have given way to neverending violence -- a redux of the caveman era, but this time with chainsaw guns. You play as one of the world's greatest warriors, and you spend the trilogy battling the creatures who destroyed your world. And yet, the warrior feels no hatred for the creatures. He looks around at the debased state of humanity -- at his fellow warriors, who know nothing but endless fighting -- and has no hope for his future. No matter what he does, the creatures never stop coming. Even if they were defeated, the world would still be a mess. The warrior feels nothing but sadness, and his sadness is all-encompassing. And you're playing as him, and somehow the sadness is really, really fun. Gears of War puts you in the mindset of an existentialist depressive; it's the-videogame-as-hangover.

Viewers, I submit to you that Pauly D is a direct real-world analogue to the anti-hero of God of War: A perfect specimen of uber-humanity whose whole purpose is to laugh as he pushes the world deeper into madness. And in turn, I submit to you that our now dearly departed Vinny was a direct real-world analogue to the bruised hero of Gears of War: A strong man brought low by the madness of his own existence, a moral man who could not live in a world without rules. On last night's episode, Vinny talked constantly about his stress. He revealed to Boss Danny that he's had clinical anxiety since he was 16. He said he was depressed. He said that he could not keep on living as he had been living.

Here's the funny thing: When you consider the sort of lifestyle Vinny has been living for the last two years, it's striking that he didn't go full Woody Allen earlier. There are two separate levels to life in the Jersey Shore house, both of them requiring their own peculiar brand of insanity. On one level, Jersey Shore is about a group of people who do nothing but party all of the time. Have you ever really tried partying all the time? Much less partying all the time with the same group of people, in an extremely limited space, with maybe two decent clubs in your rotation? Even if the Jersey Shore cast is somehow immune to hangovers and the messy health side effects of regular alcohol intake -- and we know they're not, because Ron-Ron had an owch-owch in his no-no spot last year -- it's impossible to consider that anyone would actually enjoy having to be on top of your social game more or less every day.

On a more interior level, of course, Jersey Shore is a show about a group of people who are surrounded by camera-people -- who cannot even make love to their significant other without slipping under the covers away from the prying eyes of the night vision camera. At this point, they all more or less hate each other. Or worse, they all feel about as close to each other as you would feel to a casual acquaintance at a high school reunion. It's a pleasure to see them for fifteen minutes: You get all caught up, you reminisce about old times, you have a drink and ask about their family. Now imagine you had to hang out with that acquaintance for three months, and also that acquaintance occasionally vomits in your bed and bangs your sibling. And the whole thing is being captured on camera. And also you're living with a 45-year-old man who keeps trying to sleep with you, and somehow that 45-year-old man is a millionaire. How could Vinny not go crazy? If anything, the other housemates are crazy for not being crazy.

NEXT: Chicken Cutlets and stuff.

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