Just as Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s ascent to fame might just represent the nadir of Western civilization, Here’s The Situation, Sorrentino’s literary debut, might just mark the death of irony. Whether you laugh with it or at it, you’re still playing into Sorrentino’s rigged game.
What made Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino so much fun to watch during the first season of Jersey Shore was his unique combination of shamelessness and lack of self-consciousness. Sorrentino’s defining moment in the show’s first season was the monologue where he broke down, for the benefit of the home viewer, his quantity-above-quality strategy for pursuing women. In his pre-fame incarnation, Sorrentino accepted that many of the women he hit on would either give him the cold shoulder or confuse his steroid-addled mind with fake numbers. He was fine with that. Hell, he considered it part of the hunt. Sorrentino was happy to hit on 100 women on the chance that six or seven would have low enough self-esteem to have sex with him.
The comedy and pathos of the first season came from the gulf between the awesome rock ’n’ roll lifestyles the cast imagined they were living—a world of sex, fun, and non-stop partying where they ruled as the kings of the Jersey Shore—and their mundane, faintly tragic real lives. Sorrentino postured and posed like a rock star when we all knew he was a failed underwear model and former assistant gym manager. Then Jersey Shore’s phenomenal, unprecedented success forever closed the gap between the cast’s delusional conception of itself and the reality of its lives. They weren’t just idiots pretending to be superstars anymore: Society had elevated them to the status of idiot-superstar gods. We amply rewarded their bad behavior, steroid abuse, and rampant mistreatment of women.
No one was rewarded more richly than Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, a cheeseball who understood intuitively that there was a fortune to be made transforming himself from an oversexed idiot the world enjoyed laughing at into a lucrative brand. Sorrentino thinks of himself as the alpha dog of the Western hemisphere. He was intent on being the King Of The Jersey Shore House, the King Of Jersey Shore, the King Of Miami and now the King of GTL© and its subsidiary enterprises. Sorrentino was savvy enough to realize that society as a whole was enjoying a lusty larf at his expense so he decided he’d try to corner the market on that as well. If the world was going to laugh at the preening narcissism of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino then he’d laugh louder than anyone else. He would become the King Of Mocking Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. The utter lack of self-awareness that defined his behavior in the first season was quickly replaced a permanent smirk. Nothing kills a guilty pleasure quite like an abundance of self-awareness. Here at The A.V Club we like to call that the Snakes On A Plane effect.
Sorrentino spent most of the second season of Jersey Shore smirkingly trying out new catchphrases and cultivating his brand. Everything he did reeked of cynical calculation. He embraced self-parody. If we loved his shtick then he was going to push it as far as it can possibly go. With Here’s The Situation, Sorrentino and ghostwriter Chris Millis push the trash-TV icon’s shtick past comic extremes and ultimately well beyond its breaking point. According to Millis’ website, the project began as a tongue-in-cheek memoir that morphed somewhere along the line into a satire of Sorrentino and his aesthetic. The book literally turns Sorrentino into a cartoon character: Caricatures of his sunglass-sporting visage adorn pretty much every page.
That’s one of the many maddening elements of this quickie cash-in. The “real thing” is essentially a parody and the parody is the real thing, or at least as real as any tongue-in-cheek, heavily illustrated page book of fake advice can be. The book’s overriding premise, its one joke, is that the Sorrentino of Jersey Shore is a muted, restrained version of the real thing. The book’s faux-Sorrentino is a Guido Juicehead superhero whose sentient abdominal muscles do things like thwart terrorist attacks and go backpacking in Europe after college. (Sorrentino’s abs appear to be much better educated than the knucklehead to whom they’re attached.)
Here’s The Situation ostensibly illustrates that its “author” has a sense of humor about himself by indulging in ridiculous hyperbole about The Sitch’s noble plans to make the world a better place by promoting GTL and a grenade-free America, but its theoretical self-deprecation registers instead as self-aggrandizement. The “book” takes the form of basic advice on everything important in life: GTL (gym, tanning, laundry), GTL Remix, clubs, abs maintenance, and life on Jersey Shore. The second season of Jersey Shore disingenuously never acknowledged the cast’s fame, riches, and popularity. They were getting tens of thousands of dollars to show up at a nightclub yet within the universe of the show they were working at a fucking gelato shop.
The absurdity of this statement became even more glaring when the Best Week Ever blog posted an interview with a 21-year-old woman who had the good taste to reject Sorrentino’s sexual advances, in which stated explicitly what everyone who watched the show’s second season already knew: The show’s crew acts as the cast’s wingmen by approaching attractive young women and asking them to hit on DJ Pauly D, Vinny, and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino in a manner that suggests they’re into them because they’re sexy guys, not famous rich dudes. The interview also explicitly states what everyone who watched the show’s second season also already knew: Sorrentino is even more of a scumbag than his reputation would suggest. When DJ Pauly D spoke diplomatically about how Sorrentino’s fabled aggressiveness when approaching potential hook-ups made him look better by comparison, he seemed to be saying that Sorrentino wasn’t the kind of guy who lets an urgently uttered “no” get in the way of a good time.
Sorrentino and Millis drop any pretenses about Sorrentino’s fame in Here’s The Situation. Via his ghostwriter, Sorrentino rubs readers’ faces in his fame, wealth, and ubiquity. He repeatedly advises readers to simply score their own hit MTV reality shows and become household names if they want to improve their lots in life. Tragically, that is not an option open to everyone, no matter how religiously they GTL. It’s a joke, of sorts, but like pretty much every other joke in the book, it feels smug and obnoxious instead of cheeky and irreverent.
The only joke that made me laugh was Millis’ list of nicknames that sound like “The Situation.” It includes such winners as:
The Haitian Nation
Jason Space Station
The Emancipation Proclamation
My Caucasian Relation
Bill (Short For William)
As an up-and-coming novelist, screenwriter, and ghostwriter, Millis was clearly just happy for a quick, easy, lucrative gig. The question, consequently, isn’t whether Sorrentino wrote the book; it’s whether he’s actually read the book. All 133 pages of it. Judging by the book’s contents, it’s safe to assume that Sorrentino spent an hour and a half telling Millis obnoxious, probably apocryphal stories about himself, then skimmed the contents of the finished product before indifferently giving his approval to the whole misbegotten project.
The only parts of Here’s The Situation that feel like they emanated from the mind of Sorrentino are segments clearly demarcated as a “Real Life Situation.” These interludes abandon the tongue-in-cheek tomfoolery of the “advice” to deliver dreary, pointless anecdotes from Sorrentino’s life, like the time he had awkward sex in an airplane bathroom with a woman who recognized him from television and a particularly pointless anecdote about his difficulty getting seated at a Cheesecake Factory with his buddy “The Unit.”
Of course, hatred of women is a core component of The Situation brand, so Here’s contains a charming “fairy tale” about a hag named “Grenade-I-Locks” who stumbles into the home of the “six abs” in search of food. Here’s the heartwarming conclusion:
The six abs came home and said, “Yo! This psycho bitch ate all our shit. Is she mindgaming us?!” So the six abs dragged Grenade-I-Locks outside by her extensions and stomped her ass until one of her fake tits popped out. Suddenly, they heard the wail of approaching sirens. And since most of the abs were on probation, they fled into the wilderness. The End.
Ha! It’s funny, because it involves stomping the shit out of a woman!
Here’s The Situation is a quickie cash-in that leaves the door open for an even more profitable quickie cash-in about Sorrentino’s actual experiences on Jersey Shore. So the best/worst is yet to come.
(You might wonder what exactly motivated me to resurrect this column for a book as loathsome and inconsequential as Here’s The Situation. Let’s just say I consider myself your literary wingman and this was one literary grenade I was happy to throw myself on for your sake. You’re welcome.)