Within each of our demographics, we find even more demographics. Each of us is a vast, never-ending source of subcategories, which equate to our individual identity. We must consistently focus on that identity to find emotional understanding and development. That individual identity is diversity.
I watched an episode of MTV’s “Jersey Shore”. For one full hour, I had a glimpse into the reality-TV lives of Snooki, J- Wow, DJ Pauly D., Vinny, Ronnie, Sammy “Sweetheart”, Deena, and of course Mike “the Situation”.
There, I said it. I actually struggled to write that. I attempted to come up with several clever ways of bypassing the odd shame I was feeling in the admission; so I opted to just dive right in.
After hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends, and all had left for the evening, my teenage son popped on the television in the midst of cleaning up. Sifting through the PVR (DVR for you U.S. folks), he chose MTV’s “Jersey Shore”, which is now airing its final season.
Through the years, I have caught a minute or two of the show, which inevitably included lots of aggressive behaviour, foul language, alcohol, and enough sexuality to make even Kinsey flinch.
My first reaction was to tell my son to turn the show off; but then, out of nowhere, he began to describe to me some of the interesting changes the cast members have been going through.
He told me in his own words about how Sam and Ronny, after years of volatile behaviour, are actively trying to maintain a calm, healthy relationship based on communication. He mentioned how D.J. Pauly D. –featured on his own MTV show “The Pauly D Project” – is now a world famous club D.J.; his brand is built on dedication to skill development, reliability, team building and positive attitude. Vinny, after revealing last season his struggle with anxiety, has now become a mental health and equality advocate.
- Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi is now sober, engaged, and pregnant.
- Mike, “the Situation” sought addiction treatment, and is now allowing us to watch his resurgence into his life while maintaining his sobriety.
With examples such as Snooki removing herself from the house to live separately from her housemates and “the Situation” reaching out to his housemates to apologize for his past behaviour, MTV is going out of their way to showcase some of the life altering, healthy choices the cast members are now making.
While my son was describing to me each of these cast members’ journey from day one until now, he was conveying to me – without realizing it – that he knows change can be made. He knows that we can not only choose to remove ourselves from negative situations, but that we can avoid them altogether. He knows that we can choose to take responsibility for our actions, and actively seek to heal the emotional damage our poor behaviour can cause. He knows that yes, while we in most cases operate within group settings, we each have individual journeys and needs.
These lessons, despite their unexpected origins, are invaluable.
The cast of “Jersey Shore”, believe it or not, represents how diversity permeates all demographics. I am by no means advocating for you to bust out a recording of the latest “Jersey Shore” episode in your next diversity training session; but here is my thinking:
We have eight people, each of whom look similar to one another, grew up in similar areas, and share a culture that some might not believe is real, until you actually visit the Jersey shore for yourself. But each of these eight people carries a private story. They each walked a journey that led them to my television set, and that led my son to some interesting and important examples of life’s trials and tribulations.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
- Andy Warhol
- Andy Warhol