Reality television tends, deliberately, to bring out the worst in people. Hours upon hours of tape are whittled down to reveal only the most inflammatory moments. And the format of most shows is strategically designed to create conflict between cast members. So when the New York Times publishes a 2,000-word profile on the Jersey Shore's out-of-control Snooki (formerly known as Nicole Polizzi), one might expect a nuanced depiction of the reality TV star that accounts for these tendencies. That's not the case here.
Times writer Cathy Horyn savages Snooki in line after line. "Trying to hold a conversation with Snook," Horyn writes. "Is a little like getting down on your hands and knees with a child." Snooki's longtime childhood friend calls her self-centered. Her father is puzzled as to why Americans find her interesting. A professor at Syracuse University ventures a guess: she has a "delicious artlessness," he says.
So did the profile do Snooki justice? For many, it likely confirmed the assumptions they held about her from the beginning. But to a vocal minority, Horyn's profile is a condescending hatchet job with few, if any, edifying qualities:
Typical New York Times Snootiness, writes Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon:
Much like Lynn Hirschberg's brutal May profile of M.I.A., Horyn's neatly encapsulates everything most despicable about the Times and its cultural coverage -- its snotty, keep 'em at arm's length, can you believe these people? attitude, the way you can practically feel the reporter holding her nose while she writes.
I'm no great fan of MTV's reality genre in general, "The Jersey Shore" in particular, or the way you can't open a door in this town without one of its cast members photo bombing the event. But having spent my career around people who brag about their SAT scores far, far into their 40s: Screw you, Times, I'm off to do body shots off a Hooter girl's navel.
It Fails to Understand Her, writes Hortense Smith at Jezebel: "I don't know what it is that pisses Horyn off so much about Jersey Shore, or why she feels we need to know that Snooki 'simply isn't capable of serious introspection,' as if we were all hoping that Jersey Shore would suddenly get very deep and make us question our place in the universe or some such, but it could easily be argued that the condescending nature of the piece, and how Horyn chooses to mock her subject, is the very reason why the general public seems to love Snooki so much: she's not trying to impress the New York Times, nor is she trying to represent anyone but herself."
It's a Cheap Shot, writes Emma Rosenblum at New York Magazine: "Horyn's Snooki piece is shocking in that we hardly ever read anything about a famous person that's less than totally positive. It's easy to see why Snooki could be afforded full candor: The Times doesn't have to worry about treating her well. She's a national punchline, one Times readers can feel comfortable feeling superior to. There will be no ramifications to the piece — no angry publicists to appease, no future access to be cut off — which was why it could afford to be so harshly reflective of the author's feelings. And yet, it wasn't quite a breath of fresh celebrity-profile air. The very fact that such candor is only seen when the subject has no real power is what makes it a cheap shot."