Our ability to take any pleasure, or even interest, in shows like [“Jersey Shore”]—in which participants are depicted as energetic but essentially aimless, oblivious of their own deficits, and delusional about their attractiveness and their importance in the world—hinges not on our ability to identify with them but on our ability to distinguish ourselves from them. Unless the show manages to make us feel as though we were anthropologists secretly observing a new tribe through a break in the trees, it hasn’t done its job. MTV has succeeded on that score; it can give itself a pat on the back for enabling viewers to feel superior to at least eight other people.

Nancy Franklin, “Jersey Jetsam”