The XX Factor

Snooki: An Untapped Vein of American Weird

There’s such a thing as taking a machine gun to a flea. Part of what bothered me, Lauren, about the New York Times Snooki profile , was the story’s lack of subtlety in approaching such an easy target. It should go without saying that Snooki is not a woman of accomplishment, even as the phenomenon of her fame is arguably quite interesting. One needn’t point out, as Times writer Cathy Horyn did, that she looks like a tipped turnip . Understatement tends to work better with such subjects. Indeed, the real talent is writing about low culture in a highbrow way . (By contrast, Lynn Hirschberg’s controversial M.I.A. profile in the New York Times Magazine was, I thought, a subtle, well-reported, and richly textured piece about the artist’s many contradictions. Totally fair.)

The other thing that bothered me about the Snooki coverage was it felt like a missed opportunity. It didn’t give readers a sense of what it’s like to be in the same room with Snooki. Some will argue that this bizarre, minor celebrity is not worth our time, but the Times , by writing about her, is implicitly suggesting she’s worth thinking about. (Or, perhaps, the editor thought she was worth readers’ time, and the reporter didn’t.) I want to read a rollicking, playful story about an ordinary chick with poor impulse control who is suddenly, inexplicably in the center of the public eye. I want a heavily observed piece in which we see what she eats and how she whines at her dad (if she does), what she texts, and what she thinks of her own love life. Instead, we feel the reporter’s frustration that Snooki isn’t terribly introspective, and we get flat statements that aren’t backed up by delightful scene. Snooki represents a rich vein of American Weird; I would have loved to see the story mined for a bit more meaning, or at least, a sense of the broader guido subculture .

Speaking of American Weird, I like the observation about former reality TV star Tila Tequila in this Daily Beast piece , which is primarily about the large fees the male stars of Jersey Shore are commanding. One of the Shore guys’ booking agents remarks on the very short shelf life of these types of TV shows, and says of Tequila, ” When dating shows were at their peak, she was it, but we never repped her thank God. Now you couldn’t give her away.” This, together with the Snooki profile, got me thinking about the somewhat poignant existence of the modern-day nobody-celebrity, the person who winds up being that chick who was once sort of famous for something embarrassing, though exactly what you can’t remember. (Man, wouldn’t it be interesting to profile a reality TV has-been, to see what life feels like when the 15 seconds end? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comment box.) The wisest reality TV stars, like our Bethenny , the Real Housewives refugee, figure out how to brand themselves before their platform disappears.

Photograph of Snooki and Jersey Shore castmates by Jason Kempin/Getty Images.