Month: September 2010

BADLANDS: The Film I Always Find a Way to Teach

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The doomed lovers of BADLANDS dance to “Love is Strange”

Whenever I meet new people and they discover that I teach film for a living, they invariably ask me: “So what’s your favorite movie?” I realize that this is polite, small talk kind of question. It’s the kind of question people think that they are supposed to ask me. But to someone who has devoted their livelihood to researching, analyzing, and teaching about moving images, the question is agonizing. Asking me what my favorite movie is is like asking me: “Which of your children do you love the most?” There is simply no way for me to answer this question in a satisfying, honest way. So I usually tap dance around the answer, trying all the while to not sound like a pretentious academic douchebag (which is what I am). “Oh it’s so hard for me to choose!” I say. When the asker looks sufficiently annoyed, I usually submit and say something expected like “Casablanca. Casablanca is my favorite movie” Then they leave me alone.

But the real answer to the question “What is your favorite movie?” is very complex for me. I love different movies for different reasons. I love Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder) for its whipsmart, sexy dialogue. I love The Crowd (1928, King Vidor) for its winsome, bittersweet ending. I love Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) because it was the only movie to figure out the exact kind of role that Tom Cruise should play. I love The Breakfast Club (1985, John Hughes) because I watched it pretty much every Saturday afternoon on TBS when I was 12 and didn’t realize that they weren’t smoking cigarettes during that one scene in the library. I love American Movie for so many reasons but especially because of this scene:

And I love Terence Malick’s debut film (his DEBUT!), Badlands (1973), because it is, for lack of a better word, a perfect movie. Badlands is a movie that I never tire of watching. I get giddy about the opportunity to introduce it to new people. For that reason, I try to put Badlands on my syllabus whenever possible. In fact, this week I screened Badlands for my Film Theory and Criticism students for our unit on film sound. I love teaching this film because, as I mentioned, it’s perfect, and most students have not heard of it. Therefore, after the screening students generally exit the classroom with the same dazed, but happy, expression I had after I watched it for the first time.

Holly imagines herself as a character in her own fairytale

So what makes Badlands a “perfect” movie?

Terence Malick’s Script

In the very first scene of the movie we see Holly, a 15-year-old girl (Spacek was 24 when she played the role) with red hair, freckles, and knobby knees. She is playing with her dog on her bed. It is a scene of innocence, of total girlhood joy. But this happy, carefree image contrasts with Holly’s vacant, flat, voice over, which informs us “My mother died of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My father kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house.” In four brief lines Holly aptly summarizes her childhood: she was an only child; her father was once a real romantic (he kept his wedding cake in the freezer for 10 years after all) but the untimely death of his wife deadened his heart (he gave the cake to the yard man after his wife’s funeral); Holly and her father are unable to connect emotionally (Holly knows that her father sees her as a “stranger”). Such is the mastery of Malick’s tight script — not a word is wasted.

Malick’s script is also admirable in that he was able to capture the rhythm and the texture of a teenage girl’s stream of consciousness. Holly doesn’t speak like an adult and she doesn’t speak like a child. After Kit kills Holly’s father he instructs her to grab her schoolbooks from her locker so that she won’t fall behind in her studies. Holly’s voice over then tells us “I could of snuck out the back or hid in the boiler room, I suppose, but I sensed that my destiny now lay with Kit, for better or for worse, and it was better to spend a week with one who loved me for what I was than years of loneliness.” If these words were in Holly’s diary they would probably be adorned with hearts over the i’s and little flowers scribbled in the margins.

Holly’s Voice Over/The Stereopticon Scene

There are so many scenes I could point to that illustrate the genius of Sissy Spacek’s line readings in this film, but my favorite is the much-lauded stereopticon scene. After killing Holly’s father the couple flees to the woods and build themselves a Swiss Family Robinson-style tree house (though it is likely that the grandure of this house has been imagined by Holly). In the middle of this segment, Holly sits down to look at some “vistas” in her father’s stereopticon. This is the first time that Holly has mentioned her father  since his murder and yet she still does not mention if his death bothers her. As Holly looks at travelogue images of Egypt and sepia-toned lovers, she waxes philosophical, in the self-involved way that only a 15-year-old girl can. As she looks at an image of a soldier kissing a morose young woman she wonders “What’s the man I’ll marry look like? What’s he doin’ right this minute? Is he thinking about me now by some coincidence, even though he doesn’t know me?” As the camera slowly zooms in on this particular image Holly asks, the excitement barely rising in her quiet voice “Does it show in his face?”” The non-diegetic music becomes more intense as the scene progresses. Holly is coming to an epiphany. She is just some girl, born in Texas, “with only so many years to live.” She is aware that her life is structured by a series of accidents (her mother’s death), and yet, that life is also fated (“What’s the man I’ll marry look like?”). This voice over indicates that Holly is able to see her role in the larger web of humanity, and yet, this same girl watches as her boyfriend shoots her father and random unfortunates who happen to cross their path. It is infuriating and chilling. In fact, every time I watch this scene I get chills.

Kit/ Martin Sheen

 

“You know who that son of a bitch looks like? I’ll kiss your ass if he don’t look just like james Dean!”

I can’t say that I know much about Martin Sheen’s body of work, other than his roles in Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola) and Wall Street (1987, Oliver Stone). I do know, however, that Martin Sheen frequently mentioned that Badlands was his best work. And I’ll take his word for it. Sheen is amazing in this role. He plays Kit as a man in limbo, a study in contradictions. He lectures Holly about the dangers of littering (“Everybody did that, the whole town’d be a mess”) but shoots her father without comment.  He fancies himself a man of ideas, but when given the opportunity to speak, he has nothing to say. Kit wants to be a rebel, like his idol James Dean, but he speaks in platitudes.

Kit is constantly wavering between two poles. Sheen could have therefore played Kit as a bipolar monster — a man who shifts from one personality to the next. But instead, he makes Kit’s duality into an integrated whole. He plays Kit as a man who does not know who he is or what he should do; he only knows that he must fully commit himself to whatever choice he makes. For example, after Kit has been arrested he is allowed to speak with Holly briefly. Kit boasts “I’ll say this though, that guy with the deaf maid? He’s just lucky he’s not dead, too.” Then, in the same breath he tells Holly “Course, uh, too bad about your dad…We’re gonna have to sit down and talk about that sometime.” These moments are almost comical. Indeed, my students often laughed at Kit’s antics, even when he was shooting people.

The Music

I am incapable of talking about film music in a useful way. I can only ever use vague words like “haunting” or “tense” to describe a score. But there is something … haunting … about the non-diegetic tracks used in Badlands, such as the angelic, choral music that plays as Holly’s childhood home is consumed by fire:

So I suppose the next time someone asks me what my favorite movie is, I should just say “Badlands.” It wouldn’t be true, of course. As I mentioned, I could never pick just one. But it’s a movie that represents everything I love about movies: beautiful cinematography, impeccable acting, a tight script. And those chills.

Notes on TEEN MOM

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When 16 and Pregnant debuted on MTV in the summer of 2009,  I had no desire to watch it (I had assumed, wrongly, that it was some kind of Pro-Life propaganda show). When the follow up series, Teen Mom, premiered last winter, I was more intrigued, but figured it was too late to jump on board. I only agreed to watch Season 2 of Teen Mom because my husband was so passionate about it. He even rewatched the Season 2 premiere with me, pausing the DVR every few minutes to fill me in on each mother’s backstory. Yes, he’s a good husband.

After just one episode I was hooked. In fact, more so that any other reality TV show, the cast of Teen Mom has wormed its way into my everyday existence.  When, for example, I am cajoling my 4-year-old into eating dinner while hand feeding the 8-month-old and also intermittently washing the dinner dishes so that I can get them both into the bathtub before the 8-month-old has a meltdown and Can’t-you-please-just-finish-your-dinner-now-Maisy!, I stop and think “If this scenario is driving me, a 34-year-old woman, crazy, how must it be for a 17-year-old girl?”  Or, when I read about one of the Teen Moms in US Weekly (they’ve been all over the covers of the tabs the last few weeks), I find myself excitedly relating the news to my husband, as if I’m telling him about a close friend: “Did you hear? Farrah’s dating Pauly D from Jersey Shore!” or “I’m so disappointed that Amber and Gary are still together. They really need to break up.”

My unnatural attachment to these young women is based on two divergent affects. On the one hand, I identify with the Teen Moms. Watching these girls encounter the various pitfalls inherent in being a first time parent reminds me of the first year of my daughter’s life, and how incredibly challenging and rewarding it was. For example, in one episode, Farrah takes her daughter, Sophia, to the car wash and realizes that she has forgotten to bring diapers. But she can’t drive back home, or to a store, because her car is being detailed. “I’m such a bad mother!” Farrah wails. With Sophia in dire need of a diaper change, Farrah fashions a makeshift diaper out of towels (for the record, if the entire event had not been recorded by MTV’s cameras, there is NO WAY that the owner of the car wash would have consented to giving Farrah his towels to use as diapers. Blech).

Now those of you without children may agree with Farrah’s self assessment — that she is a bad mother for dressing her daughter’s precious bum in car wash towels. But, let me assure you: every new mother will make the mistake of going somewhere and forgetting to bring the diaper bag. It will likely happen just once because the consequences of that mistake will remain seared in your brain for eternity. I found myself in a similar situation when my first child was only a few months old. I’ll spare you the details but it involved an unexpected traffic jam, a screamy, screamy baby, and me gripping the driver’s wheel repeating the mantra “I will never leave the house without the diaper bag again.”

This is not the typical life of an American teenager.

While part of Teen Mom‘s allure is this bittersweet reminder of my own struggles to raise a young child (as well as the Schadenfreude that comes from watching truly bad parenting in action), I am also drawn to the show because I view the Teen Moms as their parents as well. The mother in me wants to pull each girl aside and give her a reassuring hug. I think back to when I was 16 — how I slept until noon on the weekends, got drunk at parties, obsessed about my appearance and social standing, and generally thought of nothing but myself. In other words, I was doing precisely what a 16-year-old should do. So when I watch single parent Farrah working overtime at a pizza joint, then returning home to take care of her daughter, and then study, I feel an incredible sadness for her. Now I know Farrah loves her daughter and one day, both of their lives will be easier. But at this age Farrah should be going to Homecoming dances and gossiping about boys and staying out past curfew and spending long stretches of her free time listening to music and writing tortured poetry while locked in her bedroom. But she can’t because she’s a mom. And mothers of young children don’t get to be selfish or spontaneous. Or at least not as often as they need to.

I should hate this relationship but I don't.

This is why the inclusion of Catelynn and Tyler, the only couple of the group who decided to put their baby up for adoption, is such an interesting counterpoint to the other stories on Teen Mom. Given Catelynn’s wildly unstable home life — her mother is verbally abusive and her step father (who is also her fiance’s father, natch) is in and out of prison and rehab — her decision to give Carly up for adoption was both wise and mature. We therefore expect to see Catelynn and Tyler having a wonderful time in comparison with the harried mothers featured on the show. Instead, the adoption remains an open wound for the young couple.

A beautiful touching moment. In reality TV. Go figure.

While Catelynn dealt with her guilt immediately after Carly’s birth, this season has focused on Tyler’s attempts to come to terms with what it means to be a father and yet be childless at the same time. The episode in which Tyler calls another, older, adoptive father for support and advice was one of the most moving scenes in reality TV history (yes, really). When his mentor tells him the act of adoption was a loving and selfless act, Tyler replies (with tears starting to trickle down his cheeks) “That’s something that I struggle with a lot. Admitting that, you know, she deserves better than me. I mean, when you’re the man, the father, you are the provider. And to admit…that I can’t give her that, that’s the hardest thing.”  How many 17-year-old boys are this self-aware, this in touch with their own complex emotions? I bawled through this scene. Thus, it is oddly the couple who chose not to raise their child that speaks most poignantly to the high emotional costs of an unplanned pregnancy. You can bet that I will make both of my children watch Season 1 and Season 2 of Teen Mom when they start dating.

Random thoughts and questions:

1. Is anyone watching Catelynn’s little brother? Did you see him making out with the refrigerator the other week? Dear Lord, can he go live with Carly’s adoptive parents too?

BREAK UP NOW.

2. I am totally exasperated by Amber and Gary’s horribly dysfunctional relationship. Mark my words: after spending a childhood watching her father pack and unpack his bags, leave and return, over and over, Leah will have a warped vision of how a loving relationship is supposed to work. How about we send her to Carly’s adoptive parents too?

Maci tries to juggle motherhood, work, school, and her good-for-nothing ex.

3. While the parents of all of the other Teen Moms seem to be in a secret competition for “World’s Biggest Douchebag,” Maci’s parents prove time and again that they are exceptional parents. I’m thinking in particular about the episode in which Maci considers moving in with a group of girlfriends, and bringing Bentley along. I love how her parents didn’t immediately say “Are you insane?” but rather gently pointed out how difficult it would be for a group of college girls to live with a toddler. Thankfully, Maci agreed.

This mullet can only be the product of meth.

4. Butch says his drug of choice is cocaine. Bullshit. That man is on meth.

Cigarette smoke is the 5th food group in Catelynn's house.

5. Does Catelynn’s mother realize that the big metal machines following her around are video cameras? And that these video cameras are recording her atrocious behavior and then broadcasting it to millions of people across the world? Or she is just on meth?

6. Tyler’s monogrammed “Baltierra” baseball cap. Where can I get one of those?

In light of the many US Weekly cover stories about the show’s cast,  blogs and online  news sites have been debating whether or not Teen Mom glorifies teen pregnancy. Others point to how people like Maci and Farrah seem to be doing okay and how that sends the wrong message about the “reality” of teen pregnancy. I agree that Teen Mom is not realistic, primarily because it’s cast is all white (with the exception of Farrah whose father is Hispanic, I believe?). I do wish MTV had included more women of color to better reflect the reality of teenage pregnancy in America. However, it is difficult to argue that Teen Mom glorifies teen pregnancy when you watch Maci miss out on the fun of college life, or Amber fail her G.E.D. practice test because she simply cannot remember what she learned in high school, or Farrah getting swindled out of $3,000 because she is far too young to be handling her own finances, or Catelynn cry because her mother can’t forgive her for giving her baby up for adoption. Yes, these girls love their children, but they are girls who have been forced to become women way too soon.

So why do you love Teen Mom? Or better yet, why do you hate it?

MACHETE: Camp Deluxe

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How frackin' awesome is this poster?

Machete was not a movie that I planned to see this summer. Films like  Inception, The Kids are Alright, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and even Piranha 3-D (yes, really) were higher on my to-do list. But there were several factors that drove us into the arms of this film: the movie theaters in Greenville do not hang on to independent films for more than a week (Get Low we hardly knew ye). In fact, if a film does not contain explosions, fart jokes, boobs, or talking animals, it probably won’t even make it to Greenville; I could only go to see a movie that was over by 10 pm (the 8 month old is still not a stellar sleeper); and finally,  my husband and I had wrangled us a babysitter. So, no matter what, we were going to see a movie dammit. And that was how I found myself sitting in a darkened theater, watching Machete last Saturday night.

Almost immediately Machete, yet another entry in Robert Rodriguez’s canon of Mexploitation films, won me over. I’m a sucker for exploitation films. Indeed, the opening credits were a perfect replica of low-budget 1970s blaxploitation films: an animated title card pronouncing our hero’s name (MACHETE!), and then a simple listing of the credits. Then there was the music. Blaxploitation films often featured cohesive soundtracks written exclusively for the film, and which acted as a Greek chorus, commenting on the action in the film, praising or scolding the hero, and making future predictions. Machete‘s thumping, rock n’ roll/mariachi band hybrid soundtrack was composed by Chingon. They sing about the film’s hero (Danny Trejo), providing him with his own personal soundtrack. Hell, the “Machete Theme” makes me want to pick up a machete and kick some ass, and I’m just some lame white lady.

Sweetback sticks it to The Man

In addition to having his own soundtrack, Machete resembles his blaxploitation ancestors in his uncanny ability to punch, kick, shoot, and of course, slice his way through any fight with barely a scratch. At one point in the film Machete is offered $500 to participate in a street fight with a shirtless thug who has just pummeled the life out of his latest opponent. Machete consents, but continues to hold onto the burrito he has just purchased. As his increasingly annoyed opponent swings and jabs, Machete calmly dunks, swerves and chomps on his lunch. The fight ends when Machete dodges a punch in a such a way that his opponent ends up punching a rafter and breaking his arm. Machete wins the fight without ever raising his fist. Finally, as in blaxploitation films, the villains of Machete are unequivocally evil. Von (Don Johnson!) shoots a pregnant Mexican woman in the stomach to prevent her from giving birth on American soil while Torrrez (Steven Seagal!) decapitates Machete’s wife as he is made to watch. By tying this evil to  the heated emotions surrounding contemporary immigration debates, the character of Machete effectively gives filmic form to the revenge fantasies of countless, enraged (and terrified) illegal immigrants living in the United States, much as Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles) “sticking it to the Man” in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song made contemporary black audiences stand up and cheer back in 1971.

Danny Trejo, the superhuman exploitation avenger.

Where Machete differs from blaxploitation, however, is in its self awareness. Blaxploitation films were, for the most part, quite earnest. When Superfly tells The Man “You don’t own me pig!” by golly he means it. Machete contains lines like these — my favorite being “We didn’t cross the border! The border crossed US!” But they are always delivered with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Nevertheless, Machete is self-aware without being a full on parody. The film wants us to laugh, but doesn’t hit us over the head with its humor. This is a delicate balance to achieve, and one of the film’s primary achievements. For example, in the film’s best visual gag, Machete is being treated in a hospital. The attending doctor and nurses start discussing anatomy, leading one of the nurses to state “So you mean the human intestines are 80 feet long?” This statement is made in the great Chekhovian tradition of “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” Indeed, moments later Machete’s enemies storm the hospital. The doctor informs Machete that his only means of escape is through the window, which is approximately 80 feet above the ground (wait for it…). As Machete hacks his way through the crowd of baddies (with a grotesque weapon assembled out of medical-grade knives, natch), he disembowels one unlucky fellow, grabs hold of his intestines and then leaps out of the window. It took about 20 seconds for the audience to comprehend what had just transpired on-screen and then? Raucous laughter.

It kind of freaks me out when Danny Trejo smiles.

There were many scenes like this in Machete — violent, disturbing scenes — that provoked the audience’s laughter.  What a strange and liberating feeling — to laugh at something which would normally provoke disgust or terror. This switching of affect highlights Machete’s status as pure camp. The term camp comes from the French word  “se camper” which means “to posture or flaunt.” To be camp, a film must be extraordinary in its aims. It must be flamboyant and theatrical. Why have your hero behead one man when you can have him behead three at once (and filmed in a stunning aerial shot)? Why have your hero use a machine gun when you can attach that machine gun to a motorcycle flying through the air?

MACHETE!

Susan Sontag argues that to be pure, camp must be naive. Camp must love itself passionately but be blind to its own missteps.  Camp takes itself seriously but cannot be taken seriously. By contrast, most film parodies disparage their subjects, revealing a contempt for them. Sontag does admit that on a few rare occasions (as in the work of Oscar Wilde) camp can be self-aware. I would add Machete to that short list of self-aware texts that are also camp. Rodriguez knows that his film is farce, yet he is never contemptuous or disparaging. He films Machete with a real love for the character. We can tell that Machete is Rodriguez’s hero too.

Here are some of the great camp moments in the film:

1. Two words: Linday Lohan. At this point in her career, Lindsay Lohan has become the ultimate in camp. She is pure artifice, a replica of Hollywood celebrity. Like a lamp that is shaped like a woman’s leg, Lindsay is what she is not.  Every time her image appears on-screen it screams “Lindsay Lohan!” or better yet “LINDSAY LOHAN!!!”  And she is therefore a perfect choice to play April, the strung out, adored daughter of Machete’s nemesis, Booth (Jeff Fahey).

If Lindsay Lohan were a lamp, she would be this lamp.

2. In the film’s only gratuitous sex scene, Machete agrees to engage in a threesome with April and her mother, June (Alicia Marek). And yes, those names are used, but not abused, to hilarious effect. When the women reveal their breasts –as is the custom in gratuitous sex scenes — it is clear that April is being played by a body double. Even the hair is different. There is no reason why Lindsay Lohan should be shy about revealing her breasts — she’s done it before. So this moment exists more as a nod  to the camp films of yore, where little care was taken with disguising body doubles or with correcting obvious mistakes. It is also a tease to the audience “Did you come to this movie to see Lindsay Lohan topless? Too bad for you!”

The girl on the left is clearly a body double, rather than Lindsay Lohan.

3. Every character in a camp film must appear in quotation marks. When that character appears on-screen we must instantly know what that character embodies. Thus, Machete is “Machete.” Machete becomes myth/archetype/folk hero within the first few minutes of the film when he and his partner storm a house where a kidnapped woman is being held. Machete slams his foot on the gas and drives through a throng of machine guns. The bullets ricochet through the car, making contact with his partner. By the time Machete has driven his car through the wall of the house, his partner is bloodied mess (and very, very dead). Machete, however, is fine. Because he is “Machete.” In fact, when Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) does a background check on the hero, she discovers, among other details, that his birth name is “Machete.” Of course it is.

That's right. Her name is "She."

4. Camp is all about exaggerated sexuality: highly feminine femininity and highly masculine masculinity. Woman is “woman” and man is “man.” Thus, throughout the film, Agent Sartana wears stiletto heels, despite the fact that she is often chasing bad guys around and shooting weapons. She even uses one of her heels as a weapon later in the film.  Sartana also researches the internet while taking a steamy shower (and with full make up on). Who has a computer hooked up in their shower? I would not have been surprised if she were wearing stilettos in the shower. And I won’t even mention the secret agent featured in the opening scene who hides a cell phone in her vagina because she is naked and has no other place to put it. Oops, I guess I did mention that. Sorry.

Jessica Alba as "woman"

Camp taste  is a mode of enjoyment and appreciation rather than judgment. Camp is not mean, but loving. Rodriguez clearly loves his subject: exploitation films, grindhouse cinema, seedy border films, and revenge fantasy flicks. He does not want us to laugh at the silliness of these film. Instead, he invites us to celebrate them in their excessive glory. As I watch Danny Trejo slice his way through bodies, fashion deadly weapons out of objects he finds around him, and make out with Jessica Alba while driving a motorcycle, I am not incredulous. The film tells me “I am silly but I am wonderful. Don’t judge me! Enjoy me!” And I did.

Why the Men of JERSEY SHORE are Actually the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

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“Heroes in a half shell. Turtle Power!”

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were enjoying the latest installment of Jersey Shore. It was the episode in which The Situation, Pauly D,  and Vinnie have returned from a night of “creeping” with four young, intoxicated women in tow. The men were hoping to “smush” these girls, but there was one roadblock: there was one girl too many and this girl, according to The Situation (a recognized authority on such matters), was a “grenade.” What is a group of horny, spray-tanned juiceheads to do? Within minutes, The Situation had a plan. He separated the various groups of girls into different rooms in the house. Why? The Situation tells us: “In this type of situation you need to separate the two sets of girls and then you have to separate the hippopotamus from her good lookin’ friend.” Aye aye sir! Having achieved this objective, The Situation then gathered his troops together and laid out the second part of his military strategy: “I will extract the hot one and leave the grenade to blow up in Ronnie’s room by herself.”

“Heroes with a spray tan! Guido Power!”

Upon hearing this my husband and I scoffed. How, exactly, did The Situation think he was going to carry out this difficult and dangerous mission? Surely the grenade would explode in The Situation’s finely tanned hands. But then, minutes later, The Situation did exactly what he said he would do. He convinced the grenade to take a disco nap in Ronnie’s bed, even going so far as to tuck her in and turn off the light, and then “extracted” the “hot one” from Ronnie’s room. Mission accomplished. The gentlemen then high-fived and proceeded to “smush” on their ladies of choice. Another successful evening for the Jersey Shore gang.  After witnessing this stunning feat my husband had an epiphany: “They’re the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!”  “What?” I asked. “The Situation, Pauly D, Vinnie, and Ronnie are exactly like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!” And then he broke it down for me:

The Situation is Leonardo

Like Leonardo, The Siutation is the leader of his gang. He is also the oldest of the four and the most “skilled.” The skills I am referring to are those which are most admired by the members of his gang: The Situation can cook an amazing Sunday night meal, GTL on a daily basis, and extract grenades in the most dire of situations. He is truly a Renaissance man. One final similarity: both Leonardo and The Situation are fond of coining catch phrases: like “Cowabunga dude!” or GTL, the shirt before the shirt, and grenade.

Ronnie is Raphael


Yes, Ronnie is the “bad boy” of the group, just like loose cannon, Raphael. Raphael is known for his short temper and willingness to throw a punch, and so is Ronnie, who was arrested and spent time in jail during the filming of Season 1 for getting into a fist fight with some hecklers. And like Raphael, Ronnie has poor impulse control; although his girlfriend, Sammi “Sweetheart,”  is waiting for him at home, Ronnie can’t help himself when offered the opportunity to make out with two girls at once or to “motorboat” a groupie. These indiscretions were, of course, revealed to Sammi during “Notegate,” when an “anonymous” note detailing the events was planted in Sammi’s things by roommates, J-WOWW and Snooki. But Ronnie is so money, that Sam still didn’t dump him.

Pauly D is Michelangelo

Michelangelo is known for being the most easy-going of the turtles: he likes to relax and have a good time. Pauly D is likewise the most gentle of the Jersey Shore men. In Season 2 he allows Angelina to hit him several times in the face, before simply walking away. And he has difficulty rejecting the affections of obsessed women (see his relationship with Danielle, aka “the Israeli,” in Season 1). And like Michelangelo, Pauly D is the most creative “turtle.” Otherwise known as “DJ Pauly D,” Pauly makes his living as a DJ. He uses the turntables as a means of creative expression, and was recently nominated for the title of “America’s Best DJ.”

Vinnie is Donatello

Donatello is the scholar of the group, preferring to use his mind, rather than his brawn, in order to defeat enemies. In this way, Donatello is very different from his brothers. Similarly, in the series premiere Vinnie makes a point to mention that he graduated from college and that he defies most stereotypes of the guido: he doesn’t tan, gel his hair, or wear lip gloss. He is also the only Jersey Shore man who wears a shirt on a regular basis.

Some final comparisons:

*Both groups have impressive, muscular physiques

*Both groups love Italian food

*Both groups successfully defeat their enemies at the end of each episode (whether that enemy is the nefarious Shredder or the nefarious Hippopotamus)

* Both groups have a sensei/mentor who guides them with a firm but gentle hand (the Turtles have Splinter, the Jersey Shore boys have Danny the owner of the Shore Store, and Enzo, the owner of the Lecca-Lecca Gelato shop)

*Both groups are marked by their distinctive skin coloring (green and bronze)

*Both groups are isolated from the larger society (the turtles live in a real sewer, the Jersey Shore boys live in the metaphorical sewer that is reality television)

The home of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the location for JERSEY SHORE, season 3?

So, what do you think of my husband’s theory? I think it’s pretty spot-on, but I (and he) would love to hear your thoughts below…