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.
Now, Pauly D is not the sort of person who worries about the madness of his own existence. While Vinny was struggling through a dark night of the soul, Pauly spent the evening focused entirely on mortal matters. First, he essentially tore his own face off: He got sunburned, the skin peeled, he exfoliated the peeled skin, and then he got sunburned again. If he did that same thing three more times, his face would be nothing but a skull with fantastic hair, which actually sounds like an awesome idea for a spin-off.
At the club, Pauly D met a nice girl named Shantel. For some reason, the phrase “nice girl named Shantel” just sounds rather unlikely. I’m sure that there are many lovely people named Shantel who spend their days feeding the homeless and serving tomato soup to puppies with pneumonia. But Shantel is a name like Madison (for girls), Tyson (for guys), and Adolf (for both genders), where it’s just hard to imagine that the person won’t wind up stealing your chains. Which is exactly what happened: Pauly took Shantel up to the smush room for a smash session. He tried to call her a cab, and while he wasn’t looking, she grabbed his diamond chain and slipped it into her kucha, apparently, which is exactly what Cinderella would have done if she were alive today and lived in a world without any decency.
Pauly found this all so terribly funny. We all look like silly creatures through the eyes of Pauly D. But for Vinny, this was all just further evidence that he had lost the old warm world. He looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves, and shivered as a he found what a grotesque thing Club Karma was, and how raw the sunlight was upon his roommate’s scarcely created skin. “I’m not in the state of mind to be drinking,” he announced, which surely in the Jersey Shore house is the rough equivalent of someone saying, “I believe the sky is actually a great big blanket made out of squirrel fur! And all crocodiles are lesbians! And JFK was secretly Abraham Lincoln! Seriously, don’t you think it’s weird that we never saw Lincoln without his beard?!?!?!?!” (By comparison, twice in the episode, Deena and Snooki joked that they weren’t going to drink, and then they laughed and laughed and puked and burped and rolled around in their puke-burp.)
Pauly D wanted to help Vinny, but he simply couldn’t. “I really don’t understand what Vinny’s going through.” Indeed, whenever Vinny talked about his sadness, it was almost as if he disappeared from Pauly’s vision — as if the mere hint of anxiety was confusing for Pauly’s emotionless brain.
Vinny, ultimately, had had enough. He called up his sister on the duck phone. “Sister, I must come home,” he quacked mournfully. “Quack?” she asked. “Quack,” he said, definitively. Pauly helped him pack his things. For one brief moment, Pauly seemed less than immortal. He said: “You’re gonna leave me with The Situation?” (In videogame terms, The Situation is Bowser, by which I mean he has great hair and extremely strange issues with women.) But Vinny wasn’t leaving; he was already gone, his mind already on a taxi on the New Jersey turnpike, taking him away to better worlds than these.
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